But we tend to forget that canals alone wouldn’t have cut it, so to speak. Not unless all those factories and mines had been right there alongside the waterways and the raw materials and goods could be shifted straight into boats. The fact is, many were away from water, and that’s where the other piece of the transport jigsaw slotted into place. What became hundreds of miles of private railways were built to take goods to and from canals. These were pioneering, often built years before the passenger rail network we know today.
The results of one study of canal ‘tramroads’ (as they are called) have been simplified to create this map. It happens to be most complete study so far of private railways linked to the Black Country canals, and it starts to reveal their full scale. We now know that half a million people in the Black Country live within five minutes walk of the route of a canal tramroad. There may not be much left of them, but whatever is lies under your gardens, streets and parks.
Lost railways, closed stations (there are dozens) and train manufacturers are represented by the sixth object in our series The Black Country in Ten Objects, i.e. a locomotive name plate (the fifth was the subject of this post).
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> Paper copies of the map Canals of Birmingham and the Black Country are available from www.cartographics.co.uk.