p4newstreet logo

Posts tagged “reliance mercury

What is down those ramps?

brute-trainOn the surface the ramps towards the western end of New Street were used for transporting mail and other services between platforms. If you ever visited the station when BRUTE trolley’s were in use you could often see trains of them appearing from the gloom. Its one of the reasons that the more common 3 wheeled Lansing Bagnall TOER platform tugs lost out to the more heavy duty Reliance Mercury types as depicted above. However the story goes a bit further than that in that there was (is) quite a subterranean underground system under the city centre. From the platforms of New Street mail could get directly to the mailbox without ever seeing daylight via quite a substantial tunnel. Occasionally this is opened to the public and more can be seen here

What is Anchor?

As kids we all thought the ramps led to a top secret nuclear bunker and that’s not actually all that far from the truth as there is indeed a hardened facility under Birmingham, built in the event of an atomic attack. Its one of 3 during the 1950’s, designed to house and shield communication systems from a Hiroshima sized atomic weapon exploding nearby (although it would never have survived a direct hit). It was called Anchor after the hallmark of Birmingham’s Assay Office. The other bunkers were Guardian in Manchester and Kingsway in London. Anchor is the largest of the 3. There is a rumour of a 4th facility under Glasgow but no evidence that it ever existed has ever come to light.

It was built under the cover story of Birmingham’s underground railway system and cost £4 million pounds. The public were later told that the underground system was not viable and had been abandoned but Anchor was completed in September 1957 and was soon automatically handling 250,000 calls a day. The main site is located underneath the BT tower on Newall Street. The construction site entrance for Anchor was located opposite Moor Street station and later became public underpass.

The main tunnel at Anchor was roughly the same size and shape as those used on the London underground and went out to Hill Street and then to Essex Street passing under New Street station. It is not clear if the anchor tunnels and the Post office tunnels are actually linked together but some ex postal workers have stated that they could get from New Street to the other post office at the top of hill street via the tunnels. It is also claimed that the mysterious heavy duty and strangely small, door that was part of the LNWR stables building at the end of platform 1 was also linked to a tunnel that took you to Hill Street. little-doorAnchor had its own water supply in the form of a 300 ft deep well under the site as well as the obvious air filtration systems but it was only ever designed to keep communications running and not as the site of the salvation of the Brummy masses, the idea of some huge facility that can house the population at the end of the world, anywhere in the world is probably nothing more than Hollywood myth and wishfull thinking. Indeed the air systems were as much to keep the air cooled machines running as anything else. The main entrance was via a lift at the back of Telephone house (between Fleet street and Lionel Street) and the entrance was protected with blast doors.

Anchor was only ever put on full alert during the Cuban missile crisis and was officially declassified in the late 1960’s with various members of the press being allowed to visit the site.

Such was the pace of Nuclear weapon development that all 3 exchanges were obsolete before they were even completed but Anchor continued to remain operational until the late 1980’s. Its is now, reportedly, abandoned and suffers regular flooding from Birmingham’s rising water table (the result of the decline of heavy industry in the area)

So whats left?

The main site is still there unless the recent closing of the underpasses was a cover for somehow removing it or filling it in, unlikely givent the timescales. There is still some evidence of its existence above ground. anchor structuresOn the left one of the ventilation shafts which can be seen from the A38. On the right a mysterious but very secure looking BT doorway virtually opposite the entrance to Snow Hill station which is sometimes said to be an entrance. I have to admit, that while i know no better the concrete looks far too new for something supposedly built so long ago. There is also a goods lift still visible on Lionel Street.

11th March 2011

A few things this time starting with a new section for odd-ball vehicles like the Reliance Mercury tug shown above.

Stock wise I have new pictures for class 31, 47, 50, 56 and 86 along with classes 120 and 310. Follow the stock link at the top of the page.