Home > Tyseley Loco Works > Tyseley Steam Depot History
updated 09/06/11

Tyseley Steam Locomotive Depot

1908-2008 : A short history

Depot history summary

  • 1908 Depot Opened - GWR Depot Code TYS
  • 1948 BR(W) Depot Code 84E
  • 1955 DMUs based at Tyseley
  • 1963 BR(M) Depot Code 2A
  • 1963 Freight roundhorse closed
  • 1964 Ex-GWR Works closed
  • 1968 Passenger roundhouse demolished
  • 1968 7029 & 5593 based in coaling stage
  • 1968 First Tyseley Open Day
  • 1969 New Works and shed built
  • 1971 Return to steam based at Tyseley
  • 1998 Pilot Shakespeare Express
  • 1999 Regular summer Shakespeare Express
  • 2008 Depot Centenary


Tyseley depot opened as an operational steam depot in July 1908. It replaced a smaller shed located at Bordesley closer to the centre of Birmingham. The new building was a standard brick built Great Western Railway two-turntable shed. The original plans made provision for a further two turntable shed units (roundhouses) to be added at the rear (Warwick Road end), but these were never built. On the west side of the shed, there was a large repair shop (known as 'the factory') and this was equipped with heavy lifting gear, an electric traverser for moving locomotives between workshop ‘roads’, and various smiths’ shops. Following the GWR’s tradition of standardisation, the whole design was similar to that of sheds at other locations in the network including Old Oak Common (the main GWR London shed close to Paddington).

The turntables were 65 feet in diameter and were originally manually operated. The arrangement allowed for the addition of electrical drive later on if needed (it was needed, and now is electrical). 28 engine roads radiated from each turntable and these were all provided with inspection pits. The roads were of varying length and gave accommodation for approximately 36 tender engines and 28 tank engines. The two turntables were linked internally by one road from each turntable running through to the corresponding road on the other turntable.

The east roundhouse catered for passenger engines, whilst the west one catered for goods engines. Initially 72 engines were based at Tyseley. Most of these were smaller types and were used for goods duties, local passenger work and some express work. Tyseley always had to play ‘second fiddle’ to Wolverhampton Stafford Road, which handled the important expresses from the West Midlands to London Paddington. Consequently its allocation of engines was mainly tank engines and mixed traffic types.

Tyseley’s existence owed a lot to the opening of the North Warwickshire Line in 1908, which gave a more direct route between Tyseley South Junction and Bearley leading on to Stratford, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Bristol, South Wales and the West Country.

The depot was equipped with a standard GWR coal stage and a 2-road ramp approach. The coal stage was built in between the entrance roads to the two roundhouses. Above this was a water tank with a capacity of 98,000 gallons and this supplied all the watering facilities within the yard and shed.

Much remained the same until changes following the BR Modernisation Plan on 1955. Diesel multiple units (DMUs) were introduced on the Birmingham area suburban and local services operated BR’s Western Region (the successor to the GWR). A new DMU depot and office block was built on the extreme west of the site. The freight roundhouse was closed in 1963. In 1964 the GWR works (the factory) was demolished and new Diesel Repair facilities were built.

BR made further regional boundary changes in January 1963 and the former GWR lines in the Birmingham area were transferred to the Midland Region. Under the new control, the GWR class locomotives were largely replaced by ex-LMS and BR locomotive types by the end of 1965. However, defiant to the end, ‘the Western’ managed to maintain a presence with a few ex-GWR pannier tanks retained for shunting the Halesowen Basin. Steam officially lasted at Tyseley until 1967. The depot became known as Tyseley Traction Maintenance Depot, but nevertheless steam engines still continued to visit the site for wheel turning in the new factory until the ‘final’ demise of steam on BR in summer 1968.

While all this change was happening GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 7029 Clun Castle was saved from the 'cutter's torch'. It had starred in the 1964 Western Region steam finale and reached 96 m.p.h. between Plymouth and Bristol. It was originally intended that 'Clun' should be the centrepiece of a museum at Buckfastleigh on what was then known as the Dart Valley Railway. However, it was in fairly good operational condition and there was great demand for it to haul special trains. It was decided to keep the engine running for as long as BR would allow, and was moved into Tyseley’s passenger shed after shed master, Tommy Field, offered it a home.

