2023.07.11 Stafford North Jn

When I decided I needed a break from Cornwall, for some reason my thoughts turned to the West Coast Main Line, and particularly to Stafford, an interesting place for a variety of reasons, which we'll explore in the following pages.

Our chosen date for the WCML is 1958, as we have the complete set of WTTs for that year. At the north end of Stafford that presents a problem. We know with reasonable certainty the track layout pre-war (A), which probably remained unchanged until the opening of the new Number 5 Signal Box, believed to be in 1952, and some associated remodelling. We also know with certainty the layout (B) following electrification work completed in 1962.  What we don't know is precisely what changed, and when, to get us from A to B!

Some detective work has got us to a layout that works, and is probably correct, but depends largely on three photos. Diesel units came to the area from 1957 onwards, so any photo showing a diesel unit must be dated at least 1957, and therefore correct for our period. The main question to be resolved is what arrangements were in place at this time at the north end of Stafford for trains to cross from fast to slow lines and vice versa.

We know that in layout A (see above) there was a pair of crossovers between the station and North Junction allowing trains to or from the Shrewsbury line to reach the fast lines and the station platforms 1 and 3. They had gone by 1962, but a photo shows them still present in 1959.

In the old layout A there was also a pair of crossovers allowing trains to use the goods lines west of platform 6 but travel to or from the fast lines north of the station, but two photos make it clear that those were removed before 1957, probably in 1952 when the layout was simplfied. These photos show that it was still possible for departures from platforms 4 (bay) and 6 to reach the down fast line, but the goods lines now had no access to the fast lines at this point.

The final piece of the puzzle is provided by the third photo, looking north from Bagnall's bridge. This shows a single connection some way north of the junction, allowing up trains to cross from fast to slow line; there is no corresponding down connection.

So it appears that for probably eight or nine years any down train using the goods lines round the station would have to use the slow line as far as Norton Bridge, the junction for the Stoke line. To use the fast lines, such a train would have had to cross from slow to fast south of the station, either at Trent Valley Junction or by using the line adjacent to Platform 3.

To complete the story, during the electrification work a year or two later, pairs of crossovers were added north of the junction providing switching between fast and slow lines in both directions, and the pair between the station and North Junction was removed.

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