Friday 1 March 2024

Dramatic Dudley Developments (2)

Freight Is The Future - Maybe Not?

The future of freight, opines Richard Beeching, the Great and Good Doctor who, despite the misplaced opprobrium of railway enthusiasts, probably saved Britain's railways from annihilation. He came up with the concept of "Liner" trains carrying container "boxes"

One of the early Freightliner terminals to open was at Dudley on the site of the demolished "town" station.

The track from Wolverhampton and Walsall and south to Kidderminster remained to serve the terminal.

Dudley Freightliner Terminal was opened on the site of Dudley railway station in November 1967, as one of Freightliner's first rail terminals. It was an instant financial success and by 1981 was one of the most profitable Freightliner terminals in Britain, but Freightliner announced plans to close it and transfer the staff to the less successful Birmingham terminal. These plans were shelved in 1983 but resurfaced in 1986, with Dudley finally closing in September 1989. Trains continued to pass the site of the Freightliner terminal until the Wednesbury to Round Oak section of the South Staffordshire Line and Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton line closed in March 1993.

The through lines from the north can be seen in this picture of the non-terminal!

But even these have gone - but tracks remain ...

Tasty : Technology : Trams

... as these souvenir sweets and this building site will illustrate.
The remnants of the tracks can be seem to the right and the building is now complete and active.
The above view is from the road bridge on Castle Hill. Dudley Castle is on the left.
Here is the fascia board for the newbuild ...
... because, apart from giving sweeties out to delegates at trendy environmental conferences, the building is home to the Very Light Rail project.
Mini trams shuttle from outside the HQ and south into the Dudley Tunnel ...
... which has been poshed up to accommodate them.
fbb does wonder whether these diddy trams will have a future, as the present vehicle technology does require an expensive driver. Only time and an experimental line in Coventry will tell.

Bye Bye Bus Station

Those gorgeous pictures of "heritage" buses, some shown in yesterday's blog, do represent a rally to "celebrate" the closure of Dudley's second and most recent bus station. It closed back in January.

A missing vehicle from the range was a Midland Red D9 ...
... but in PTE livery ...
... adopted after the West Midlands panjandrum took over vast Black Country swathes of the glorious red bus operation. 

Most aged readers will know that the company was never called Midland Red; it was the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company hence the BMMO logo on the bus radiator.

Blue and cream never looked right on a D9!

So what will the third bus station for Dudley look like? We have seen the obligatory artists' impressions.

Without a plan view, the pictures are difficult to interpret; but that roof ...
... looks very expensive to maintain. Its predecessor was less whizzo but it was very easy to tack on a bit of bent tin and a pane of glass after, say, a UFO crash landed.

The out-of-date bus station is being replaced with a new interchange offering a modern, accessible environment and seamless connections between bus and Metro services.

As part of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension, the new Interchange will better connect the people of Dudley to leisure and job opportunities across the region – as well as providing a modern gateway to the town for visitors.

Set to open in 2025, the interchange is just one in a series of major regeneration projects which are transforming Dudley town centre, including the Portersfield development. This also follows recent developments at the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre, Black Country Living Museum and the Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology.

I'm Not A Metro, I'm A Tram I Am
The route in question is from Wednesbury, on the existing tram route, to the Merry Hell shopping centre at Brierley Hill.
The first phase is to a temporary terminus in Dudley's Flood Street ...
... which will look a bit better when it opens!
Funding has now been announced for the second phase. 

But here is a map of the route through Dudley itself.
It is not clear from the above how the tracks will get through or round the Innovation Centre on the old station site. But Open Street Map shows a series of dotted lines which might be more accurate; certainly a bit easier to understand.
Tracks emerge from "round the back" of the Innovation Centre, thence to climb a bit of Castle Hill ...
... to then hang a left into the rather tatty Birmingham Street.
Streetview enters a black hole round the back of the existing bus station, but pictures record work on King Street ...
... and the left turn into Flood Street ...
... and so to the temporary terminus.
What fbb notices is that the trams are not routed very close to any of Dudley's shopping areas - it's very much a back street  route.

But we are told much of its route is through an area due for development so ...

