Stourbridge, a market town in the UK West Midlands, has one unusual claim to fame: at 1.3 kilometres, the Stourbridge Town Branch Line is claimed (though the claim is hotly disputed) to be the shortest standard-gauge railway line in the world. It was originally constructed in 1879 to take freight between the main line and a canal depot in Stourbridge town centre, but now operates purely for passengers. The train, which consists of a single lightweight carriage called a ‘Parry People Mover’, operates six times per hour over the single-track line, with a journey time of three minutes.
The Stourbridge Branch Line has enthusiastic local supporters, so when it was announced that the line would have to be closed in order for Network Rail to replace the nineteenth-century Parkfield Road Bridge and its bridge supports, there was pressure on the contractors, AMCO, to complete the bridge replacement in the shortest possible time. Parkfield Road itself is also an important link to the local fire station and various commercial premises. In order to minimise disruption, the major work on the bridge supports, which was designed by David Millar CEng MICE, took place continuously over two winter weekends, much of the time under floodlights.
Shay Murtagh Precast, with their reputation for supplying on-time, high quality precast concrete bridge components, were obvious partners for this project. Shay Murtagh fabricated and delivered cills, main bridge deck filler units, and edge parapet beams.
In spite of adverse weather conditions the project was successfully completed on schedule, and service was resumed on this tiny railway line, which celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2019 . A group of volunteers has been formed to maintain floral displays at each end of the line, which in addition to serving local shoppers and schoolchildren, is often visited by railway enthusiasts keen to add a record-holding journey to their notebooks.