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Rail bridges get celestial makeover

The future looks good for two rail bridges on Brook Road close to Stourbridge Junction station, one of which is adorned with all the signs of the zodiac. Network Rail says it can see into the future (!) and knows that the work won’t have to be done for another 25 years.

Jo Kaye, Network Rail’s route director, said: “Across the country, Network Rail maintains the infrastructure on which Britain relies. Out of the thousands of bridges on the network, the zodia structures are unique and we are proud stewards of their history.”

Steve Field, resident artist at Dudley Council was involved with British Rail when the designs were first painted about 20 years ago. Fortunately, Mr Field found and reused the original stencils. The second bridge has designs representing cut glass but the original painting of these was done freehand from small sketches.

Mr Field explained: “The imagery is to celebrate the glassmaking heritage of the area. One 'cameo bridge' features cameos mixing star signs with mythology.

“The other bridge has motifs similar to the patterns in cut glass, another local technique. Cameo glass - which looks a bit like Wedgwood pottery - was re-invented in Stourbridge in the nineteenth century. The technique had been lost since Roman times. There is still a small-scale studio glass industry here and a bi-annual glass festival this August bank holiday.”

In 1991 Mr Field came up with the designs and made the original stencils because he wanted a subject that reflected the kind of subjects found on cameo glass, which are usually mythological and figurative. He thought the zodiac fitted well because there are 14 bridge panels, giving room for the 12 signs plus two extra central cosmic signs, which were used to represent the moon and the sun.

Dudley Council has funded the work with section 106 money secured through the planning process for developments across the borough.

Councillor David Stanley, cabinet member for environment and culture at Dudley Council, said: “The artwork on the bridges provides an important and distinctive local feature.

“The borough artist has been carrying out some restoration work to bring these features back to life, which I am sure will be welcomed by everyone who passes them.”


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