Timetables in commercial service
This page provides details of the timetables in commercial service on the Severn Valley and Tenbury branches between opening in the 1860s and closure in the 1960s. 'Main article' links are provided to printed extracts of the relevant timetables.
At opening on 1 February 1862 all services on the Severn Valley Branch ran 'north south' between Hartlebury and Shrewsbury. There were 12 intermediate stations with just five crossing points, at Stourport, Bewdley, Bridgnorth, Ironbridge and Buildwas.
The main developments on the Branch which affected timetables over the years were:
- 1864: The Tenbury and Bewdley Railway opened, with Bewdley forming its eastern terminus.
- 1868: Eardington Station opened.
- 1878: The Kidderminster Loop Line opened, resulting in Bewdley becoming a junction station.
- 1883: Passing loops and second platforms were added at Arley and Hampton Loade.
- 1894: Passing loops and second platforms were added at Cressage and Berrington.
- 1896: A passing loop and second platform was added at Coalport.
- 1905 Halts were opened on the Loop Line at Rifle Range Halt (closed again in 1920) and Foley Park
- 1930s: In an attempt to increase local custom, halts were opened at Burlish, Northwood, Jackfield and Cound. Alveley Halt was also opened to serve Alveley Colliery, although it was not shown in public timetables.
After the Loop Line opened in 1878, services continued to run entirely 'north south' on the Severn Valley Branch and 'east west' between Kidderminster and the Tenbury Branch until the turn of the century. The early 1900s saw the introduction of local services between Kidderminster and Bewdley, and Bewdley and Hartlebury; at the same time some Shrewsbury services began to run to Kidderminster.
Many services on the Severn Valley Branch started and terminated at Worcester, particularly in the early years. However for consistency, journey times and speeds referred to below are those on the Branch itself between Hartlebury and Shrewsbury, unless otherwise stated. References to 'Weekday services' include Saturdays.
- Main article: Timetable: Shrewsbury to Worcester 1862
At opening on 1 February 1862, the Severn Valley Railway was operated under lease by the West Midland Railway (WMR). Their first timetable provided for three trains per day between Shrewsbury and Worcester on weekdays, together with a departure from Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury in the morning, returning in the late afternoon (no source has been found to confirm whether the stock was stabled at Bridgnorth overnight or whether an ECSEmpty Coaching Stock move was involved). Journey times between Hartlebury and Shrewsbury averaged 2h 07min for the 40 miles, or less than 19 mph. The first departure of the day from Worcester and Shrewsbury was deemed to be a 'Parliamentary' train (see below).
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Branch 1866
On 1 August 1863 the WMR was amalgamated with the GWRGreat Western Railway, who took over the operation of the Severn Valley Branch. They also operated the Tenbury and Bewdley Railway from its opening on 13 August 1864. On the Severn Valley Branch in 1866, four through trains ran each way between Shrewsbury and Worcester on weekdays, with average journey times between 1h 40min and 2h 5 min. The fastest journey time, the 2:45pm from Hartlebury, was achieved by by means of Arley, Highley, Linley, Cressage and Berrington being treated as request stops.
On the Tenbury Branch, three trains per day ran between Woofferton and Bewdley on weekdays only.
The GWRGreat Western Railway board minutes around this time regularly referred to communications being received requesting better services, normally followed by the note "This cannot be acceded to at present".
The 1872 timetable still included four return workings between Hartlebury and Shrewsbury with a single service on Sunday. The first train from Hartlebury to Shrewsbury, the fastest at 1h 39min, was followed by the slowest at 2h 33min with other journey times averaging around 2 hours. All trains included first and second class accommodation, but only two of the four included provision for third class passengers.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley Branch 1876
The 1876 timetable showed only minor changes in timings from 1872, although the slowest service was now only 2h 22min between Hartlebury and Shrewsbury.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Branch 1877"
1877 again saw only minor changes to the 1876 timetable, although the fastest time between Hartlebury was now 1h 42min.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Branch 1878"
1878 saw the opening of the Kidderminster Loop Line. The Severn Valley Branch continued with the four return workings on weekdays and one service on Sundays as before, although some changes were made to timings, following which for the first time the average time for southbound journeys at 1h 56 min was faster than for northbound at 2h 03min.
