Shrewsbury’s Past Railway Scene

Shrewsbury was one of the most important railway towns in the West Midlands and it employed a large number of families some of whom still live in and around the town. the railway was one of the mainstays of the local economy.

    It brought new economic developments and an increase in population to Shrewsbury with the creation of  many jobs.

Most local families had some railway connection at some time.

   At it’s peak 500 people worked at the station alone with an even higher number at the engine sheds at Coleham. Sadly no trace of the sheds remain, although the local residential area there is still referred to as “The Back of the Sheds”.

   There were times when the Borough Council had a strong representation of railwaymen among it’s councillors and several were Mayor’s of the town.

    The station was the centre of commercial activity and opened 24 hours a day throughout the year with express trains and were freight marshalled here and sent to all parts of the country, day and night.

The station building was built of local Grinshill stone and in 1902 the building was radically changed.

   Platforms were extended and widened over the river bridge by construction of 2 steel bridges either side of the original brick bridge. This involved the removal of about 50,000 tons of earth, as were te cellars. Shrewsbury Station is one of the finest examples of large scale Victorian arcihtecture in Shropshire and it’s opening in October 1848 coincided with theT Counties first main line passenger railway service between Shrewsbury and Chester.

     The Station Master controlled hundreds odf staff and made frequent visits to the platform’s to talk to passengers in his top hat!

There were three refreshment rooms and a “refreshment hamper” service was available for long journeys. There was also a 24 hour refreshment centre frequented by railway and office staff the known as the “Coffee Tavern” .

      The stations importance  as a top rail junction continued throughout the early to mid 1900’s and it became one of the most important changeover points for engines working the North and west of England Expresses. This made the Coleham sheds of major importance to the region where pride was matched by the keen rivalry between the drivers and footplate men who operated the engines of the two big Companies, the GWR and LNWR (later LMS).

    Locomotives at Coleham were kept in prestine condition, the green of the Great Western “Kings” and “Castles”, with their copper caps and brasses gleaming, ran alongside the crimson lake and black of the other Companies.

   In the 1950’s a day trip to the seaside was commonplace by train. All train travel to and from the town was a delight; there were through trains to Liverpool, Manchester, Birkenhead, London (Paddington), Dover, Bristol, Bournemouth, Plymouth via Newton Abbott and onto Penzance. The Severn Valley branch line operated between Shrewsbury and Kidderminster via Bridgnorth. Lines to Central Wales and Aberstwyth and to the North Wales Coast carried passengers from London and other major cities.

    A passenger branch line served Pontesbury and Minsterley. Thousands of tons of freight were moved every day including livestock.

      Calves and sheep sent by rail were usually fed and watered at Coton Hill yard or unloaded at Castle Foregate Goods Yard and paraded down to the Smithfield Livestock Market. Even the circus came to town by rail was unloaded at Howards Bank or Underdale Road.

  The War department took over the old “Potts” light railway in 1941. It ran from Llanymynech to the Abbey Station terminus and serviced ammunition depots but went into decline and was closed in 1960.

      The Travelling Post Office had a base in the town. The overnight Shrewsbury – York T.P.O. workers had lodgings here, but this service ceased in the 1980’s and rail by mail is no more, the conveyor from the station to the sorting office erected in 1964 was removed in 2004. Parcels were delivered by road from the station to ‘your door’.

  By March 1967 regular steam workings ceased, rationalisation was taking place with the growth of the family motor car; the Paddington to Birkenhead service was axed and we ended up with one through train to London (Euston) a day, which did increase in frequency over the years until the town lost the through train by 1994, when also Railway Privatisation came about.

   We lost our through trains from Manchester, Liverpool to Plymouth via the Marches route in 1970, but with the resurgance of train travel at present with increase in capacity we now have an excellent service from Manchester to Cardiff provided by Arriva Trains Wales.

 The large Severn Bridge Junction Signal Box still controls the operations in and out of the south end of the station within the triangle. This is now the worlds largest surviving mechanical signal box and is Grade 1 listed. It celebrated its centenary in 2004 and has had a major refit and repaint thanks to Network Rail. semaphore signals will probably remain at Shrewsbury yet for some years to come.

   On 28th April 2008 the town had a new through service to London (Marylebone) with a direct service from Wrexham via Salop to Marylebone, but this ceased operation from 31st January 2011. Heavy freight including imported coal still passes through the town, but the small goods yards have now disapeared. The town still has a promising rail future and hopefully again have a through London Service provided by First Group in 2016.

    GW “Castle” 4-6-0s were the premier locos that were kept in prestine condition on the GW side of Coleham sheds.

There will be a collection of photos added to this page in due course,

Thankyou for reading.

To  visit the site of an ex GW loco that used to work from Shrewsbury in the 1960s, click on the link below-

Nunney Castle

5029 Nunney Castle on Shrewsbury shed in 1960. (R.Amies).

Archive Collection.

A large number of Negatives has been donated to the Trust, that were taken by the late Mr Downes , taken around Shrewsbury in the 1930s. The quality as not so ggod but historically we are displaying some of them.

An unidentified GW Bulldog 4-4-0 passes under the signal gantry at Abbey Foregate, whilst some railway official is probably coming from the signal box.

An unidentified GW Bulldog 4-4-0 passes under the signal gantry at Abbey Foregate, whilst some railway official is probably coming from the signal box.

An LMS 2-6-4T carries out a shunting manouvre at the south end of station avoiding line. The LNWR signals lasted until the late 1970s.

An LMS 2-6-4T carries out a shunting manouvre at the south end of station avoiding line. The LNWR signals lasted until the late 1970s.

Someone poses alongside a GW Castle at the stations southerly approaches.

Someone poses alongside a GW Castle at the stations southerly approaches.

An LMS Royal Scot 4-6-0 negotiates Crewe Junction.

An LMS Royal Scot 4-6-0 negotiates Crewe Junction.

A GWR "Hall" 4-6-0 soon after passing Sutton Bridge Junction makes a start at the climb with a North to West express, Shelf Sidings are on the right.

A GWR “Hall” 4-6-0 soon after passing Sutton Bridge Junction makes a start at the climb with a North to West express, Shelf Sidings are on the right.

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