Many members of Wythall History Society were very much looking forward to this talk, particularly so as it centred on an event which took place in our vicinity, between Bromsgrove and Tardebigge, in the early 1800’s during the building of the railway between Birmingham and Gloucester. The section of the line between Bromsgrove and Barnt Green included a steep incline which started just north of Bromsgrove station and rose very steeply to Barnt Green. This was a very ambitious and controversial undertaking because the locomotive design at that time was in its infancy and a number of respected Civil Engineers had genuine reservations about the ability of a locomotive to obtain sufficient traction on the rails to haul trains up such an incline.
Mr Billington’s presentation dealt with many of the arguments against such a scheme and suggestions for alternative routes by many of the doubters. He also explained the problem of obtaining suitable “Banking Engines” which could assist trains to climb the incline and how they had to obtained from an American company. A number of well respected Civil Engineers of the time advocated a cable hauled system for that short section of track.
We also learned that as a result of the events which took place during and shortly after it’s construction one of Britain’s foremost Professional Engineering Institutions, The Institute of Mechanical Engineers, was afterwards formed following a meeting in at the Queens Hotel in Birmingham.
The incline is still in use to this day but, of course, the power of modern locomotives can usually enable the average train to climb the incline under its own power although even now it is sometimes necessary to have the help of a “Banking Engine”!