On the Tenbury Branch, five services now ran each way between Woofferton and Kidderminster on weekdays; there was still no Sunday service. All journeys from Shrewsbury via Bridgnorth to Kidderminster therefore required a change of trains at Bewdley.
1880s and 1890s
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Branch 1887
During the 1880s, timetables on the Severn Valley Branch continued with four through trains in each direction on weekdays and one on Sundays. There was no improvement in journey times, which varied between 1h 45min and 2h 14m.
On the Tenbury Branch, by 1887 the timetable had reverted to four through trains in each direction on weekdays between Kidderminster and Woofferton, still with no Sunday service. The 24¼ mile journey took around 1h 10min with a single fare costing 4s for single class and 8s 6d, expensive for that time.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Branch 1895
The 1895 timetable on the Severn Valley Branch still provided four through trains in each direction on weekdays and one on Sundays, little changed from the previous decade. The Tenbury Branch also continued with four daily weekday trains, although a fifth service ran on two days in the month. From December 1896 this ran on Tuesdays, soon becoming a daily service.
- Main article: Timetable: Shrewsbury to Worcester 1900
By 1900 the frequency of weekday services on the Severn Valley Branch had increased with five through services departing from Hartlebury for Shrewsbury. Five southbound services also left Shrewsbury with the first at 7:45am (during the 19th century the first departure was regularly before 7am). The second departure from Shrewsbury, the 8:45am, called at Hampton Loade, Highley and Arley by request only and then continued from Bewdley to Kidderminster. There was also a local service from Bridgnorth to Worcester at 7:35am, returning to Bridgnorth at 11:56am, with another local service from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth departing at 8:33pm and arriving back at 10:18pm. The single Sunday service ran north in the morning and returned south in the late afternoon as before.
1902 saw a similar timetable to 1900 on the Severn Valley Branch for through trains, with the variation in the second service from Shrewsbury, now at 8:35am, as before. The timetable also included a number of local trains[note 1] between Kidderminster and Bewdley, and between Bewdley and Hartlebury, working around the triangle formed by the three towns.
On the Tenbury Branch, five through services ran in each direction between Woofferton and Kidderminster on weekdays only, the second departure from Woofferton being a 'Mixed' train including goods.
In 1904 a sixth through service was introduced on the Severn Valley Branch on weekdays. By this time the majority of services only ran to and from Hartlebury, with just two southbound ending and one northbound beginning at Worcester. On 29 December 1904 a GWR Steam Railmotor was trialled between Kidderminster, Bewdley and Stourport, with a full service using two railmotors beginning on 2 January 1905. Foley Park Halt opened on the same day, and Rifle Range Halt opened in June of that year
The 1910 timetable included a separate table for the Steam Railmotor service between Kidderminster, Bewdley and Stourport, described as "Motor Cars – One class only". These provided a regular weekday service starting before 8am and finishing after 9pm. One railmotor service also ran from Worcester as far as Bridgnorth.
On the Severn Valley Branch five services left Shrewsbury on weekdays as before, although starting and ending later in the day with the first departure now not until 8:30am. Two of the five were to Kidderminster. However there was a peculiar imbalance in the timetable, in that six full line services now arrived at Shrewsbury, the last of the day being from Kidderminster. On Sundays there was now no service to or from Shrewsbury, with the morning departure from Worcester terminating at Bridgnorth and returning in the evening. An afternoon railmotor departure from Worcester ran to Highley before returning immediately to Kidderminster.
The Tenbury Branch weekday timetable included six departures from Kidderminster to Woofferton, with one of the six return services originating from Tenbury. One return trip to Woofferton was by steam railmotor.
There were five weekday departures from Shrewsbury as in 1910, although for the first time the majority of these were to Kidderminster rather than Hartlebury. Four of the five return services originated at Hartlebury, but with the last departure now being relatively early at 5.30pm (a later departure now only ran as far as Bridgnorth rather than continuing to Shrewsbury). Times between Hartlebury and Shrewsbury still averaged around 2 hours, little changed from the previous century. Although locomotive performance had improved, there were often planned delays at Bewdley to provide connections with services between Kidderminster and the Tenbury Branch; for example the 5:30pm from Hartlebury included a 21 minute wait at Bewdley. A separate timetable was again provided for the 'local' service around the Kidderminster / Bewdley / Hartlebury triangle. The Sunday timetable did not show any services north of Bewdley.