... all together ...

... It will be lovely when it's finished!
Enjoy trying to work out how the tram will get to stop outside the new bus station ...
... if that IS the new bus station! The castle is there, resolutely eyeing developments from on high. fbb is looking forward to seeing the new seven segment teams on the Dudley route!!

 Next Variety blog : Saturday 2nd March 

Thursday 29 February 2024

Dramatic Dudley Developments (1)

Nostalgia Nuggets?

An 1835 nap (above) shows the early Dudley next to a blob of parkland on top of which (a strip of red) is Dudley Castle. The castle was once a Motte and Bailey establishment (remember from school day history) which was later rebuilt, burnt down, rebuilt and left to become a ruin. 

And here is the castle hill in 1938.
We now have a few railway lines running to the east of the hill..

The Castle mound became the site of the celebrated Dudley Zoo with its skilled advertising slogan of the 1960s.
fbb remembers a huge poster to that effect clearly visible from Dudley's bus station. The zoo had a chair lift to assist folk up to the craggy summit ...
... and once up there you would find a whole range of entertainment including a miniature railway.
Todays chair lift looks a lot more secure but may be the original ...
... and the miniature railway ...
... has taken a leap onto modernity. There is also a land train.

But next to the castle and zoo excrescence was once Dudley Town station, not to be confused with Dudley Port station or Sandwell and Dudley station.

Even worse, do not confuse it with the orange line at Dudley Station ...
... because, as you all know what fbb didn't, namely that the orange Dudley is in Boston USA.

So what of Dudley's Town station?  Well it isn't there any more, but, as they say in all Romantic Dramas, it's complicated.
The Great Western arrived ex northwards from Wolverhampton, calling at Tipton. From the north east came the South Staffordshire Railway, (later the LMS) running from  Walsall via Dudley Port Low Level.

Even Wikipedia struggles to tell us much about Dudley Port.

Etymology
Originally the canal port 
for the town of Dudley.

Proper noun
Dudley Port
A suburban area in the
Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell,
West Midlands

And here ... tada! ... is the Port today!
Ane here it is on an aerial Streetview view.
But back to the Town station. 

South of the station the line, once again, splits into two.
The slightly more notable route for passengers was a shuttle to Old Hill.
(click to enkarge the timetable) whilst the other route, manly freight only, continued to Kidderminster and was used to get goods trains to Bescot yard without cluttering up central Birmingham.
The central Dudley station had two Island platforms, the one on the left being for GWR trains and then one, accessed via the over bridge in this north facing picture, was for the LMS. The LMS chimneys are disinc.tive!

It follows that Dudley Town was, in general, served by very local trains carrying few passengers. 

Here is a GWR train ...
... and an ex LMS "rail motor".
It is not at all surprising that these lines have been closed completely for passenger trains.

There was a freight development which, for a time, brought Dudley into an uncharacteristic burst of railway modernity. More tomorrow!

So lets look at buses.
Across Castle Hill (the road) from the Zoo/Castle mound is a road called Birmingham Street. It is a very tired and tatty thoroughfare ...
... which forms a back entrance to the current bus station in Dudley. It also led to the previous bus station once visited by fbb.

The original bus station was constructed along Birmingham Street on a steep hill overlooking Dudley Castle in about 1950. It was complemented by an additional line of shelters along neighbouring Fisher Street. However, a series on incidents of buses rolling back injuring passengers led to widespread local criticism of its design. This resulted in the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive rebuilding the bus station on a completely level site along Fisher Street.

Although there is little sign of the original bus station today, you can gauge the slope up from Birmingham Street.
fbb can find no pictures of the bus station as a whole, but these two buses are on the slope ...
... and there is the castle, faint but real, top right.

Construction of the new bus station began during 1985 and it was opened in 1986.

Here it is, the new one.
It is not the most gloriously luxurious bus station but it is level, so there is less chance of being squished by an out-of-control bus.

But back in January 2024 this event was happening at Dudley bus station ...
... as was this.
Look, there in the background is our old friend Dudley Castle!

More tomorrow!

 Next Dudley Development blog : Friday 1st March