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Birmingham Snow Hill station

Birmingham Snow Hill
Birmingham Snow Hill station
Place Colmore Row
Local authority City of Birmingham
Grid reference
Station code BSW
Managed by London Midland
Number of platforms 3 National Rail
2 Midland Metro
DfT category C1
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2008/09 4.030 million
2009/10 3.579 million
2010/11 4.443 million
2011/12 4.997 million
2012/13 4.402 million
2013/14 4.435 million
Passenger Transport Executive
PTE West Midlands
Zone 1
Original company Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway
Pre-grouping Great Western Railway
Post-grouping Great Western Railway
1 October 1852 Opened as Birmingham
February 1858 Renamed Birmingham Snow Hill
1871 Rebuilt
1906–1912 Rebuilt
6 March 1972 Closed
5 October 1987 Rebuilt and reopened
31 May 1999 Midland Metro opened
National RailUK railway stations
* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Birmingham Snow Hill from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.
UK Railways portal

Birmingham Snow Hill is a railway station and tram terminus in the centre of Birmingham, 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 and Birkenhead Woodside. 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line from London to New Street in the 1960s, saw New Street favoured over Snow Hill, which saw most of its services withdrawn in the late 1960s, leading to the station's eventual closure in 1972. Snow Hill station was revived in the mid-1980s, with a new rebuilt station opening 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 the terminus of the Midland Metro light rail line from Wolverhampton (via Wednesbury and West Bromwich), pending the line's extension.

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 for use by Midland Metro trams. The planned extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham city centre includes a dedicated embankment for trams alongside the station, and this will allow the fourth platform to be returned to main-line use.


  • History 1
    • Early History 1.1
    • Closure 1.2
    • Rebirth 1.3
      • Station Cat Memorial 1.3.1
  • Services 2
    • Chiltern Railways 2.1
    • London Midland 2.2
  • Midland Metro stop 3
    • Service pattern 3.1
    • Birmingham City Centre Extension 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


Early History

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 1863.[1]

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 roof.[2] Access to the station was from Livery Street from the side.[3] 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 top.[1]

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-Avon.[1][4] 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 entrance.[5]

A 1910 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram showing railways around Birmingham and Bordesley; Snow Hill is upper centre

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:

  • Shrewsbury, Chester and Mid Wales – 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).
  • Birkenhead – this was on the old GWR route from London Paddington. British Railways ended this service before closing Snow Hill in 1968.
  • Cardiff Central via Hereford.
  • Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth and Penzance via Stratford-upon-Avon – was the GWR trunk route. After Richard Beeching's Reshaping of British Railways report, British Railways closed the line between Stratford and Cheltenham Spa Malvern Road. All services now run through New Street and via Bromsgrove.
  • Wolverhampton Low Level & Dudley – these services were cut entirely in 1972. The Midland Metro tram line now runs along the former route to Wolverhampton.
  • 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.


During the electrification of the West Coast Main Line by British Railways, Birmingham Snow Hill handled most of the rail traffic through the city, but the 1960s closure programme after the Reshaping of British Railways report took the view that Snow Hill station was unnecessary, and all services were switched to New Street and Moor Street.

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 1967. Snow Hill tunnel closed to all traffic the following year, with the last train running on 2 March 1968.[6] Local trains towards Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon were then terminated at Moor Street.[1] 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 world". 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 day).[7]

Following closure, the derelict station was used for several years as a car park.[8] 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 Gangsters.[9] However, despite a public outcry, the Snow Hill building was not preserved. The Colmore Row façade was demolished in 1969,[10] and the rest of the station largely demolished in 1977,[11] 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 phases.[7]

Trains waiting at the station in 2014.

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 considerably smaller and less ornate than its Edwardian predecessor, with a multi-storey car park being built over much of the platform length. Some parts of the original station are still visible (notably the now-sealed entrance, with GWR crest, in Livery Street).[12]

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 mouth.[13]

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 Paddington.[14] The service proved popular and was increased to an hourly frequency the following year. Chiltern Railways took over the service after privatisation.[15]

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 Quarter).[7][16]

In 1999, the line to Wolverhampton was re-opened 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 2011.[17] The work had a projected cost of £9.94 million, but due to Centro's failure to apply for planning permission, and severe technical difficulties, the cost rose to at least £17 million.[18] 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 year.[18]

Station Cat Memorial

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 re-opening. At later refurbishment works in 2014 care was taken that the tile would stay in situ.[19][20]


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.

