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Birmingham Snow Hill railway station

Birmingham Snow Hill is a railway station and tram stop in the Birmingham City Centre, England It is one of the three main city-centre stations in Birmingham along with Birmingham New Street and Birmingham Moor Street

Snow Hill was once the main station of the Great Western Railway in Birmingham, and at its height it rivalled New Street station, with competitive services to destinations including London Paddington, Wolverhampton Low Level, Birkenhead Woodside, Wales and South West England The station has been rebuilt several times since the first station at Snow Hill; a temporary wooden structure, was opened in 1852; it was rebuilt as a permanent station in 1871, and then rebuilt again on a much grander scale during 1906-1912 The electrification of the main line from London to New Street in the 1960s saw New Street favoured over Snow Hill, which saw most of its services withdrawn in the late 1960s This led to the station's eventual closure in 1972, and demolition five years later After fifteen years of closure a new Snow Hill station, the present incarnation, was built; it reopened in 1987

Today, most of the trains using Snow Hill are local services on the Snow Hill Lines operated by London Midland, serving Worcester Shrub Hill, Kidderminster, Stourbridge Junction, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Solihull The only long distance service into Snow Hill is to London Marylebone operated by Chiltern Railways, via the Chiltern Main Line Snow Hill is also served by the Midland Metro light rail line from Wolverhampton via Wednesbury and West Bromwich

The present Snow Hill station has three platforms for National Rail trains When it was originally reopened in 1987 it had four, but one was later converted in 1999 for use as a terminus for Midland Metro trams The original tram terminus closed in October 2015, in order for the extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre to be connected This included a dedicated embankment for trams alongside the station, and included a new through stop serving Snow Hill


  • 1 History
    • 11 Early History
      • 111 Historic services
    • 12 Closure
    • 13 Rebirth
      • 131 Station Cat Memorial
  • 2 Services
    • 21 Chiltern Railways
    • 22 London Midland
  • 3 Tram stops
    • 31 Former terminus
    • 32 Current through stop
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Bibliography
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links


Early Historyedit

The site of the station was formerly occupied by Oppenheims Glassworks This was demolished, but many parts of the building and machinery are believed to be buried underneath the station and car park, and during recent development work alongside the station the area was designated as a site of archaeological importance by Birmingham City Council The station was opened in 1852 on the Great Western Railway GWR main line from London Paddington to Wolverhampton Low Level and Birkenhead Woodside Originally called Birmingham Station, its name was changed to Great Charles Street station, and then Livery Street Station It was finally renamed Snow Hill in 1858, and the Great Western Hotel was added in 18631

The facade of the original Snow Hill on Colmore Row Old Snow Hill station in 1957

It was never intended to be the main station, but political gaming between the railway companies prevented the railway reaching its original intended terminus at Curzon Street The original station was a simple temporary wooden structure, consisting of a large wooden shed covering the platforms In 1871 it was rebuilt, and replaced with a permanent structure The 1871 station had two through platforms, and bay platforms at the Wolverhampton end, covered by an arched roof2 Access to the station was from Livery Street from the side3 Trains from the south arrived through Snow Hill Tunnel, built by the cut-and-cover method, and in a cutting from Temple Row to Snow Hill The cutting was roofed over in 1872 and the Great Western Arcade built on top1

To cope with expanding traffic Snow Hill station was rebuilt again on a much larger scale between 1906 and 1912 The new station building was intended to compete with New Street, which at the time was a much grander building than it is today The rebuilt station contained lavish facilities, such as a large booking hall with an arched glass roof, and lavish waiting rooms with oak bars The main platform area was covered by a large glass and steel overall roof It consisted of two large Island platforms, containing four through platforms, and four bay platforms for terminating trains at the northern end The through platforms were long enough to accommodate two trains at a time, and scissors crossings allowed trains to pull in front, or out from behind of other trains stood in a platform, effectively creating a 10 platform station The line north from Snow Hill towards Hockley was quadrupled at the same time, however the cost of widening the twin track Snow Hill tunnel at the southern end was considered prohibitive There was not enough capacity through the tunnel to accommodate all of the services, and so, as a solution, Birmingham Moor Street was built as an "overflow" station at the opposite end of the tunnel to take terminating local trains towards Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon14 The Great Western Hotel was closed at the same time as guests complained of being kept awake by goods trains running underneath and converted into railway offices, and a passenger entrance was provided on Colmore Row, which became the station's main entrance5

Historic servicesedit

The old station's arched glass booking hall in 1914

At its height, many trains that now run into New Street station ran into Snow Hill, along with some that no longer run Services included:67

  • London Paddington – service transferred to New Street in 1967, and later abandoned altogether The London service was restored in the early 1990s, but now to London Marylebone - making this Snow Hill's only long-distance service
  • Wolverhampton Low Level, and Dudley;– The branch from Snow Hill to Dudley was closed in 1964, and the service to Wolverhampton Low Level was one of the last to survive, ending in 1972 A Snow Hill-Wolverhampton service was resumed in 1999, when the Midland Metro tram line, which now runs along the former route to Wolverhampton was opened, although this does not serve the former Low Level station, instead leaving the former trackbed and running on-street to a terminus at Wolverhampton St George's
  • Birkenhead Woodside via Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury, Wrexham and Chester – this was on the old GWR route from London Paddington British Railways ended this service before closing Snow Hill in 1967
  • Mid Wales via Shrewsbury;– these trains now run into New Street although it is now possible to join a train to Smethwick Galton Bridge and change onto an Arriva Trains Wales service to these destinations
  • Hereford via Stourbridge Junction and Worcester Foregate Street; - the Snow Hill-Worcester-Hereford services were diverted to New Street in 1967, in 1995 services were resumed between Snow Hill, Stourbridge and Worcester
  • Cardiff via Stratford upon Avon - In 1908 the North Warwickshire Line route via Stratford and Cheltenham Spa Malvern Road was opened, and became the principal GWR route between Birmingham and the South West and South Wales A pioneering diesel railcar service with a buffet commenced running in July 1934 between Snow Hill and Cardiff, running non-stop through Stratford, with only two stops at Gloucester and Newport This was the first long distance diesel express service in Britain The railcar service ran until 1946, when it was replaced with a conventional steam service, which continued until it was diverted via New Street in 196289
  • Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance via Stratford-upon-Avon – These services were diverted via New Street and Bromsgrove in 1962 British Railways later closed the line between Stratford and Cheltenham in 19769


