Here’s a little introduction to the fascinating railway that is now all gone but not without leaving it’s mark on history.
The Earl of Dudley’s Railway was an independent mineral and industrial railway, which at one point stretched for some 40 miles across the south west of the black country. The railway has a very long heritage and a little place in history. However with the last steam engine withdrawn from service in 1963, very little remains of the once important railway.
Perhaps though with one lasting connection to the present day, is that the railway once serviced the Round Oak steelworks, with much of the internal railway still left at the site once being a part of the Earls Railway.
Its little place in history (and the NRM) was assured in 1829 several months before the Rainhill trials, when large crowds gathered in the Pensnett area of the railway (at this time known as the Shutt End Railway) for trials of the locomotive Agenoria, which was seen pulling up to 20 mineral wagons, weighing over 130 tons, managing a speed of between 3 and 7 mph. Interestingly the builder Foster Rastrick, of Foster Rastrick and co, Stourbridge, was after this trial run of Agenoria invited to be a judge at the Rainhill trials. Agenoria can now be seen in the great hall at the NRM, minus her tender, but well preserved.
In the very early part of the 17th century it was discovered that the land in the black country was rich in minerals, Coal, Limestone, ironstone and clay were in abundance, however a ridge some 800′ above sea level ran through the area, while to the North and East of the ridge the minerals were pushed to the surface and easily collected, the terrain to the South and West was more hostile, and it was for this reason that ultimately brought the railway in to being, alongside the many canals in the area. The owner of the land to the South and West of the line was the Ward family, who had succeeded the title and ownership of the Dudley estate in the late 18th century.
As the railway developed in the mid to later half of the 19th century, the railway purchased tender locomotives from Manning Wardle, which worked the line for many years, before the railways own workshops rebuilt them in to small 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 locomotives, these worked up until the turn of the century when further purchases were made trialling different makes of small tank engines, with locomotives from Avonside and Peckett being used on the line, but when a few Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 st were introduced to the railway they soon became the mainstay of the line up to until their withdrawal in the 1960’s. Barclay 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 saddle tanks were in abundance on the lines. Very few survived in to preservation, as most were cut up at the works and the scrap used in the furnaces at Round Oak.
The Earl of Dudley’s Railway was a very complex and interesting system, with vast workshops on site at ‘The Wallows’, a 90 deg crossing of the GWR mainline at Round Oak, connection to multiple coal mines, canal basins, landsale wharves, which for instance took the railway almost in to the town centre of Dudley, the railway has a long history and hopefully by modelling this little railway I can convey some of that importance and history.
If anyone would like to learn more I canhighly recommend the book The Earl ofDudley’s Railways, by Ned Williams.