Caledonian Railway Coat of Arms
|Dates of operation||1830s–1923|
|Successor||London, Midland and Scottish Railway|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Caledonian Railway was a major Scottish railway company. It was formed in the early 19th century with the objective of forming a link between English railways and Glasgow. It progressively extended its network soon reaching Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with a dense network of branch lines in the area surrounding Glasgow. It was absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923. Many of its principal routes continue active at the present day, and the original main line between Carlisle and Glasgow is in use as part of the West Coast Main Line railway (with a modified entry into Glasgow itself).
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Early history
- 3 Branches south of Carstairs
- 4 River Clyde and Clyde Coast branches
- 5 Expansion lines of around Glasgow and Paisley
- 6 Edinburgh and Lothians
- 7 The Central Scotland lines
- 8 Argyll and Perth
- 9 Callander and Oban Railway
- 10 The Crieff Lines
- 11 Notable accidents
- 12 Chief Mechanical Engineers
- 13 Armorial bearing
- 14 See also
- 15 External links
- 16 References
- 17 Notes
In the mid-1830s railways in England evolved from local concerns to longer routes that connected cities, and then became networks. In Scotland it was clear that this was the way forward, and there was a desire to connect the central belt to the incipient English network. There was controversy over the route that such a line might take, but the Caledonian Railway was formed and opened its main line between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carlisle in 1848, making an alliance with the English London and North Western Railway.
Although the company was supported by Scottish investors, more than half of its shares were held in England.
Establishing itself as an inter-city railway, the Caledonian set about securing territory by leasing other authorised or newly-built lines, and fierce competition developed with other, larger Scottish railways, particularly the North British Railway and the Glasgow and South Western Railway. The company established primacy in some areas, but remained less than successful in others; considerable sums were expended in the process, not always finding the approval of shareholders.
A considerable passenger traffic developed on the Firth of Clyde serving island resorts, and fast boat trains were run from Glasgow to steamer piers; the company was refused permission to operate its own steamers, and it formed a partnership with a nominally independent, but friendly, operator, the Caledonian Steam Packet Company.
In 1923 the railways of Great Britain were "grouped" under the Railways Act 1921 and the Caledonian Railway was a constituent of the newly formed London Midland and Scottish Railway; its capitalisation at that time was £57 million, and it had a single track mileage of 2,827 miles (4,550 km).
It extended from Aberdeen to Portpatrick, and from Oban to Carlisle, running express passenger services and a heavy mineral traffic.
The Lanarkshire coal lines
In the closing years of the eighteenth century the pressing need to bring coal cheaply to Glasgow from the plentiful Monklands coalfield had been met by the construction of the Monkland Canal, opened throughout in 1794. This encouraged development of the coalfield but dissatisfaction at the monopoly prices said to be exacted by the canal led to the construction of the Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway (M&KR), Scotland's first public railway; it opened in 1826. Development of the use of blackband ironstone by David Mushet, and the invention of the hot blast process of iron smelting by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828 led to a huge and rapid increase in iron production and demand for the ore and for coal in the Coatbridge area.
The industrial development led to the construction of other railways contiguous with the M&KR, in particular the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway and the Wishaw and Coltness Railway. These two lines worked in harmony, merging to form the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway in 1841, and competing with the M&KR and its allies. All these lines used the local track gauge of 4 ft 6in (1,372 mm), and they were referred to as the coal lines; passenger traffic was not a dominant activity.
During this period, the first long-distance railways were opened in England; the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first inter-city line, opened in 1830 and was an immediate success. It was quickly followed by the London and Birmingham Railway in 1838 and the Grand Junction Railway in 1837, and the North Union Railway reaching Preston in 1838, so that London was linked with the Lancashire and West Midlands centres of industry.
Connecting Scotland and London
It was clearly desirable to connect central Scotland into the emerging network. At first it was assumed that only one route from Scotland to England would be feasible, and there was considerable controversy over the possible route. A major difficulty was the terrain of the Southern Uplands: a route running through the hilly lands would involve steep and lengthy gradients that were challenging for the engine power of the time; a route around them, either to the west or the east, involved much lengthier main lines, and made connection to both Edinburgh and Glasgow more problematic.
Many competing schemes were put forward, not all of them well thought out, and two successive Government commissions examined them. However they did not have mandatory force, and after considerable rivalry, the Caledonian Railway obtained an authorising Act of Parliament on 31 July 1845, for lines from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Carlisle. The share capital was to be £1,800,000.
The Glasgow and Edinburgh lines combined at Carstairs, and the route ran through Annandale. The promoters had engaged in a frenzy of provisional acquisitions of other lines being put forward or already being constructed, as they considered it was vital to secure territory to their own control and to exclude competing concerns as far as possible. However if they hoped to operate the only Anglo-Scottish route, they were disappointed. The North British Railway opened between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed on 22 June 1846, forming part of what has become the East Coast Main Line. The Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway had opened in 1841 with the declared intention of reaching Carlisle by way of Dumfries; it did so in 1850, changing its name then to the Glasgow and South Western Railway.