'Clun' was then used on special charter trains, and was the last steam engine to work out of the old Snow Hill station. In the autumn of 1967, it ran on 'the Eastern' visiting Kings Cross, York, Newcastle and Leeds, and on ‘the Midland’ to Carlisle over the infamous Settle & Carlisle line and also up Shap! The shed master even rostered 'Clun' to haul ‘normal’ Banbury freight trains!

However, time was running out! The old passenger roundhouse was deteriorating rapidly since the goods roundhouse had been demolished. The passenger roundhouse too was demolished by the end of 1968. Fortunately, the coaling stage building was retained and leased to '7029 Clun Castle Limited' (7029CL) and this was adapted to form a new home for 'Clun' and her newly acquired stable mate LMS Jubilee Class 4-6-0 5593 Kolhapur. A tool room was formed within this building (which is now known as ‘Top Shed’). Saved! And the tradition of stabling, maintaining and servicing steam engines at Tyseley Loco Depot continued - without a break!

But around that time, BR imposed a total ban on standard gauge steam operations. Only Flying Scotsman escaped this for a time under the terms of a pre-existing contract with BR. So it looked as though the Tyseley engines would be incarcerated in their shed, or at best allowed to stretch their legs on bits of the remaining steam loco yard if BR allowed.

Undaunted the Tyseley visionaries pressed on in the hope that one day steam would be back where it belongs, earning its keep on the mainline. So the modern day steam works and shed building was started in 1969, wheel-drop pit and other machinery installed and the new works became operational in 1971. The depot became home to more preserved engines and the Tyseley Collection grew.

The return to steam on the main line did happen on 2nd October 1971 when GWR King Class 4-6-0 6000 King George V pulled a special train from Hereford to Newport, through the Severn Tunnel, on to Didcot before heading north and ending up at Tyseley, of course! Steam was back and, fingers crossed, was here to stay on the mainline. The act of faith was vindicated.

The new Tyseley Steam Locomotive Depot as an island within the modern day railway site. It is bounded by the diesel depot on the west, and this is now used by London Midland, the local train operator. To the east, the depot is bounded by the original loop lines, which are more or less in their original form. These see occasional use today as a run round loop so that freight trains can be reversed. Beyond that are the carriage sidings, which have been upgraded to serve as DMU storage. There have been many changes. You can compare the original site layout and current layout on the site plane diagrams 1908 & 2008.

Within the Steam Depot new running lines were laid and platforms have been built. A GWR wooden signal box (obtained from the Bristol area) was re-erected at Tyseley to control the running lines, which were fully signalled. The workshop has been equipped with a viewing gallery so that the public can safely look down on the restoration work. A Visitor Centre displaying a variety of railway artefacts and including a shop has been built in traditional form. A new restaurant 'Chuffs' was constructed under the original coaling stage (although this has now been 'mothballed'). Parts of the original depot still remain - principally the passenger (east) turntable and radiating roads, the coal stage and water tank. Strictly speaking the turntable is not the original as a new turntable was installed in 1958.

in the early 1990's, Tyseley became the first preservation site to offer driving experience courses to members of the public. 'Drive A Loco' was very popular and courses were run 7 days a week using Tyseley and other celebrity engines. After the initial euphoria other sites jumped on the band wagon and were able to offer driving experience over longer running lines and so the Tyseley operation became less popular and reduced frquency to weekends only. This lasted until 2001 when Clun Castle's boiler certificate ran out.

Meanwhile the site itself began to focus on repairing and maintaining locomotives from the Tyseley Collection and also those under contract from a wide variety of third-party owners using the magnificentt workshop facility. In addition to repairs, Tyseley was contracted to erect the frames of new build Peppercorn A1 pacific No. 60163 Tornado and GWR Railmotor power bogie for use with preserved vehicle No 93.

Following the privatisation of BR in the 1990's, a number of withdrawn diesels were bought by new operator Fragonset. These were initially based at Tyseley for repair, maintenance and stabling. They were hired out to operators, such as Virgin Trains, to supplement their own fleets for use on scheduled services. Despite this, Tyseley has always remained first and foremost a steam depot!

