Humble Beginnings of Snow Hill Station – From Temporary Shed to Today
As one of the ‘other’ city center stations, Snow Hill is much less seen by people arriving in Birmingham from outside the West Midlands.
Snow Hill Station was actually there before New Street, predating it by two years in 1852 – although it looked very, very different from the great arches of its rival city.
If you were to take a train out of Snow Hill, you’d be greeted by more of a warehouse scene or enclosed yard than a recognizable station. A large temporary wooden roof, supported by iron beams and bars, hung over the platforms.
Everything was open, with courtyard-shaped entrances. Offices, cafes and waiting rooms would have sat on or near the platforms – but that had nothing to do with the Victorian station architecture we remember best from the time.
It wasn’t even called Snow Hill at first – it was first the unimaginative “Birmingham Station”, then indifferently Livery Street or Great Charles Street Station, before moving to Snow Hill in 1858.
Luckily for the station, it got a permanent building in 1871 and then an expansion in the early 1900s. Completed in 1912, it looked much more like the old New Street.
Even though it was smaller, it was now seen as a competitor to its near rival.
The new reservation hall was a particularly refined addition – daylight flooded in through the vaulted glass roof, with white sandstone pillars and buildings.
Glazed brickwork and terracotta inlays decorated the structures inside, and the refreshments had oak tables with red marble countertops – so it could certainly win in a style war with New Street.
It ran pretty much that way for about 50 years, with the occasional paint job caused by every passing steam engine.
In the mid-1960s, it was still a busy station, with 7.5 million passengers a year. New Street carried about a third more.
But electrification brought a sudden decline in 1967, when all of its long-distance routes were moved to the new favorite street. Local services stopped over the next 5 years and Snow Hill became a dereliction in a remarkably short time.
The Colmore Row facade and the station were all gone by 1977.
A new Snow Hill was built 10 years later, built in the very functional style of the time, with parking above and four platforms.
And alongside new entries over the past 20 years, it’s the snow hill most of us know today.
It’s been a long journey from a bloated train shed to a modern urban station, but it looks like he’ll never challenge New Street for his crown again.
Is Snow Hill important to you? What changes would you make to it, if you had unlimited money? Comment below or talk to us on social media.