RAILWAY memories always receive a good response from readers and our pictures of Blowers Green junction in our February 20 edition have prompted Keith Taylor of Cradley Heath to bring in some more photographs.
They were taken in around 1959, when Keith was 14, just down the line from Blowers Green at Baptist End Halt. The trains in the background are the celebrated Dudley Dodger.
In one picture Keith stands on the original wooden platform and on the opposite line is an ex-GWR railcar. W8 was built in 1936 by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, powered by two AEC 130hp engines and could seat 70. She was withdrawn from service in 1959.
Keith's second photo shows him with a steam locomotive. The engine number is not clear but the loco is an ex-GWR 1400 Class. This 0-4-2 tank engine was designed in 1932 by Charles Collett but it was update of George Armstrong's 1868 design for the 517 Class. The 1400 Class was fitted with autotrain equipment, which meant the driver could control a train from a special driver carriage instead of from the footplate of the engine. This arrangement was much used on the Dudley Dodger service.
Keith lived just by Baptist End Halt and was a keen spotter of all the locomotives that passed through. He remembers that the drivers would often let him come up into the cab.
Our pictures two weeks ago were supplied by Laurence Brownhill of Dudley and he has given us two more photographs of the Dudley Dodger.
His first picture was taken in June 1964 at Dudley station and shows the Dodger having just arrived. Stepping down from the train is Laurence himself and in the background in the top right-hand corner you can see the Dudley Hippodrome. The locomotive powering the Dodger that day was 6434, an ex-GWR 0-6-0 pannier tanker, designed by Charles Collett and built at Swindon in 1937. This engine was withdrawn from service not long after the picture was taken, in September 1964, and was scrapped in November that year by Arnott Young at the Avonmour Ironworks, Bilston.
Laurence's second picture was taken at Old Hill station on June 13, 1964, and shows the last passenger train to Dudley. Locomotive 7418, an ex-GWR 7400 Class pannier tanker, is shown running round before taking the last Dudley Dodger.
This loco, another Collett design, was built at Swindon and entered service in January 1937. Unlike the 6400 Class, the 7400 Class was not fitted with autotrain equipment, hence the engine had to 'run around' to pull the train back up to Dudley.
The Dudley Dodger service ran along the Bumble Hole line that linked Dudley to Old Hill. The line opened in 1868 but passenger numbers declined in the 20th century and especially after the Second World War. By the 1960s it was not uncommon for a passenger to find themselves travelling alone. Despite this the line was upgraded in the early '60s, with the old wooden platforms replaced with new concrete ones.
However, even after this outlay of public money, the passenger service was withdrawn in June 1964 and freight services ended in January 1968.
The line was lifted in 1969 and today little remains. Some embankments and cuttings have survived and there are three road bridges still extant, at New Road, St Peters Road and Greaves Road, near Netherton Park. Much of the Netherton end of the line is now a footpath and it is possible to walk on the former track bed from the New Road crossing, south of Dudley, to the site of Windmill End Station.
What are your memories of the Dudley Dodger service? Contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk