Chillington Wharf Interactive Panorama
Chillington Wharf (Monmore Green) is probably the last preserved railway interchange basin, but has seen better days. The basin is visible from the towpath, but there is no public access, making it almost impossible to see all the details.
Chillington Wharf is a typical railway interchange basin: Railway tracks running parallel to a lengthy canal basin, under a roof wide enough to cover the working area.
The railway didn't mean the end of the canals, they co-existed for a long time and grew together. For long distance goods transport, the railways were quicker and cheaper, for shorter distances to and from factories, the existing canal network was almost perfect. At the height of the railway interchange trade, between 1900 and 1910, over a million tons (a seventh of the total BCN tonnage) was transported via interchange basins.
Chillington Basin was built around 1830 as part of the Chillington Iron Company, and was linked to their iron works and furnaces by a 2ft 6in tramway. A second, shorter, parallel basin was added later (around 1848) to cope with the increased traffic, and a boat yard was built at the end of the long basin for the maintenance of the narrowboats owned by the company.
In 1885, Chillington Iron Works went into receivership, and the whole property was sold off. LNWR bought the basin area, and applied (in 1893) to Parliament to develop the area for railway use. When permission to this, and a further application in 1898, was granted by Parliament, major work started:
A new basin, with two arms of equal length, was built to replace the existing basins, but the entrance from the canal was left unchanged.
In the 1930's, under ownership of LMS, one arm of the basin was removed, and the still existing Babcock & Wilcox overhead crane was installed.
Railway interchange traffic continued until 1963. In 1967, Monmore Green and Walsall Street goods were connected, and their depots were merged to form Wolverhampton Steel Terminal.
The basin today
Chillington Basin is still in water, and still connected to the canal, although access is blocked off. The basin looks surprisingly good, but the roof structure might need a bit of TLC.
The basin is owned by German railway giant DBSchenker, that run Wolverhampton Steel Terminal, but it's not used in any shape or form. There have been attempts in the past to use the basin for moorings, but the idea wasn't approved because of close proximity to the industrial gas storage tanks of BOC, the next door neighbour.
The basin is Grade II listed, but the whole structure, open to the elements, is not getting better. Chillington is the last surviving of a large number of similar structures, and should be preserved to tell the story of can- and railway cooperation to generations to come.
The photos below were taken 1992 by Phillip Clayton (BCNS)
The Industrial Canal, Volume 2: The Railway Interchange Trade, ISBN 0951775561
Historic England: Chillington Wharf Canal Railway Interchange Basin
Wikipedia: Chillington Wharf
Rail around Birmingham: Chillington Wharf 1902 - Present
History Website: Chillington Wharf Canal-Railway Interchange Basin