The West Midlands is at a crossroads on the Railway system with Birmingham New Street station hosting a variety of express, semi-fast, and local services operated by Virgin Trains, Cross Country, London Midland, and Arriva Trains Wales. Currently London Midland Class 350/1 and 350/2 work Birmingham – International – Coventry – Northampton - Euston, Birmingham - Liverpool, and Crewe - Euston via the Trent Valley and Stoke. Walsall - Wolverhampton via New Street see 323 and 350 EMU whilst Redditch – Birmingham - Lichfield (Cross City Line) are normally the preserve of 323 sets. New Street – Walsall - Rugeley services are normally two or three car Class 170 units, often strengthened by a 153. Virgin Trains Wolverhampton – Birmingham - Euston, as well as to and from Glasgow/Edinburgh, are a mixture of Class 390 Pendolino units and Class 221 Super Voyagers. Cross Country use Voyagers of Classes 220 and 221on principal services with limited workings on the North East - South West route operated by HST sets. Cross Country Cardiff – Birmingham - Nottingham and Birmingham – Leicester - Stansted use two or three-car 170 units. The Chester route normally sees Cl.170 on London Midland duties, and Cl.158 on Arriva Trains Wales in pairs on services to and from Aberystwyth/Holyhead with the odd diagram worked by three units.
The other main Birmingham stations are Snow Hill and Moor Street where Chiltern Railways Cl.168 and 165 DMUs are to be seen one Stourbridge - Snow Hill - Moor Street - Banbury - Marylebone line. Four Chiltern Main Line services have refurbished Mark III stock with Class 67 haulage with Class 68 to take over when the Harbury landslide is cleared. London Midland services on the Snow Hill lines are Cl.172/2 or 172/3. Three Class 150 are retained at Tyseley for use out of the area on the Bletchley-Bedford branch with one often used on services to Hereford. The two LM Class 139 Parry People Movers work the short Stourbridge Junction-Stourbridge Town branch. Coventry-Nuneaton is normally a Cl.153.
Freight workings in the area produce Classes 60, 66, 67, 70 and 92. The rebuilt Bescot depot stables DBS locomotives. The yards at Wolverhampton Monmore Green Steel Terminal and Round Oak deal with steel traffic, whilst Washwood Heath yards are still used only for wagon storage. The freight terminal at Hams Hall is shunted by a hired 08, Coleshill Parkway being the nearest station. Here GBRf locomotives can be seen in addition to Freightliner and DBS. A short distance south of Rugby on the Northampton line is Daventry freight terminal (DIRFT) shunted by hired 08s. Scrap traffic is also worked to Handsworth.
68014 and 68015 at Snow Hill Station, Birmingham on 3rd April 2015 shortly after taking over the Chiltern service to London Marylebone
Moor Street station, restored to GWR style, sees Chiltern Railways and London Midland services. The West Coast Trent Valley main line runs through the area from Stafford to Rugby and is mainly a four track route. Stafford, Tamworth, Nuneaton, and Rugby are all good vantage points. Virgin workings comprise Pendolino units and 221 Super Voyager sets.
DBS, Freightliner, DRS, and Colas traffic produces Classes 66/0, 66/4, 66/5, 66/6, 66/7, 70, 86, 90, and 92. DBS stable locomotives at Bescot with Freightliner laying over in Lawley Street. A Europorte 92 often stables at Rugby on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and a DRS 57/3 stables as standby. The Class 66 used on Bromsgrove banking duties stables on the remaining spur into the former Saltley depot. Class 08 shunters can be seen at Bescot, Hams Hall, Washwood Heath Concrete depot (two hired), Round Oak (hired), and DIRFT (hired).
The Virgin West Coast Pendolino depot is at Oxley near Wolverhampton which has its own 08 shunter. Multiple unit depots are Tyseley (DMUs) and Soho (EMUs) each with their own 08 shunter. The Parry People movers stable at Stourbridge Junction in the small shed there.
The main Colas engineer's depot is located at Rugby in the former LNWR locomotive works with a range of track machines and, on occasion, Colas Class 47, 56, and 66 locomotives. Colas also use the former Alstom works at Washwood Heath as a steel terminal for the Boston working. This is also the base of Boden Engineering Ltd. where various locomotives can be seen in for repair and refurbishment. The site is only partly visible from the Derby line and the Aston - Stechford diversionary route. Apart from the above locomotives of Cl. 31, 37, 47, 67, can be seen in the area on Charter traffic. Steam also appears on Charter services and on positioning moves.
Preservation sites in the West Midlands Branch area comprise the Severn Valley Railway, Battlefield Line at Shakerstone, Standard Gauge Steam Trust at Tyseley, and Chasewater Light Railway and Museum. Also near Tamworth is the private Statfold Barn Railway where narrow gauge locomotives, both steam and diesel, are repaired and built. This has an extensive narrow gauge system operated for visitors three times a year.
The Midland Metro runs from Snow Hill - Wolverhampton St Georges over the former GWR line to Bilston thence in the road to Wolverhampton. Delivery on the new CAF units is almost complete and some are in operation.. The depot is situated adjacent to Wednesbury Great Western Street. Extensions are well under way from Snow Hill to New Street. Reports on observations and changes in the West Midlands appear regularly in the pages of the Railway Observer.
last updated: 24/03/17