Chiltern Railways

Snow Hill is served by regular Chiltern services to and from London Marylebone. Some Chiltern services continue beyond Birmingham to Kidderminster. The Chiltern service is:

London Midland

Local services from Snow Hill, like most local services in the West Midlands, are supported by Centro, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. They are operated by London Midland. There are six London Midland trains per hour (tph) passing through Snow Hill in each direction, running as follows:

of which one continues to Stratford-upon-Avon
of which one continues to Stratford-upon-Avon
the Chiltern services to London Marylebone call at Solihull and Dorridge, giving Snow Hill 5 trains per hour in peak hours and 4 trains per hour off peak to these stations.
of which four continue to Kidderminster:
of which two continue to Worcester Foregate Street
(services beyond Worcester, to Malvern and Hereford are irregular, generally about one per hour)
Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Jewellery Quarter   London Midland
Snow Hill Lines
  Birmingham Moor Street
Terminus   Chiltern Railways
  Birmingham Moor Street
Jewellery Quarter    
Heritage Railways  Heritage railways
Terminus   Vintage Trains
The Shakespeare Express
  Birmingham Moor Street
Disused railways
Hockley   Great Western Railway & BR
Various Routes (1854–1972)

Midland Metro stop

Birmingham Snow Hill
Midland Metro tram stop
Midland Metro terminus platforms at Snow Hill, in 1999.
Location Colmore Row
Line(s) Line 1 (Birmingham – Wolverhampton)
Platforms 2
Opened 31 May 1999
Passengers (2013) Approx. 8,200 daily[21]

The current Wolverhampton and was opened on 31 May 1999. It occupies the space previously used by platform four of the main line station. The stop has two platforms, and is approached by a short section of single track.[22]

Service pattern

Mondays to Saturdays, Midland Metro services towards Wolverhampton run at eight-minute intervals during the day, and at fifteen-minute intervals during the evenings and on Sundays.[23]

Preceding station   Midland Metro   Following station
St Paul's   Line 1   Terminus
  From 2015  
St Paul's   Line 1   Bull Street

Birmingham City Centre Extension

The present terminus will be closed by the end of 2015, when new platforms for the Metro are due to be built as part of its City Centre Extension to New Street Station,[24] part-funding for which was confirmed in the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.[25] A new viaduct has been built alongside the station as part of the Snowhill development to carry the tram lines into the city centre.[24] The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.[26] This will allow platform four to be returned to main line use.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Birmingham Snow Hill Station - A brief overview". Warwickshire Railways. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Photograph of 1871 station -". Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Boynton 2001, pp. 10-12.
  4. ^ Boynton 2001, p. 20.
  5. ^ Boynton 2001, p. 21.
  6. ^ " - gwrbsh1151". Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Boynton 2001, p. 66.
  8. ^ Birmingham Snow Hill Station 31 December 1974 –
  9. ^ Doherty, Andy. "Gangsters – BBC Television Series". Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Railway Hotels". Railway Britain. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Snow Hill Station 1852–1972 : 1987 - Present". Rail Around Birmingham. Retrieved 13 February 1013. 
  13. ^ "Moor Street Station 1909 - Present". Rail Around Birmingham. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  14. ^ "The History of Network SouthEast. Year by Year Jan 1993 - Dec 1993". Network SouthEast Railway Society. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  15. ^ Boynton 2001, p. 70.
  16. ^ "Those Were the Days" (PDF). Stourbridge Line User Group. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  17. ^ Samuel, A. (31 March 2011). "New rail station entrance boosts access to Birmingham". Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Legal wrangle delays opening of new £17m Snow Hill station entrance". Birmingham Post. 10 September 2010. 
  19. ^ Prangle, Brian (24 December 2014). "Mysterious Objects: No 6 in an occasional series". Mappa Mercia. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  20. ^ Prangle, Brian (24 December 2014). "Musings on tag historic=memorial". Mappa Mercia. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "2013 West Midlands Travel Trends" (PDF). Centro. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Midland Metro : Tram Stops : Birmingham, Snow Hill". The Trams. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  23. ^ "Metro". Network West Midlands. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "Tramway expansion for Birmingham Metro" (PDF). Railway Herald (216). 22 March 2010. p. 5. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Spending Review backs Midland Metro and New Street plan". BBC News. 20 October 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2010. 
  26. ^ "Comprehensive spending review backs light rail". Railway Gazette International (London). 29 October 2010. 
  27. ^ Plisner, Peter. "Metro takes centre stage". Railpro. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 


  • Boynton, John (2001). Main Line to Metro: Train and tram on the Great Western route: Birmingham Snow Hill – Wolverhampton. Kidderminster: Mid England Books.  
  • Harrison, Derek (1978). Salute to Snow Hill: The Rise and Fall of Birmingham's Snow Hill Railway Station 1852–1977. Birmingham: Barbryn Press.  
  • Birmingham Snow Hill - A Great Station : Ian Baxter and Richard Harper (Published by the authors in conjunction with Kidderminster Railway Museum) : 2002 ISBN 0 9534775 1 7

External links

  • Image of old station
  • 1890 Ordnance Survey map of the station
  • Article on this station from Rail Around Birmingham & the West Midlands
  • Article on the Metro station from Rail Around Birmingham & the West Midlands
  • A pictoral record of the station from 1871 to 1967 and the locomotives that used the station from Warwickshire's Railways
  • The History of Birmingham Snow Hill Warwickshire Railways
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