It was a cold, dark, and very early Saturday morning, 28th January, when I ticked off two more stations on the Cross-City Line which runs from Lichfield Trent Valley to Bromsgrove and Redditch.
The 6:20am service to Plymouth is the first train of the day at Burton on Trent station, and I and a few others got on board to ride it to Tamworth.
I had a bit of a wait at Tamworth for the next train to take me to Lichfield Trent Valley, and I’ve never seen Tamworth station so quiet, even on the London-bound platform. I caught the train and rode it one stop to Lichfield Trent Valley, where my third train of the day was already waiting on the upper platform, so I climbed the stairs and got on board.
The train sped on past Lichfield City, Shenstone (coincidentally almost a year to the day since I went there), and Blake Street, to Butlers Lane station in the Four Oaks area of The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield.
Butlers Lane railway station, formerly known as Butlers Lane Halt, was opened in 1957 and originally consisted of temporary wooden station buildings. It became part of the Cross-City Line from its inception in 1978, and the current station buildings (waiting rooms and a part-time staffed ticket office) were built in the early 1990s when the line became electrified. As can be seen in the photo above, there is a choice of staircases to take to get out of the station.
It was just starting to get light when I arrived at Butlers Lane, from where I walked to Hill Hook Local Nature Reserve for a morning walk around there.
Hill Hook Nature Reserve is on the site of an old corn mill which operated from the 17th century until the early 20th century, when it was turned into a pleasure park by the mill’s owner. The mill survived until 1970, when vandals set fire to the derelict building and damaged it beyond repair, and it was subsequently demolished. The land was bought by Birmingham City Council, and work began to transform it into the Hill Hook Local Nature Reserve that exists today.
The huge mast of the Sutton Coldfield transmitter is located near to the nature reserve. It was opened in 1949 as the first television transmitter to broadcast outside of London, and is the 18th-tallest structure in the United Kingdom, at 270.5 metres (887 ft).
After a good walk around the nature reserve, it was time to head home. I made the short walk to Blake Street railway station to catch the first of three trains.
Blake Street railway station was opened in 1884 by the London & North Western Railway. Along with its neighbour to the south, Butlers Lane, Blake Street became part of the Cross-City Line in 1978, and the track was electrified in 1992. The original station buildings were demolished and replaced at some point; I’m guessing it was in the early 1990s. The track is above street level, and there are ramps on both sides for easy access to the platforms. There is a ticket office, waiting shelters, help points, dot matrix displays and everything else that a railway station needs.
I caught the train back to Lichfield Trent Valley, where I waited in the cold for the next train to Tamworth; the London-bound train which was quite busy with people heading to the Big Smoke for a Saturday day out. Miraculously, my train at Tamworth back to Burton on Trent was on time, so I got on that and made the short trip back home.
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