The Gloucester to Birmingham Line & the Lickey Incline

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

The Lickey Incline lies on the route of the Birmingham & Gloucester Railway (B&GR). The building of a railway line from Birmingham to Gloucester was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1836, the necessary capital to build the line was raised quickly and the railroad was surveyed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1832.

The line was opened in sections starting with a 31 miles long stretch from the Company workshops at Bromsgrove to Cheltenham in June 1840; Bromsgrove to Cofton Farm opened in September of the same year with Cofton Farm to the Camp Hill, Birmingham terminus opening in the December. The Camp Hill terminus station closed when a link was made into the Curzon Street station of the London & Birmingham Railway in August 1841 and to Birmingham New Street from 1854. The B&GR became a part of the Midland Railway in 1846.

On the way out of Birmingham there were stations at Moseley, opened by the Midland Railway in 1867, Kings Heath (called Moseley until 1867) and Hazelwell, opened 1867. All these these stations closed in 1946. There were at various times three stations at Lifford and from Lifford the line goes to Kings Norton. There are now no stations on the Camp Hill line.

At Kings Norton a junction is made with the former Midland Railway's West Suburban Railway from Birmingham New Street. This line, opened in April 1876, makes its way out of Birmingham through a series of tunnels to suburban stations at Five Ways, Selly Oak and Bournville before reaching Kings Norton. Midland Railway main line services were switched from the Camp Hill line to the Birmingham West Suburban line in 1885 and there are further stations at Northfield and Longbridge.

The Halesowen Railway leaves the main line just south of Longbridge station and divides the old Austin / MG / Rover / MG Rover car plant into two parts. There was a works platform at Longbridge on the Halesowen Railway and until the 1950s, the Longbridge car plant had an extensive internal rail system worked by steam tank engines.

Picture of Big Bertha at Bromsgrove Station The next station is Barnt Green, opened in 1844 which is the junction for the line to Redditch and formerly Evesham and Ashchurch. Continuing down the main line the major engineering feature on the route is the Lickey Incline with stations at the top at Blackwell (closed 1966) and Bromsgrove which is still open. At the time of building, it was thought better to tackle the incline than to add length to the route by avoiding the hills.

At Stoke Works Junction there is a spur to the west that joins the Worcester to Stourbridge line at Droitwich Spa (opened in 1852). Stoke Works station served local factories. There was a station at Stoke (Prior).

Continuing south from Stoke Works the line avoids Worcester and passes through five closed stations at Droitwich Road, Dunhampstead, Oddingley, Spetchley and Norton. Between Oddingley and Spetchley there is a vantage point at Tibberton. Just beyond Worcester there is a northfacing spur at Abbotswood Junction and formerly an interchange station. The line then passes through four small villages that all had their own stations. These were at Wadborough, Defford (Defford for Pershore in Midland Railway days), Eckington and Bredon that all four closed in 1965 and shortlived ones at Pirton and Besford). At Eckington the line crosses the River Avon over a bridge built in 1931. The next station is Ashchurch for Tewkesbury. This was an important junction station with lines to Redditch and Malvern. After leaving Ashchurch there was a station at Cleeve before reaching Cheltenham and then Gloucester.

Of course the highlight of the Birmingham to Gloucester line is and always will be, the famous incline between Bromsgrove and Birmingham.