The main line
The main line was opened from Carlisle to Beattock on 10 September 1847, and throughout between Glasgow and Carlisle on 15 February 1848. A continuous railway route between Glasgow and London existed for the first time. (It had been possible to travel via Edinburgh and Newcastle upon Tyne since 1846, but this involved crossing the River Tweed at Berwick by road, and the River Tyne at Newcastle by ferry.)
The Caledonian Railway's Edinburgh line from Carstairs opened on 1 April 1848. The terminal at Edinburgh was Lothian Road. Glasgow was reached over the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway (successor to the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway), and the Wishaw and Coltness Railway, which the Caledonian had leased from 1 January 1847 and 1 January 1846 respectively. The Glasgow station was the Townhead terminus of the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway.
During the process of seeking Parliamentary authorisation, the Caledonian observed that the Clydesdale Junction Railway was being promoted. The Caledonian acquired that line during its construction, and it opened in 1849. It gave an alternative, and shorter access to another Glasgow passenger terminal, named South Side, and to the Clyde Quays at General Terminus (over the connected General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway). The South Side station was already being used by the Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway, worked by the Caledonian. One day, they hoped, they might extend that line into Ayrshire. Meanwhile the line was leased (for 999 years) to the Caledonian in 1849.
The Caledonian recognised that the Townhead terminus was unsatisfactory and constructed a deviation from Milton Junction to a new Glasgow terminus at Buchanan Street. It opened on 1 November 1849. Trains to Edinburgh, Stirling and Carlisle used the new station; the Stirling trains had to reverse at Gartsherrie Junction. The Garnkirk's old Glebe Street (Townhead) station was reduced to goods and mineral duties. In 1853 or 1854 the Hayhill Fork, between Gartcosh and Garnqueen, was opened, enabling direct running from Buchanan Street towards Stirling.
Financial problems, and Greenock amalgamation
In the period between formation of the Caledonian Railway and the opening of the main line, a large number of leases and working arrangements had been concluded with other railways being promoted or built. This was mostly done by guaranteeing those shareholders an income on their capital, which meant no immediate cash was required. When the lines started working, suddenly a huge periodical payment was required, and the income was inadequate to satisfy it. There were also suggestions of improper share acquisitions, and in the period 1848 to 1850 a number of shareholder inquiries disclosed bad practices, and many board members had to resign in February 1850.
The Company had obtained Parliamentary powers to merge with the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway (GP&GR) in 1847, but even more alarming revelations of financial impropriety emerged regarding that company, and the Caledonian considered getting authorisation to cancel the amalgamation. However it was later decided to proceed, and the amalgamation took place by Act of Parliament of 7 August 1851. The GP&GR operated the line between Glasgow and Paisley jointly with the Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR), and the Paisley line used a terminus at Bridge Street, in Glasgow.
The Caledonian now worked trains at three termini in Glasgow: Buchanan Street, South Side (from the Clydesdale Junction line, mostly used for local trains to Motherwell and Hamilton), and Bridge Street (on the Paisley line).
Gradually the financial difficulties were got under control, by economy, and by the discovery that several of the lease agreements were illegal. Handsome dividends continued to be paid, but it was not until March 1853 that the dividend was paid wholly from revenue.[note 1]
South Lanarkshire: mainly mineral traffic
If the Caledonian Railway had been formed as an inter-city trunk line, its attention was early on turned to other demands. Local interests in Lanark promoted a branch line to their town, opening in 1855. Coal owners in South Lanarkshire pressed for a railway connection, and the Lesmahagow Railway was formed by them, opening in 1856. It was later absorbed by the Caledonian, but other lines followed in the sparsely populated but mineral-rich area. As new coal mines opened, so new branches were needed, connecting Coalburn, Stonehouse, Strathaven, Murikirk and Darvel and many other places, with new lines built right up until 1905. When the coal became exhausted in the second half of the twentieth century, the railways were progressively closed; passenger traffic had always been light and it too disappeared. Only the passenger traffic to the Lanark and Larkhall branches remain in operation.
Busby and East Kilbride
With the Barrhead line in full operation, interests in Busby wanted a railway connection. The wealthy middle class saw the town as an elegant location and the Busby Railway opened in 1866. Commuting was already in fashion. The line was extended to East Kilbride in 1868, although at that time (long before the New Town) the village did not generate much business for the railway.
Branches south of Carstairs
When the main line was built, no branches were provided in the thinly populated terrain. Four independent companies made branches themselves, and the Caledonian built two.
