Caledonian Main Line

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This is about route of the Caledonian Railway Main Line; for historical railway company see Caledonian Railway and for the modern preserved line see Caledonian Railway (Brechin).

The Caledonian Main Line represents most of the original route of the Caledonian Railway: a major Scottish railway company. The company was formed in 1830 and was absorbed almost a century later into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, in the 1923 railway grouping, by means of the Railways Act 1921. When first opened, the Caledonian Main Line represented the only railway link between England and Scotland: running from Carlisle to Carstairs; and then to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Edinburgh terminus was at Princes Street; and the original Glasgow terminus at Buchanan Street, the latter being reached by use the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway's metals. The Caledonian railway's Glasgow terminus was later moved to Glasgow Central and was accessed via the Clydesdale Junction Railway. A short section between Carlisle and Gretna was used to give the Glasgow and South Western Railway access to Carlisle and the North British Railway's Waverley Line.

Princes Street has closed, as has the Waverley Line, but Caledonian Main line together with the former Clydesdale Junction Railway are still in use today as the northern section of the West Coast Main Line, between Carlisle, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley stations. The link at Gretna remains open, as part of the Glasgow South Western route.

Description of the route[edit]

The Caledonian Viaduct, over the route of the Monkland Canal, Coatbridge

The Caledonian Railway Main Line runs from Carlisle, via Annandale, Beattock and the Clyde valley, to Central Scotland. The original Glasgow terminus was at Buchanan Street access via the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway (from Coatbridge) which was absorbed by the Caledonian Railway. Buchanan Street remained the Glasgow terminus until 1879, when Glasgow Central become the major Caledonian terminus for trains from the south. Access was via the Clydesdale Junction Railway from Motherwell. A junction at Carstairs provided a connection to Princes Street station in Edinburgh.

The main line from Carlisle was opened as far as Beattock on 9 September 1847.[1] The section from Beattock to Edinburgh opened on 15 February 1848; and the section from Beattock to Glasgow, Buchanan Street, opened on 1 November 1849 for passengers and on 1 January 1849 for goods.[1] The final section of the journey was initially via Monklands, on the Wishaw and Coltness Railway and the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway, which had opened in 1831.

The main line from Carlisle to Glasgow (now to Glasgow Central) and Edinburgh (now to Edinburgh Waverley) is still in use today, although many of the original Caledonian railway stations have closed. It is now the northern section of the West Coast Main Line; the southern section being the former London and North Western Railway.

The main line at Quintinshill, near Gretna Green was the site of the Quintinshill rail crash, which occurred on 22 May 1915.[2] Two rival lines connected to the Caledonian Railway near this point: the Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle Railway, at Gretna, later to become the Glasgow and South Western Railway, and still in use today as the Glasgow South Western Line; and the North British Railway's Waverley Line, currently closed in its entirety.

Carstairs to Greenhill Junction[edit]

Caledonian Railway Main Line
(Carstairs to Greenhill Junction)
Scottish Central Railway
Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway
Greenhill Lower and Upper Junctions
Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway
Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway
Garnqueen North Junction
Garnqueen South Junction
Gartcosh Junction
Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway
Gartsherrie North Junction
Gartsherrie South Junction
Coatbridge Branch (NBR)
Sunnyside Junction
Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway
Coatbridge Central (CR) | (M&KR)
Langloan North Junction
Rutherglen and Coatbridge Railway
Whifflet South Junction | Whifflet High
Rutherglen and Coatbridge Railway
Mossend Yard
Mossend North Junction
Cleland and Midcalder Line
Mossend South Junction
Jerviston Branch (W&CR)
Holytown South Junction
Cleland and Midcalder Line
Clydesdale Junction Railway
Lesmahagow Junction
Coalburn Branch (CR)
Shieldmuir Junction
Wishaw Central Junction
Wishaw South | Wishaw Central
Wishaw Central Junction
Wishaw and Coltness Railway
Wishaw and Coltness Railway
Law Pits
Law Junction
Hallcraig Pit
Castlehill Iron Works
Craigenhill Lime Mine
Douglas Jn | Silvermuir Jn
Douglas Branch (CR)
Caledonian Railway Main Line
to Edinburgh
Strawfrank Junction
Caledonian Railway Main Line
to Carlisle

A complex section of line runs north through Lanarkshire to East Dunbartonshire where a connection was made with the Scottish Central Railway at Greenhill Lower Junction. Although adjacent to the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway at Greenhill Junctions, no direct connection was made which included the absorption of the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway (between Gartsherrie North Junction and Whifflet) and the Wishaw and Coltness Railway (between Whifflet and Law Junction). Between Mossend and Motherwell, a Motherwell deviation line was constructed away from the original route of the Wishaw and Coltness Railway. To provide additional capacity, a Wishaw Deviation Line was constructed between Holytown (on the Cleland and Midcalder Line) and Law Junction.

