Bromsgrove And Redditch
Bromsgrove sits at the foot of the Lickey Hills in north Worcestershire on the
main line from Birmingham to the South West and has a rich railway heritage.
The Lickey Hills have been a challenge for the builders and operators of both the railway and the Worcester and Birmingham canal.
The canal builders met the challenge by constructing the Tardebigge locks, the longest flight of locks in the UK. It comprises 30 narrow locks on a two-and-a-quarter-mile stretch of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge. It raises the waterway 220 feet.
The engineers of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway Company (B&G) constructed the Lickey Incline. This is the steepest sustained main-line railway incline in the UK, 2 miles with an average gradient of 1 in 37.7. Work on the Incline was completed in 1840 after 2 years hard labour and the severity of the gradient has been a thorn in the side of railway operators ever since.
Banking engines were provided to assist trains up the hill. Over the years there was a mixture of relatively small engines, but the most famous banker was No. 2290, a specialised 0-10-0 steam locomotive, designed specifically to work on the incline, and built at Derby in 1919. She was known as Big Emma or Big Bertha. After she was withdrawn in 1956, banking duties were taken over by British Railways Standard Class 9F locomotives. Following the end of steam traction, a variety of diesel locomotives continue to be used to assist freight trains.
The B&G established workshops at the foot of the incline, in Aston Fields and built the original station in 1840. This was partly demolished in 1971 and modified by the addition of a second platform in 1984.
Network Rail recognised that the facilities and train services needed a significant upgrade for the 21st century and in 2016 built a new station about 300 metres south of the previous station. This has four platforms of 188 metres, which allows six car trains to stop northbound & southbound.
On 20th May 2018 Network Rail had two test runs with a pair of Class 323 EMU sets. This resulted in the very first electric train to call at Bromsgrove in 178 years. The tests involved running with both units powered, then a run with only one unit powered. The second run included stopping and restarting the Up journey at Vigo on the Lickey Incline. The tests were satisfactory.
The completion of the electrification between Barnt Green and Bromsgrove enables the extension of the Cross City service, which from Sunday 29th July 2018 provides an additional 3 trains per hour.
The town no longer plays host to its most famous resident, Big Bertha, and the railway workshops have long disappeared, but it is hoped to relive this glorious past by incorporating pictures and artefacts into the new station building.