By Martin Creese
On June 29, 1968 the first steam open day was held at the Chasewater Railway, the railway’s roots having started years earlier with the formation of the Railway Preservation Society in 1959. The idea was to form the society into districts and each district would establish its own depot. The West Midlands branch was the first such district formed.
By June 1960, a depot had been established at Hednesford in Staffordshire with two six-wheeled pre-Grouping carriages acquired from the NCB becoming the first rolling stock. LNWR Webb Coal Tank No. 1054 was a static exhibit for a period of time in the 1960s, before being restored at Dinting, followed by a subsequent overhaul at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, itself now celebrating 50 years of preservation.
With more stock being acquired, eyes were cast on to potential branch lines to operate. The Coalport branch and the GNR Stafford to Uttoxeter line were considered, but were rejected in favour of the Midland Railway Aldridge to Brownhills branch as the local council was establishing a park at Chasewater, a former canal reservoir. The RPS also created two other schemes which continue to thrive today at Bo’ness and Quainton Road.
After commencing operations at Chasewater, the railway expanded slowly. The railway reached its lowest point when services were suspended in 1982, with the railway beset by vandalism and theft. A new preservation group was formed in 1985 and from there the railway has taken strides forward, the biggest of which came about in 2002/03 when, with the building of the M6 toll road, a new station and depot was built at Brownhills West.
Read more and view more images in Issue 243 of HR – on sale now!