On the Tenbury Branch, five services ran each way between Kidderminster and Woofferton.
- Main article: Timetable: Kidderminster to Woofferton 1936
In the early 1930s, the Sunday timetable included one Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury service and one service nicknamed the “Fisherman’s Special”. The latter left Birmingham Snow Hill at 7.22am, arriving at Shrewsbury via Kidderminster at 10.30am, with the return departing at 8.00pm, arriving at Snow Hill at 10.47pm.
During the 1930s the SWR opened a number of halts on the Severn Valley Branch in a bid to attract more local custom on the line. These were at Burlish (1930), Northwood (1935), Jackfield and Cound (1934).
The 1936 timetable for the Tenbury Branch included 5 passenger services in each direction between Woofferton and Kidderminster. By 1938 there were still five trains per day to and from Shrewsbury.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley Branch 1942
Wartime saw the number of through services on the Severn Valley Branch back to four per day, with no Sunday services. Of the four departures to Shrewsbury in 1942, three originated from Worcester and one from Kidderminster. Southwards, two departed Shrewsbury for Kidderminster, one for Hartlebury and one for Worcester. In between, three local services ran between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. A Saturday only service ran from Kidderminster to Highley.
On the Severn Valley Branch, the pattern of through services on the 1945 wartime timetable was similar to 1942. Some changes were made to the Kidderminster-Bridgnorth local services, with the first being cancelled and the last running as far as Ironbridge. A number of local services also ran around the Hartlebury / Bewdley / Kidderminster triangle. The Saturday only service ran to Hampton Loade rather than Highley. On the Tenbury Branch, four weekday services ran daily between Kidderminster and Woofferton.
On 1 January 1948 the Severn Valley Branch and other local lines became part of the BRBritish Rail or British Railways Western Region "BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W)" following nationalisation. The 1948 weekday timetable included four through services in each direction. Northbound the first originated at Worcester, the second at Kidderminster and the others at Hartlebury. Southbound the first service was to Birmingham via Kidderminster, the second to Hartlebury and the others to Kidderminster. On Sundays a limited timetable had been reintroduced as far as Bridgnorth.
On the Tenbury Branch, five services ran each way between Woofferton to Kidderminster. The working timetable shows that three of these were planned to be diesel railcar workings. A sixth service ran in the late evening on Saturdays.
- Main articles: Timetable: Shrewsbury to Worcester 1953, Timetable: Kidderminster to Hartlebury via Bewdley 1953 and Timetable: Woofferton to Kidderminster 1953
In 1953 five weekday through services ran from Shrewsbury, with all but one going to Kidderminster. Northbound, three services ran from Hartlebury and two from Kidderminster. A Saturday evening return service ran from Kidderminster to Buildwas and back. A Sunday morning service from Birmingham to Bridgnorth, returning in the early evening, was timetabled to run until the end of November, resuming in April of the following year. A separate timetable was published for the local trains at the south end of the line.
On the Tenbury Branch, the timetable showed six weekday services from Woofferton to Kidderminster, but only five in the return direction. Apart from one journey in each direction, all were marked "Third class only, limited accommodation". Third class was abolished by BRBritish Rail or British Railways on 3 June 1956.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Lines 1959
By 1959 through services on the Severn Valley Branch had been curtailed. Northbound only three direct ran, the 7:00am from Hartlebury and the 2:00pm and 4:23pm from Kidderminster. The 6.08pm from Hartlebury required a change and wait at Bridgnorth to reach Shrewsbury at 8.31pm after 2 hours 23 minutes. Southbound services ran at 6:40am to Worcester and 1:45pm and 4:20pm to Kidderminster. The last departure at 5:33pm involved a lengthy wait for a connecting service at Bridgnorth before reaching Kidderminster at 8:40pm, a journey time of more than three hours! These inconvenient times and infrequent services undoubtedly helped to accelerate the decline in passenger numbers which led to the closure of the Branch.