Silvermuir Junctions (north of Carstairs) provided a triangular connection to the Lanark and Douglas Branches.

Connections to other lines[edit]

Current operations[edit]

In 2011 the line is open to passenger services:

In 2008, a feasibility study is to take place to examine the possibility of opening a new station to serve the town of Law.[3]

Carstairs to Carlisle[edit]

Caledonian Railway Main Line
 Carstairs to Carlisle 
Caledonian Railway Main Line
to Greenhill Junction
Caledonian Railway Main Line
to Edinburgh
Strawfrank Junction
Symington, Biggar and Broughton Railway
Leadhills and Wanlockhead Branch
Beattock Summit(Private halt)
Dumfries, Lochmaben
and Lockerbie Railway
Solway Junction Railway
Quintinshill loops
Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle Railway
Gretna Junction
Gretna | Gretna (BUR)
Longtown Border Union Railway
Border Union Railway ('the Waverley Line')
Willowholme Jn | Port Carlisle Branch Jn
Caldew Junctions
Carlisle Citadel
Citadel South Junctions
Maryport and Carlisle Railway
London Road Junction
Lancaster and Carlisle Railway
Petteril Bridge Junction
Newcastle & Carlisle Railway
Settle-Carlisle Line

The original stations between Carlisle and Carstairs were: Rockcliffe, Floriston, Kirkpatrick, Gretna, Kirtlebridge, Ecclefechan, Lockerbie, Nethercleugh, Dinwoodie, Wamphray, Beattock, Elvanfoot, Crawford, Abington, Lamington, Symington and Thankerton. Of these, only Lockerbie is still in use, and the Lockerbie-Carstairs section is the longest stretch of UK railway uninterrupted by a station .

Connections to other lines[edit]

Moffat Railway[edit]

This short branch was authorised as an independent railway on 27 June 1881. It was promoted locally to link Moffat to the Caledonian Railway at Beattock. The line was opened on 2 April 1883, leased to the Caledonian Railway on 14 July 1884 and formally taken over on 31 May 1889.

The branch line was closed to passengers on 6 December 1954 and to freight on 6 April 1964.[4]

Current operations[edit]

In 2007 the main line is still open, as part of the WCML from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the south. There is now only one station now open at Lockerbie, and all the immediate branches between Gretna Junction and Strawfrank Junction are closed.

In 2008, a feasibility study was undertaken to examine the possibility of opening a station at Symington to provide local services from the area into Glasgow, presumably with bus connections to the nearby town of Biggar.[5]

Carstairs to Edinburgh[edit]

Caledonian Main Line
(Carstairs to Edinburgh Princes Street)
Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway
Princes Street
Dalry East Junction
Dalry Road
Edinburgh Suburban and
Southside Junction Railway
Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway
Gorgie East
Slateford Junction
Balerno Junction
West Mill Goods
Wester Hailes
Balerno Goods Branch Junction
Balerno Goods
Ravelrig Junction
Midcalder Junction
Cleland and Midcalder Line
Wilsontown Junction
Dolphinton Branch
Dolphinton Junction
Caledonian Main Line
to Greenhill Junction
Strawfrank Junction
Caledonian Main Line
to Carlisle

The line from Carstairs to Edinburgh (Glasgow to Edinburgh via Carstairs line) is also still in use today, but the Edinburgh terminus of the Caledonian railway at the west end of Princes Street has closed and the line diverts to former North British Railway Edinburgh Waverley railway station at the other end of Princes street. The railway hotel building which formed the street frontage of the Edinburgh Princes Street Station was well known as the Caley Hotel, and is still in use as a hotel today by the Hilton Hotels chain as the Caledonian Hilton Edinburgh Hotel.

Connections to other lines[edit]

Current operations[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Awdry, Page 64
  2. ^ Rolt (1982), pp 207–213
  3. ^ SPT news
  4. ^ Awdry, Page 94
  5. ^ SPT news


External links[edit]