Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Walking the waterways (21) : Birmingham Canal Navigations New Main Line

The Main Line of the Birmingham Canal Navigations is from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. The original canal was built in the 1770s but later regarded as too indirect and complicated with various arms and diversions. Smethwick summit with it's lock flights was a major bottleneck for traffic.

On the advice and direction of Thomas Telford the New Main Line was built in the late 1820s. This was a much more direct route that cut across the various loops of the old main line. The Smethwick summit was also bypassed by creating a cutting, later known as the Galton Valley. The New Main Line was completed in 1824 with the route distance between Wolverhampton and Birmingham cut dramatically and much of the new canal wide with dual towpaths. A major problem with the old canal had been the awkwardness of multiple canal boats with their horses on a congested towpath.

The New Main Line (and surviving bits of the old one) survives today. Galton Valley has ironically been partially filled in to allow for a road. New tunnels were built in the 1970s.

The New Main Line stretches from the centre of Birmingham where it connects to the Birmingham & Fazeley and Worcester & Birmingham Canals to Wolverhampton and a junction with the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.
Bridge over the Main Line

A loop near Birmingham

Asylum bridge on the Soho Loop

On the approach to Birmingham centre

Near Gas St and the terminus of the Main Line

Galton Tunnel