While browsing through the ‘Mercian’ magazine of September 1969 I came across this article about the Leadhills & Wanlockhead Light Railway under the heading of ‘Forgotten Byways’. It seemed to be a good candidate for posting, and having reproduced it I thought that I would check its whereabouts on Google. That was a surprise – although the line had closed to passengers in 1938, in 1983 a Society was formed to operate a narrow gauge railway on the old trackbed – so here is the story to date, including photographs from their website, which is well worth a visit!
Leadhills and Wanlockhead Light Railway
In October 1901 the first 5¾ mile section of the above line was opened from Elvanfoot on the Caledonian main line to the mining community at Leadhills. The track, which was single line followed the lie of the surrounding country with several places crossing the existing highway on the level. Leadhills is one of the highest inhabited places in this part of Scotland and in some places gradients as steep as 1 in 40 were common. There were no platforms provided at the stopping places nor was the line fenced in for considerable distances. S. McFarlane
There were two bridges on the branch and an eight arch concrete viaduct over the Rispin Cleuch, and in places there were some severe curves on the branch. The second section on to Wanlockhead was opened in 1903.
Motive power and rolling stock was provided by the Caledonian Company in the shape of a diminutive Drummond 0-4-4T locomotive fitted with cow-catchers, and an assortment of four and six wheeled carriages which were adapted with three continuous footboards and extended handrails for the convenience of passengers boarding and alighting at rail level. A fairly modest service of over three passenger trains each way per day was instituted and for a while the volume of traffic both passenger and goods was sufficient to make a small profit. However, like similar isolated branch lines the coming of the car and motorbus spelt doom and it was not long before these competitors were felt. Attempts were made to rejuvenate the branch but it soon succumbed to closure in 1938.A. Ireland
The Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway Society was formed in 1983 to construct and operate a 2ft gauge tourist railway between two villages on the old standard gauge trackbed. Track laying commenced in 1986 with the station at Leadhills being built from scratch. A limited service began in 1988 over a 1/4 mile of track and has been improving steadily ever since, it has now reached the border with Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway, negotiations are at present under way to extend the track into Wanlockhead and build a station complete with run round loop, with the acquisition of more locomotives and coaches the shed at Leadhills is becoming quite full. A Hudswell Clark 68hp ex. mines locomotive was recently restored at Anniesland College of Further Education in Glasgow as part of a training scheme and will be brought into service soon.
Clyde and Passenger Train, departing Leadhills, summer 2004 (Photograph A. Ireland)
For further information visit: http://www.leadhillsrailway.co.uk
If you should be on holiday in the area it’s the
Teddy Bears’ Picnic Weekend 31st July, 1st August 2010
See their website for details.