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Black Country Steam, Western Region Operations, 1948–1967 (Hardback)

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century Transport > Trains & Railways World History

By Paul Dorney
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 144
Illustrations: 200 Mono integrated
ISBN: 9781399090322
Published: 30th May 2022

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The railway lines of the heavily industrialised Black Country were of considerable commercial importance to the fortunes of the Great Western Railway and its successor, the Western Region of British Railways. Nevertheless, they received little attention from both photographers of the railway scene and contemporary railway publishers alike. Perhaps understandably, photographers, particularly in the post-war austerity years, chose to eschew the grimy industrial landscape of North West Worcestershire and South East Staffordshire and save their expensive film stock for more idyllic scenery elsewhere.

The book seeks to redress that previous lack of attention, by presenting a significant selection of hitherto unpublished photographs, principally by locally based enthusiasts, accompanied by informative captions. Throughout the period from nationalisation to the ultimate demise of steam it follows the respective former GW routes through the region in a logical manner, depicting the wide variety of the locomotive power employed to haul the diverse traffic generated by the local industry, and the sidings and yards that served it. Coverage is also given to local locomotive running sheds and maintenance facilities.

Most of the featured lines have now closed, as is also true of much of the heavy industry. A resident from the immediate post-war years would find the area unrecognisable, but it is to be hoped that the book will rekindle memories of a landscape now lost forever.

"This is an impressive work showcasing steam’s last 20 years in an area often neglected by photographers."

West Somerset Railway Association

As featured by

The Broad Gauge Society

5 out of 5

A must-have book that covers the industrial heart of the Black Country and is highly recommended.

Read the Full Review Here

Rail Advert

This is a photographic record of trains on the ex-Great Western network in the Black Country and Wolverhampton areas. The combination of less glamorous and now-lost locations, good coverage of freight trains and many appearances of largely-vanished industrial backgrounds really gives the feel of the region as it was. Together with generously-sized quality photographic reproduction, this makes for a superior example of the pictorial record genre.

Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society

An historically, very poorly represented area of the former Western Region, has at long last been given the treatment it deserves by local Black Country born and brought up photographer, Paul Downey.

A useful introduction gives the authors background and a resume of what steam could be found in the area in the 1950’s and 60’s, together with the inevitable, sad decline in manufacturing and the extractive industries, of the area, so symptomatic of Britain over the last 30 years of the Twentieth Century.

A good map of the area shows the relationship of the various lines to each other which, when used in conjunction with the following resume of The West Midland Line, starts to put in to perspective the complicated history and company rivalry of the area. Even Brunel’s broad gauge got in on the act much to the chagrin of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway.

The reader is then taken around the area in a roughly clockwise direction with well composed photographs of every day scenes from the 1950’s and 60’s. hitherto unpublished and what gems they are!

A wide variety of Western Region steam locos with a few Standard classes and an odd industrial as well to reflect the diversity of motive power to be found at the time in the area. Hitherto unpublished photographs of Stafford Road Kings at Wolverhampton and on Birkenhead-Paddington express’s, ‘Flying banana’ railcard and that doyen of stations, Birmingham Snow Hill. Not only are passenger trains shown, but a wide range of freight as well including the branches to Halesowen and of course, Stourbridge Town.

Rounded off with a useful index of locations, the book can be recommended to all those interested in what has been lost from the local rail scene, perhaps there are enough, equally good photographs to warrant the production of ‘A further selection’?

Richard Abbey - 6024 Preservation Society

As featured in the article: '“Arrow Brettell Lane Station, 1961 Express” trundles into the station'

Highlight: 'An invaluable record of the final days of the steam age in our region.'

Black Country Bugle

Review as featured in

Black Country Bugle

This is another must have book. Containing many previously unseen photographs it covers the industrial heart of the Black Country. It brought back some happy memories of travel before deiselisation.

James Simmonds

About Paul Dorney

Paul Dorney was born in Dudley and attended schools in Wolverhampton. After university, where he studied law, he worked for many years in Wednesbury and West Bromwich until being made redundant. Finding employment with Railtrack, later Network Rail, he worked until retirement as a signalman in a mechanical box in the Worcester area. Married, he has lived for many years in the city of Worcester, and volunteers in restoration work on former GWR carriages on the nearby Severn Valley Railway.

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