As late as the mid-1960s Snow Hill was still a major station handling millions of passengers annually; in 1964 Snow Hill handled 75 million passengers, compared to 102 million at New Street7 However the electrification of the rival West Coast Main Line into New Street, meant that British Railways decided to concentrate all services into Birmingham into one station, and Snow Hill was seen as being an unnecessary duplication In 1966 the decision was taken to end main line services through Snow Hill once electrification of the WCML was complete, and divert most of its remaining services through New Street10

An original entrance in Livery Street Snow Hill in derelict condition being used as a car park in 1977, shortly before demolition

Long-distance services through Snow Hill ceased in March 1967 Snow Hill tunnel closed to all traffic the following year, with the last train running on 2 March 196811 Local trains towards Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon were then terminated at Moor Street1 Services to London, the West Country, Stourbridge and Shrewsbury were diverted to New Street, and the branch to Dudley was closed All that was left was a shuttle service of four trains per day using Class 122 railcars to Langley Green, along with six daily stopping services to Wolverhampton Low Level With this, as most passenger facilities in the station were withdrawn and virtually the entire site became disused save for one bay platform, Snow Hill then acquired the unfortunate title of "the largest unstaffed railway halt in the country" In March 1972 these last services were withdrawn and the station closed entirely, along with the lines through to Smethwick and Wolverhampton,1 with the exception of a single line from Smethwick West for Coopers Scrap Metal Works in Handsworth the works is still in operation to this day12

Following closure, the derelict station was used for several years as a car park13 It enjoyed a brief moment of fame in 1976 when it was the setting for a fight scene in the locally set BBC TV drama series Gangsters14 However, despite a public outcry, the Snow Hill building was not preserved The Colmore Row façade was demolished in 1969,15 and the rest of the station largely demolished in 1977,16 when the dangerous state of the building was revealed The ironwork of the station roof was badly corroded in several places, and the unstable ground and foundations on which the station had been built were causing it to slide downhill A few items, including the original gates and booking hall sign, were saved and later used in the Moor Street restoration


Colmore Row entrance

The West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority had adopted a policy to restore cross-city rail services through Snow Hill since the 1970s, a project was which completed in two phases12

A Class 150 entering the rebuilt Snow Hill from the north in 2006

The first phase was completed on 5 October 1987, when the newly rebuilt Snow Hill station opened for services to the south, along with Snow Hill tunnel The rebuilt station is on a smaller scale than its Edwardian predecessor, built with two island platforms, giving four platform faces The station's architecture is functional rather than ornate, a multi-storey car park stands over the main platform area, meaning artificial lighting is required on the platforms Like its predecessor, the main entrance is on Colmore Row Some parts of the original station are still visible notably the now-sealed entrance, with GWR crest, in Livery Street17

Initially only local stopping services to Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon used the new station Services at Moor Street, where these services had previously terminated, were switched from the former terminal platforms, which then closed, on to two newly built through platforms, at the southern end of Snow Hill tunnel, making a through station adjacent to the tunnel mouth18

In May 1993 Network SouthEast reintroduced limited-stop services to London, initially on a two-hourly frequency, routed to Marylebone instead of the pre-closure destination of Paddington19 The service proved popular and was increased to an hourly frequency the following year Chiltern Railways took over the service after privatisation20

Livery Street entrance

The second phase of the Snow Hill reopening project was completed on 24 September 1995, when the Birmingham to Worcester via Kidderminster Line was reopened to Snow Hill This allowed the resumption of services to Worcester Shrub Hill via Stourbridge Junction and Kidderminster The "Jewellery Line" project involved reopening the line between Smethwick West and Snow Hill, along with three new stations Smethwick Galton Bridge, The Hawthorns and Jewellery Quarter1221

In 1999, the line to Wolverhampton was reopened as a light rail tram line, the Midland Metro

Work began on a new entrance on Livery Street to give commuters access to the lower Snow Hill and Jewellery Quarter part of the city centre in 2005, but it did not open for business until March 201122 The work had a projected cost of £994 million, but due to Centro's failure to apply for planning permission, and severe technical difficulties, the cost rose to at least £17 million23 Although construction and interior finishes' works were largely complete by December 2010, legal disputes between London Midland, Network Rail and Centro caused delay to the opening of the entrance by over a year23

Station Cat Memorialedit

Station Cat Memorial tile

In remembrance of a cat kept at the station before its closure, a memorial tile was installed during the works for the reopening During later refurbishment works in 2014 care was taken that the tile would stay in situ2425


See also: Snow Hill Lines

The station is managed by London Midland, and services are provided by London Midland and Chiltern Railways There is a small set of sidings at the Hockley end of the station, which can be reached from Platform 1 only All platforms can be used in either direction; generally platforms 1 or 2 are used for trains heading north, platform 2 is used for trains terminating at the station and platform 3 is used for trains going south Midland Metro currently uses two small platforms numbered 4 and 5, which are terminating platforms

Occasional steam-hauled special trains use the station