In 1971 GWR Hall 4983 'Albert Hall' was rescued from Barry scrap yard for the Tyseley Collection. It was returned to steam in 1998 after a long restoration. The completion of the overhaul was undertaken largely by teenage Tyseley volunteers who won an award for their excellent work. The engine was re-dedicated on 5th April 1998. But then there was a second ceremony! The engine was turned and re-dedicated as GWR Hall 4965 'Rood Ashton Hall' - the identity it carries today. This was due to a subtle loco identity swap at Swindon Works in 1962, which was only discovered during the restoration work at Tyseley some 35+ years later.

This engine had been specifically acquired by the 7029CL to run services on the main line between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stratford. On 20th December 1998, it did just that making two round trips as proving runs to test out the concept of the Shakespeare Express. In 1999, the first season of Shakespeare Express regular steam trains commenced. This proved a popular summer service. The service has been repeated every year since in the summer months with occasional short spring, autumn and pre-Christmas programmes. Most significantly, the Shakespeare Express appears in summer public timetables as a scheduled service. So Tyseley Locomotive Depot can rightly claim to have returned to undertaking the role that it was originally built for back in 1908 i.e. to be the depot that provided trains for the North Warwickshire Line. 4965 Rood Ashton Hall has been the mainstay engine used on this service having completed 9 seasons and 117 appearance. Occasionally guest appearance from third-party owned locomotives have been used.

Since 1999, Vintage Trains (VT - the main line operating subsidiary of Birmingham Railway Museum Trust) has also run a series of excursions to places such as Bath, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Buxton, Cardiff, Carlisle, Didcot, Ely, Harringworth, Holyhead, Ironbridge, Kingswear, Lincoln, London (Paddington & Marylebone), Newport, Nuneaton, Oxford, Paignton, Poole, Wolverhampton, Worcester, York, tours around the Birmingham & East Midlands areas and a shuttle service over Cannock Chase. 4965 Rood Ashton Hall has figured prominently in this programme and has been assisted bt Tyseley Collection GWR Panniers 7760 & 9600. Third-party owned engines have also been used (some having been restored, overhauled or maintained at Tyseley). These include GWR City 3440 City of Truro, GWR Hall 4936 Kinlet Hall, GWR Hall 4953 Pitchford Hall, GWR Castle 5029 Nunney Castle, GWR King 6024 King Edward I, GWR Pannier 9466, SR King Arthur 30777 Sir Lamiel, SR Merchant Navy 35005 Canadian Pacific, LMS Black 5 45305 Alderman A E Draper, LMS Jubilee 5690 Leander, LMS Princess Coronation 6233 Duchess of Sutherland, LNER A2 60532 Blue Peter. A mixture of ex-B.R. mark I, mark II coaches and BR Pullman coaches were acquired and overhauled at Tyseley Locomotive Works, for use on VT excursions. Occasionally the depot provides steam locomotives for other promoters' tours and also turns out rakes of coaches for other promoters to use.

The short platforms built within the site were intended for passengers joining shuttle trains that operated on the demonstration lines on steaming days. Today they are used as a starting point for many VT excursions following HM Railway Inspectorate approval. This 'station' is known as Tyseley Warwick Road.

Tyseley has entered the 21st-century as a significant main line player and has plans to consolidate and grow this business. The current extensive restoration and overhaul of ex-Barry wreck GWR Castle 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe is nearing completion. This former star of such famous trains as 'The Cheltenham Flyer' will add a strong express engine to the Tyseley main line locomotive pool.

The VT 2007 Heritage Rail Excursion Programme saw the introduction of Tyseley's new 'Explorer' trains, which can operated at up to 90 mph using classic diesel and electric locomotives. This has enabled VT to offer a greater choice of scenic routes and interesting destinations which are not feasible with steam hauled trains. Class 47 diesel No. 47 773 (D1755) was acquired to operate these trains. It is somewhat of a celebrity locomotive having been named 'The Queen Mother' by The Queen Mother herself. Additionally privately owned class 86 AC electric locomotive No 86 259 (E3137) Les Ross was overhauled at Tyseley and returned to traffic in 2008. So VT is now the first company to offer steam, diesel and electric hauled tours since BR ceased doing so in 1968. With complete trains restored, maintained and run from Tyseley depot.

On 1st July 2008, Tyseley can justifiably claim to have been an active steam depot continuously for 100 years! Long may it continue to do so!

Vintage Trains Ltd - Registered in England No 2224319. 670 Warwick Road, Tyseley, Birmingham B11 2HL      © Vintage Trains Ltd 1999-2014      ® Shakespeare Express is a registered trademark