The road system was also well developed. Holyhead Road was completed in 1837 and local toll roads connected the area to the railhead in Birmingham.
Water was already being well used, the Severn acting like a modern day motorway and canals with tub boats and inclined planes provided easy cheap movement of bulk loads. These narrow canals were in turn linked to the national waterways via the Birmingham/Newport canal.
It was the canal company that financed the introduction of the first railway. In 1846 the Shrewsbury to Birmingham line was floated. This reached Wolverhampton where it connected to the rail system via the Stour Valley route. They started from both ends but it ran into trouble with a tunnel through Oakengates. This took 5 months to complete to connect through to Wellington. This also produced some local oddities. Wellington Station was built with a cross on each gable as its construction was supposed to have disturbed the church. At Wolverhampton the line connected to the GWR line to Birkenhead so passengers arrived at Paddington not Euston.
Once the connection was made local lines developed apace, to Madeley, Wellington, Ketley, Lawley and Lightmoor. LNWR developed the Oakengates, Dawley, Coalport link and GWR the Wellington to Market Drayton line and on to Crewe.
These developments had a disastrous effect on the Tolls and Toll Roads, “traffic ceased as if by magic”
(William Smith) but developed the small towns. Wellington became the Clapham Junction of East Shropshire, expanding its markets, cattle yards, timber yards and brewing, with lines to Shrewsbury, Market Drayton, Stafford, Wolverhampton and Bishops Castle.
This prosperity lasted till the 1950s. The mineral lines to Lilleshall and Granville Colliery were kept open, the latter lasted till 1979. The Ironbridge Power Station is still supplied but it is doubtful if it will go on past this year. The passenger traffic reduced so much that lines were closing before the Beeching axe fell. The Coalport line was the first to go in 1952, Wenlock in 1962, Severn Valley 1963 and Beeching closed the line to Stafford in 1964.
Then came privatisation, we had 2 trains per day one in morning and one evening. We now have two trains to London daily. The only proposed expansion is that of the Telford Steam Co who wish to extend their line to Buildwas.
Neil finished by telling us that Cornwall joined the National System after us.