Through services on the Tenbury Branch had suffered similar reductions. Only four weekday services left Kidderminster for the Branch, of which the first and third went only as far as Tenbury. Eastbound the two morning services to Kidderminster began at Tenbury with two afternoon services from Woofferton. Unusually, a late afternoon service also ran from Tenbury via Bewdley to Hartlebury. The working timetable suggests that by this time all these trains were diesel powered.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Lines 1960
The 1960 timetable was little changed from 1959, with each direction seeing three relatively direct though inconveniently timed trains and a final service in each direction taking around 3 hours.
Services on the Tenbury Branch in 1960 were also similar to 1959. In November 1960 British Railways published a proposal to close the entire Tenbury Branch between Woofferton and Bewdley. Passenger services between Woofferton and Tenbury ended in July 1961, with only one passenger train per day between Tenbury and Bewdley continuing on a trial basis for a further year.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley and Tenbury Lines 1962
In January 1962 the Severn Valley Branch itself came under threat of closure when BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W) announced a review due to passenger services being 'suspected of being un-remunerative'. In June 1962 the formal announcement came that passenger services would be completely withdrawn between Shrewsbury and Bewdley and reduced elsewhere at the south end of the line.
The Tenbury Branch duly closed at the end of July 1962. Ironically on the Severn Valley Branch, the timetable had somewhat improved with the lengthy wait on the final through service being eliminated. The Sunday service at the south end of the line ran as far as Bridgnorth.
- Main article: Timetable: Severn Valley Branch 1963
The Beeching Report in March 1963 included the Severn Valley Branch under 'closure already in progress'. Appeals against BRBritish Rail or British Railways's decision were unsuccessful and Transport Minister Ernest Marples approved the closure for passenger services with effect from 9 September. The final timetable was little changed, with the four daily through services being to and from Hartlebury and Kidderminster in equal numbers.
- Main article: Timetable: Kidderminster Bewdley and Hartlebury 1967
After 9 September 1963 a few local passenger services continued around the Kidderminster / Bewdley / Hartlebury triangle until the end of the decade, mainly in the early morning and late afternoon. The 1967 timetable included five weekday services from Hartlebury to Bewdley with four making the return journey. Just three services ran from Kidderminster to Bewdley with five making the return trip.
Passenger services around the triangle ended on 6 January 1970 with the closure of Stourport and Bewdley stations.
William Gladstone's Railway Regulation Act 1844 provided for a basic minimum standard of railway travel by compelling railway companies to provide at least one train per day in each direction over their lines, stopping at all stations, at an average speed of not less than 12 mph including stops, at a fare not exceeding a penny per mile in carriages adequately protected from the weather. These became known as 'Parliamentary trains' or 'Cheap trains'. For some time they were unpopular with the railway companies who often arranged for them to run at inconvenient times of day.
References to these 'Parliamentary' trains could often be found in published timetables. For example the 1862 timetable published in the Shrewsbury Chronicle showed the class of carriages on each train, normally either "1 & 2" or "1,2,3". However first departure from Shrewsbury and Worcester is shown as "1,2,P". The timetables for 1866, 1877 and 1887 all have trains labelled "gov" (presumably standing for "Government") which met the requirement of stopping at all stations.
By 1875 the Midland Railway had upgraded the standard of third class and abolished second class,[note 2] with other companies soon following suit. Thereafter there was no longer a need to run 'Parliamentary' or 'Cheap' trains, although for many years railwaymen would, by tradition, continue refer to particular services in those terms. During the notorious Quintinshill accident in 1912, Signalman Meakin, realising the cause of the first collision, exclaimed to his colleague "You've got the 'Parly' standing there."
- Probably using autocoaches.
- The law required third class accommodation to be provided, which brought about the oddity of carriages having first and third but no second class. This persisted until third class was rebranded by BRBritish Rail or British Railways as 'second' in 1956, and subsequently as 'standard'.
- Timetable extract
- Nabarro (1971) p. 67.
- Marshall (1989) pp. 138-144, 161-164.
- Vanns (1998) p. 95.
- Marshall (1989) pp. 140-11.
- Marshall (1989) pp. 142-143.
- 1942 timetable