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Saturday, 29 October 2016

Inside Malvern Wells Signal Box

Back in June, I was lucky enough to spend an hour or so inside the active signal box at Malvern Wells' old GWR station. 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.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Demolition Trains

Among the excellent pictures donated to this project by Jim Clemens are some shots of the demolition trains that were sent to remove the line after its closure. Some might consider these a little bleak, but I think that they provide a really interesting bridge between the line as a working piece of industry and the beginning of its reversion to nature. The line itself was dug up by a crane mounted to the back of a van, which lifted the sleepers and rails into empty trucks parked adjacent. John Clements, the farmer at Pigeon House Farm near Upton, remembers:
'I think I was about 10 or 11 when the line was taken up and I have memories of a wonderful old steam crane lifting the tracks. The operator let me up on board to pull a few leavers, which I guess would never be allowed in this day and age of health and safety and risk assessment. It was a wonderful machine to a young lad with unguarded cogs and pulleys and steam issuing forth from every seal and joint. After the tracks were removed they lifted the sleepers and took them away, I assume to be reused.'
The pictures below are mainly untitled but seem to have been taken around the area between Clive's Fruit Farm on Upper Hook Road and what is now Upton Rugby ground. I hope you enjoy them!

The steam-powered crane loads an empty truck.
This is one of my favourite pictures from this entire project, albeit maybe for artistic rather than historical reasons! Upton station is visible in the distance.
Down the line to Upton.
'Demolition Train M.R. Malvern to Ashchurch'. Taken from Upper Hook Road bridge - the permanent way hut has since been removed.
Another shot near Upton, taken approximately where the public footpath runs above the rugby pitches now.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Some New Tickets

Some new tickets to show this week. These have been kindly donated by Glen Beadon who recently won them at auction:

#2589 Colwall to Malvern Wells GWR, 19 November 1904.
#2639 Ledbury to Malvern Wells GWR, 1 October ????
#5078 Ashchurch to Tewkesbury, 12 July 1961.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

New Research on Great Malvern Station

Previously on this blog it has been mentioned that Rowallan, the house on Avenue Road overlooking Great Malvern station, was the stationmaster's residence during the station's first century. In the last couple of weeks, however, I have been informed that this might not actually have been the case and that the stationmaster may never have lived there at all. The following text has been reproduced from an article that Cora Weaver wrote for the Malvern Museum newsletter in May 2011. I would like to thank both Cora for her permission to show her work here, and also Faith Renger at Malvern Museum for mentioning this research to me recently. If anyone has any further insights into the history of the house I'm sure we would all be interested to hear about it - many of the railway books I have read have taken it at face value that Rowallan was the stationmaster's residence, but perhaps this is the result of authors reading eachother's works and taking what they read as fact. In any case, here is Cora's research:
"For years people have said that Rowallan, an imposing, detached house in Avenue Road, next to the railway station, was built for the station master. So many people have said this that surely it must be true. But where was the evidence? Great Malvern was a small provincial station and the station master was an employee. Employees didn't live in grand houses like Rowallan!  So my quest was to discover who did live at Rowallan, and where the station master really lived.

Directories are a useful guide to sorting out the upper classes from the middling and lower classes. The upper class were listed in Directories under 'Private Residents', and only private residents lived at Rowallan. In 1867, shortly after the house was built, the occupant was Richard Reader Harris Esq. The 1871 census shows 50-year-old brewer William Colman, his family, and four servants there, and for many years after that, Mrs Georgina Colt, widow of barrister George Colt, lived there with her family and servants.

The earliest mention I could find of Great Malvern's station master was in an 1868 Directory. Theodore Allen Berrow Cliffe was not a Private Resident. His previous job had been as a railway guard. The 1871 census shows him as aged 41 and living at number 5, Imperial Terrace, Manby Road, with his 23 -year-old wife Rosina and their three children aged 3, 2 and 1. Sharing the house with them was a general servant and two lodgers, both barmaids. Their neighbours were lodging house keepers and cabmen, which suggests that Mrs Cliffe took in lodgers to supplement her husband's wages. The 1871 census also shows 22-year-old railway clerk Thomas Richard Franklin lodging with a straw bonnet maker in Stourport .

By 1879 T.A.B Cliffe had died and T.R Franklin had become Great Malvern's station master. He and his wife Patience, daughter of well-known local grocer James Nott, and their one-year-old daughter, were living at 37 Lansdowne Crescent with a servant and three respectable lodgers. The house has been demolished, but it was probably one in a short terrace of three or four. By 1901 Thomas and Patience, their two children, two servants and five respectable lodgers were at Hatfield, a semi-detached house in Priory Road. It was a modest house compared with the magnificent mansions that littered the rest of the road.

Generally in the past, one's status was determined by one's class, and one's class determined where one lived. This brief investigation confirms that Rowallan was not built for the station master, and the station master never lived there. It also confirms that you should never believe everything people tell you....."

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Colwall Tunnel

Colwall Tunnel actually refers to a pair of tunnels which run through the Malvern Hills. The first was constructed between 1856 and 1861, and remained open until 1926, when a more modern partner was built alongside it. The old tunnel was later repurposed during the Second World War to act as a storage depot for Admiralty munitions. The second tunnel was built between 1924 and 1926 and remains in use to this day. Spanning 1,567 yards, the Colwall tunnels remain some of the longest tunnels on the British railway network.



The eastern portal of the two tunnels lies around a short bend south of the old Malvern Wells (GWR) station, while the western mouth of the tunnels emerges shortly before the present-day Colwall station. This bend makes the eastern tunnel entrance difficult to see from anywhere except the hills directly above it, or a public footpath which cuts under the line just before the tunnel entrance.



Colwall Tunnel


This selection of pictures shows what the tunnel has looked like through the ages, from the heyday of GWR steam to the modern day.

The Tunnel Approach

'Down Goods near Malvern Wells (GW)'. Used courtesy of Ben Brooksbank via Creative Commons.
This lovely shot of the Colwall Tunnel shows a GWR 'Cathedrals Express'  train from Hereford entering Malvern Wells on its way to Great Malvern, Worcester, Gloucester and London.
'Approaching the Malvern end of Colwall tunnel, viewed from a train', 24/10/1964. This picture clearly shows the brown platelayer's (permanent way) hut that accompanied the junction. Just visible behind it is the white hut/guard room built for the Admiralty personnel responsible for the munitions store in the old tunnel during the war (right).
The pedestrian underpass at Fruitlands.
A view westwards along the tracks.
The view towards the tunnel with the ruined brown permanent way hut in view. Just visible in the middle distance on the ground is a corrugated iron cover for a water tank that captured the flow from the springs in the old tunnel.
The reverse view back towards Malvern.
The Tunnel Mouth

'D7050 Malvern Wells with Hereford - London train, 15.6.1966'
The tunnel portal at the eastern end of Colwall tunnel, pictured in the late 1970s.
The disused original Colwall tunnel, also taken in the late 1970s.
The View from Above

'34046 Malvern Wells 1Z38 ret. RTC charter 17.49 Worcester Shrub Hill - Bristol, 17.5.14'
'Malvern Wells with 15.15 Paddington - Hereford, 30.6.1965' This shot provides a more definitive view of the buildings listed above; the Admiralty hut nearest the front, then the water tank cover and finally the permanent way hut at the back.
'4161 Malvern Wells with (18.24 or 18.45) Ledbury - Worcester, 28.6.1965'