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Friday, 4 March 2016

Malvern Wells Station (GWR)

Although not part of the Midland/LMS Ashchurch Branch, the old GWR station at Malvern still represents an important part of the town's railway past. The GWR's Malvern Wells station opened in 1860 and, unlike its Midland Railway counterpart at Malvern Hanley Road, survived until the famous 'Beeching Axe' of 1965.


Today, the abandoned station is still worth a quick look, with a few remains visible around the site. The station exists in a semi-dormant state: although the station and platforms were demolished 50 years ago, the track is still live, with London Midland and Great Western services running from Great Malvern passing through here on their way to Colwall and, Ledbury and Hereford. Furthermore, the approach to the station contains a passing loop to allow trains terminating at Great Malvern to be overtaken by Hereford services before they themselves run back, while a manned signal box still guards the Colwall tunnel.


The closure of the site is somewhat bizarre, when you consider what happened to the town once the station was removed. For over a century, Malvern Wells station sat in the middle of open fields, as this 1933 aerial shot from Britain from Above demonstrates:


The Ordnance Survey map from 1946 below shows in more detail how sparsely-populated was the area around the station. The line running to the left is the extant Worcester-Hereford line, today operated by London Midland and Greater Western, while the line to the right is the destroyed Malvern-Ashchurch MR/LMS branch.


Yet no sooner did the station close than the area was developed: the Fruitlands housing estate (shown by the large dark patch on the right of the 1933 shot) was built in the 1970s, and the town's radar site was also progressively expanded over the years to greatly increase the number of people in what would have been the station's catchment area. The picture below shows a view of the Fruitlands taken from the hills, with the railway running right alongside.


 The Approach


The approach to Malvern Wells station runs across Malvern Common, where this small tunnel stands to allow walkers (and water!) to pass from north to south:
 
View from Malvern Common looking south.
Shortly before reaching Malvern Wells station, the line runs under Peachfield Road, where the bridge has proved a popular vantage point over the years.
 
The view north-east from the bridge towards Qinetiq.
The view northwards from Peachfield Road bridge on a very foggy day. The third line on the right is the loop used by trains terminating at Great Malvern when they turn around to head back to London.
The view southwards from Peachfield Road bridge, overlooking the old station site.
A London Midland train passes the Wells signal box.
Today, the derelict station is still actively used by trains which have terminated at Great Malvern. Running the empty train three-quarters of a mile on to Malvern Wells before stopping outside the signal box, the driver will change ends before reversing back onto the the 'up' line heading back into Malvern to begin the return journey. This video from my Youtube channel explains all:


The Station

 
Malvern Wells station sat on a small cul-de-sac off Peachfield Road, at the top of which stood the stationmaster's house. The house is still there today, and is mostly unchanged from its GWR heyday.


The stationmaster's house commanded a lovely view of Malvern Common, and Adrian Putley has very kindly sent in this picture of his grandfather, Donald Wilden, who was the GWR stationmaster at Malvern Wells from 1936-51.



Heading down the cul-de-sac, the complex was at one point very large, consisting of a small but attractive station, signal box, goods shed, water tower and engine shed.


'G.W.R. Station Malvern Wells'
A similar view in 2016.
The following picture was taken from Peachfield Road bridge, overlooking the whole site. The engine shed closed in the early 'twenties but hung around for several decades in a derelict state. Unfortunately, the trackside overgrowth makes a perfect matching shot impossible nowadays, but this approximation is not bad, and the platform hut is still clearly visible.

'Malvern Wells', photo probably early 1960s.
The same shot, this time in the late 1970s...
... and the same view in 2016.
At platform level, the small station had a spectacular view of the hills. It closed in 1965, along with other small Worcestershire stations at Henwick, Boughton, Rushwick, Bransford and Newland. Note the shed behind the lorry in this picture...

