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Birmingham Snow Hill station is a railway station and the terminus of the Midland Metro tram system from Wolverhampton (via Wednesbury and West Bromwich) located in the centre of Birmingham, England. Though only a shadow of its former self, it is still the second most important railway station in Birmingham after New Street station.
The reopened Snow Hill station has three platforms used for main line trains. It used to have four, however one was converted to be used by Midland Metro trams. However, the planned extension of the Midland Metro through Birmingham City Centre includes a dedicated embankment for trams alongside the station, which will allow the fourth platform to be returned to main line use.
Snow Hill is the principal destination of the Chiltern Main Line which links Birmingham with London (Marylebone). Express services from London are operated by Chiltern Railways, some Chiltern services continue onwards to Kidderminster.
Snow Hill serves as the hub for a number of local train services which are operated by Central Trains, including;
- Local services on the Chiltern Line between Birmingham and Leamington Spa, via Warwick and Solihull.
- Local services to Worcester via Smethwick, Stourbridge, Kidderminster and Droitwich.
- Local services to Stratford-upon-Avon on the Birmingham-Stratford branch line.
Leamington Spa to Worcester is actually operated as a single through service, with Snow Hill roughly at the centre of the route.
The site of the station was originally occupied by Oppenheims Glassworks, however this was demolished. Many parts of the building and machinery are believed to be underneath the station and car park therefore, during the development alongside the station, the area was designated the title of site of archaeological importance by Birmingham City Council. The station was opened in 1852 on the Great Western Railway (GWR) line from London (Paddington) to Wolverhampton Low Level Station. It originally bore the name Livery Street Station and was merely a simple large wooden shed. It was renamed Snow Hill in 1858; and the Great Western Hotel added in 1863. Snow Hill station was rebuilt in 1871 to accommodate longer trains. The new station consisted of a huge iron arch with a glass roof, with a simple wooden overhead bridge linking the two platforms. It was never intended to be the main station but political gaming between the railway companies prevented the railway reaching its original intended end at Birmingham Curzon Street.
Trains arriving from the south first passed through Snow Hill Tunnel, built by the cut-and-cover method, and then a cutting from Temple Row to Snow Hill. The cutting was roofed over in 1872 and the Great Western Arcade built on top. By 1859 it was possible to travel from Snow Hill to London in just under three hours.
In 1906 Snow Hill was rebuilt. 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 consisted of a large booking hall with a glass roof arch. It contained lavish waiting rooms with oak bars. The bottom end of the station contained fish platforms (Birmingham was and still is a major participant in the seafood industry) and cargo storage. The station was twice as long as the one that stands today.
ClosureAs part of the Beeching axe closure programme in the 1960s, it was decided that Snow Hill station was unnecessary. Snow Hill was recommended for closure, and all the services were switched to the former LMS New Street Station. Express services were diverted via New Street from 1967. Local services north from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton, and a largely unpublicised four trains per day Class 122 bubble car service to Langley Green, via Smethwick West railway station, were the last to run and ended in March 1972.
Despite a huge public outcry the architecture was not preserved. The Great Western Hotel was demolished in 1969 and the station was largely demolished in 1977, when the dangerous state of the building was revealed. The ironwork of the station roof was badly corroded in several places and the station had begun to literally 'slide' down the hill due to unstable ground and foundations.
A few items including the original gates and booking hall sign were saved and used in the Birmingham Moor Street railway station restoration. The site was for many years used as a car park.
In 1987 the newly rebuilt Snow Hill station opened for services to the south only, with some of the remaining parts of the original station lost (e.g. the old parcels office; plus platforms and the mosaic floor from former waiting rooms) and others incorporated (notably the now-sealed entrance, with GWR crest, in Livery Street). Services to London Marylebone were restarted, along with many local services. Moor Street, at the southern end of Snow Hill tunnel was relocated from its former terminus location, which then closed, to become a through station adjacent to the tunnel mouth.
The new Snow Hill station, with a multistorey car park above, has been widely criticised as draughty, unwelcoming and architecturally unimaginative.
- 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.