WE venture a little beyond the traditional boundaries of the Black Country with these photographs, supplied by Mike Brown of Bearwood, which show Kidderminster station around the end of the 19th century.
In the first picture a double-framed 0-6-0 tender engine stands with a passenger train at the southbound platform while on the other line a horse is being used to shunt a wagon.
Horses were used extensively on the railways well into the 20th century. Every large station had its stables and the horses were primarily used in the goods department to make deliveries around town and to collect items despatched by the local works. But horses were also used for shunting too. This may seem paradoxical, but the humble horse did have some advantages over the steam engine.
Primarily, they were much cheaper than a shunting engine but, unlike a steam engine, they needed no warm-up time before they could start work and they could move easily from track to track. Also, a horse could learn to obey instructions. However, horses had the disadvantage of sometimes being spooked and bolting and of tripping on the track, falling or otherwise being injured.
Charlie was the name of the last shunting horse working on British Rail, who was retried in 1967. He worked at Newmarket, where they kept shunting horses for moving special vehicles used for transporting racehorses.
The picture also shows the original footbridge which continued the “mock Tudor” design of Kidderminster station. Opened on 1st May, 1852, the old station buildings survived until 1968 when they were demolished due to dry rot. The new station building was a much smaller affair, built of brick, and passengers had to used the road bridge to cross from one platform to another until a new footbridge was built in 2009.
The second picture appears to date from around the same time and shows railway workers, sporting a fine array of brass buttons and watch chains, grouped near the rear of a passenger train.