The Railway Station, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY12 1DU
Station Website: http://www.bewdleystation.co.uk/
The early years of operation were relatively uneventful considering that at that point signalling was relatively primitive and signal interlocking unheard of. An accident did occur in the November of 1866 when a goods train from Buildwas ran into the back of another having passed a signal at danger although the damage to all concerned was slight. An almost identical incident occurred in October 1888 although this time a passenger train from Shrewsbury was involved although again there were no casualties.
Originally, all movements were controlled by single needle telegraph apparatus. By 1872, the line to Tenbury Wells had been upgraded to the ‘Staff and Ticket’ system, whereby a train entering a section must take a staff in with it. If two trains were due to travel in the same direction, the first would carry a ticket instead, although the driver still needed to see the staff before he set off. This system can be limiting, which is perhaps why the much less fail safe telegraph system was installed for the Kidderminster Loop in 1877. In the same year, the ‘Absolute Block system was installed for the two main lines between the new north and south signal boxes. It was not until 1891 that Staff and Ticket working or Absolute Block was finally introduced for most of the Severn Valley Railway, with Bewdley ‘Back Road’ (Platform 3) being worked by the Electric Staff system by 1894. The locking frame in Bewdley South Signal Box was replaced in 1909 although no changes to the working practice were effected, it was simply worn out. The now familiar Electric Token system was not introduced on the SVR until after the Second World War although at Bewdley this is now only used for trains to Arley. The Absolute Block is still used between the two signal boxes, whilst trains to and from Kidderminster are now controlled by Acceptance Levers. With this system, a train to Kidderminster needs the acceptance lever pulled in Kidderminster Signal box, locking its signals and allowing the starting signals at Bewdley to be operated. This system was added in 1987 due to the passing loops at Kidderminster which have been added in preservation.
As the railway became established, a number of improvements and modifications took place. In 1892, a footbridge was erected to the north of the station site. This was demolished in the 1930s and replaced by a foot level crossing, although the remnants of the eastern brick piers remain. In 1896, the board of the GWR authorised £100 to be spent improving the lavatory facilities. The new Mens Toilet was inserted between the main buildings and the Station Masters Office and was accessed from Platform 1, whilst the Ladies were behind this and could be accessed from the Booking Hall or Waiting Room. Both rooms have different uses today, having been superseded by the modern facilities in the buffet building.
At around the same time, a cast iron toilet was installed on the island platform. This was demolished during the British Rail period and the current example was relocated to the site from Melrose station in Scotland 1977. Unfortunately, due to modern health and safety regulations, it was closed in 1998, but is retained as a distinctive fixture.
When inspected by the Board of Trade prior to opening in 1878, Bewdley tunnel received much favourable comment, yet only ten years later it was found that a portion of the roof was collapsing and from then on patches were regularly renewed. In 1908, the problem was finally tackled head on an the entire tunnel was relined with a 9 inch thick inner lining of blue brick which reduced its bore to 17ft 16in. In the meantime, more major excavations were carried out at the station itself, enabling the ‘Rock Siding’ to be laid. This is a loop line intended for holding freight trains in and has since been used for the storage of the preserved railway’s heritage diesel unit and as a locomotive depot.
The track layout of Bewdley station has been amended many times. In 1919, the whole route was upgraded. Great Western engines were given a colour disc which indicated which routes they could be used on, since branch lines and lesser routes were equip with weaker bridges. The amended route classification allowed ‘yellow’ engines (Axle loading of 16 tons or less) complete access and ‘blue’ engines (Up to 17 tons 12 hundredweight) access subject to a 25mph speed restriction. At Bewdley, the layout at the south of the station was altered, eliminating the scissors crossover arrangement fitted upon opening of the Kidderminster line which had severely limited the engines using the route. This arrangement was similar to that used today, although slight alterations were made in 1932. Both the Kidderminster and Stourport lines were re-laid to ‘dotted red’ allowing all GWR engines other than the ‘King’ and 47xx classes to use them. The section from Hartlebury to Kidderminster made up the third side of a triangle, which would have enabled the larger permitted engines to be turned round, although whether this happened frequently is unknown.
In June 1935, Northwood Halt was opened for business. This proved so popular with local fishermen that a ticket booth was erected on the site, although this was subsequently lost. The current shelter is a replica of a Great Western pagoda hut erected in 2005 to replace the previous worn out wooden shed (Dating from the early 1970s). Like many of these small stopping places, the halt is adjacent to a lane, which crosses it by means of a level crossing. This was the scene of two fatal incidents where road vehicles have been struck by a train, consequently it is now controlled by warning lights.