'Malvern Wells'
The platforms, from the other side, today.
A rare shot of the station and its footbridge.
'7904 Malvern Wells (closed) with 15.15 Paddington - Hereford, 28.6.1965'
'Malvern Wells GWR with Station Master's House'
Wyche Cutting, date unknown, probably late 1950s.
The Malvern Wells platform sign now in use at the GWSR's Toddington Station.

The Signal Box


Away from a few bits of the station, little remains at Malvern Wells apart from the signal box which still guards the single-track tunnel through the Malvern Hills. The tool shed on the right is also visible in some of the older photographs.

Malvern Wells Signal Box.
The original signal box sign at Malvern Museum.
Looking towards Malvern, October 1988.
Malvern Wells Signal Box, October 1988.
Inside the Signal Box, October 1988.
Ledbury Signals.
Signal Diagram at Malvern Wells.
'Malvern Wells signalbox and closed ex-GWR depot, 15.6.1966'

Back in June 2016, I was lucky enough to spend an hour or so inside the active signal box at Malvern Wells. The box stands guard over the eastern approach to Colwall Tunnel and was built in 1919, replacing the original signal cabin constructed over fifty years previously. An important note: as with many of the sites on this blog, I was able to visit the signal box only after obtaining permission. However, this site carries the obvious added risk that it is a live railway, so please enjoy my pictures instead of going near it yourself.

Ground Level

Malvern Wells signal box standing behind the derelict GWR station.
The signal box is accessed by a simple ramp leading off a private road.
The signal box from the south.
Looking south towards Colwall Tunnel (round the bend!)
The rear of the signal box. This view is very difficult to see normally because the land behind the box drops away steeply onto the small housing estate north of Worcestershire Golf Course.
Signal at the foot of the signal box.
The view north towards Peachfield Bridge. The old station lay behind the hedgerow here.
A fuller view of the above.
Behind the signal box lie the remains of what may have been a previous building. The ground is littered with old bricks, boards and stones. I have no idea if these are just cast-offs from previous repairs to the 1919 box, but these scraps do sit on the location of the very first Victorian signal cabin at the Wells. Perhaps someone will know if this is the case or just wishful thinking on my part!

Some old roofing boards.
Blue bricks in the undergrowth, the same Imperial colour as used on much of the Ashchurch branch.
Some more stones, barely visible in the nettles.
These bricks look slightly more permanent.
Inside the Box

Up the stairs onto the top floor...
Part of the large shelf of old instruments in the box.
The junction diagram above the lever array. The large green GWR Lock & Block instrument by which the single line to Ledbury is worked is the last remaining single-line section in the country to use this system.
Very colourful!
The View from the Top Floor

A FGW DMU waits for the driver to change ends.
The old signal discs below Peachfield Bridge.
Across the way looking at the old third line at the Wells.
North towards Malvern Common.
Peachfield Bridge.
The view from the back window...
Down the line towards Colwall Tunnel.
The single-track approach to the tunnel. The overgrown third line can be seen petering out on the right.

The Goods Yard


'Goods Yard'
Perhaps the most substantial remaining feature in the clearing is this wooden shed (shown in the platform-level picture further up the page), which stands alongside the sad remnants of a lineside shed, now almost crumbled to nothing.

The station shed, still in remarkably good condition in this shot from the late 1970s...
...and its current delapidated state.

5 comments:

  1. Nice site!

    I've got one or two other old shots of Malvern Wells (GWR) and Malvern Link you might be interested in using. Drop me a line on adrian@roscalen.com if you're interested. See also my Malvern Wells signal page - http://www.roscalen.com/signals/MalvernWells/index.htm

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    Replies
    1. Hi Adrian! Will do, thanks for the offer!

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  2. Martin.

    Just stumbled across this fantastic web site.
    I have images taken 1980/81 which you will find very interesting.
    Contact me via colin.allbright@outlook.com
    Regards,

    Colin

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  3. Thanks for all the images. My gt. gt. Uncle was station master here from 1890s to 1920s. Benjamin Pointer. Lovely to be able to imagine him here in his glory days.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alison, blimey that's going back a bit! Thanks for the information, and I'm glad you like the site!

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