In 1863 an independent line, the Dumfries, Lochmaben and Lockerbie Railway was opened. The line was encouraged by the Caledonian Railway, giving westward access into Dumfriesshire, and worked by it; the Caledonian acquired the line in 1865. The Portpatrick Railway had opened between Castle Douglas and Portpatrick in 1861-1862 and the Caledonian Railway worked that railway; it obtained running powers over the G&SWR between Dumfries and Castle Douglas, and at a stroke the Caledonian had penetrated deep into the south-west, and to the ferry service to the north of Ireland, territory that the G&SWR had assumed was its own. The Portpatrick Railway later reformed with the Wigtownshire Railway as the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway; the Caledonian was a one-quarter owner.
The North British Railway opened the branch line to Dolphinton, east of Carstairs, and the Caledonian feared that the next step would be an incursion by the NBR into Caledonian territory, possibly seeking running powers on the main line. To head this off, the Caledonian built its own Dolphinton branch from Carstairs; it opened in 1867. Dolphinton had a population of 260 and two railways, and traffic was correspondingly meagre, and the line closed in 1945 (passengers) and 1950 (goods).
The independent Solway Junction Railway was opened in 1869, linking iron mines in Cumberland with the Caledonian Railway at Kirtlebridge, crossing the Solway Firth by a 1,940 yd (1,791 m) viaduct; the company worked the line itself. It considerably shortened the route to the Lanarkshire ironworks, and was heavily used at first, but the traffic was depleted by cheap imported iron ore within a decade. The Scottish part of the line was acquired by the Caledonian Railway in 1873, and the whole line in 1895. Serious ice damage and later heavy maintenance costs made the line seriously unprofitable and it was closed in 1921.
The Moffat Railway was opened from Beattock on 2 April 1883. It was just over one and a half miles (2 km) long. It was worked by the Caledonian and absorbed on 11 November 1889. The Caledonian Railway sought to develop both Moffat and Peebles as watering places, and ran The Tinto Express from both places, combining at Symington, to Edinburgh and Glasgow for several years.
With the intention of revitalising the lead mining industry, the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Branch was opened as a light railway from Elvanfoot in 1901 - 1902. With challenging gradients to reach Scotland's highest village in otherwise remote territory, the line scraped a bare living and closed in 1938.
River Clyde and Clyde Coast branches
In 1873 the Caledonian Railway finally obtained an Act to build a railway bridge across the Clyde, and initially planned to widen Glasgow Bridge and use part of this; however, their plans were changed in 1875, when a new Act was obtained to build a separate railway bridge. A four track railway bridge was built by Sir William Arrol across the Clyde. By 1879, construction work had been completed on Glasgow Central station and Bridge Street station was also rebuilt. The Caledonian Railway mainline services to London were transferred from Buchanan Street railway station to Central Station. Bridge Street station however remained the terminus of the Caledonian Railways Clyde Coast services until Central Station was rebuilt 1901 - 1905. It then closed.
In 1862 the Greenock and Wemyss Bay Railway was authorised. It opened on 13 May 1865 and in August 1893 it amalgamated with the Caledonian Railway, having been operated by the Caledonian Railway since its opening.
The Glasgow Central Railway was a six mile (10 km) underground railway passing through Glasgow from east to west.
The Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire Railway, from the West End of Glasgow along the north shore of the River Clyde, to Dumbarton, was vested in the Caledonian Railway on 1 August 1909 by Act of Parliament.
Expansion lines of around Glasgow and Paisley
In addition to the early lines, such as the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway and the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway which opened in the early 1840s, both Glasgow and Paisley saw a huge railway expansion which continued into the early 1900s. Many of these lines were built as part of the rivalry between the Caledonian Railway and the Glasgow and South Western Railway to gain passengers and goods at the other's expense.
Lines built by the Caledonian Railway included:
- Cathcart District Railway, also known as the Cathcart Circle Line. Operated by the Caledonian Railway.
- Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway from Newton to the Clyde Coast at Ardrossan.
There were also interests in several Joint Railways in the Glasgow area:
Edinburgh and Lothians
The Caledonian Railway entered Edinburgh from Carstairs on 15 February 1848; its terminus was a one-platform station named Lothian Road. This was the first line to offer travel without change of carriage between Edinburgh and England: passengers on the rival North British Railway needed to cross the River Tweed on foot to continue their rail journey.
The unsatisfactory Edinburgh terminus needed improvement but funds were limited, and the Caledonian built a short spur to Haymarket; talks had taken place about using the E&GR and NBR station, later named Waverley; but the NBR rejected the idea. Eventually in 1870 the Lothian Road station was much improved and extended, and the new terminus was named Princes Street.
The owner of Granton Harbour encouraged, and half-funded, the construction of a branch from near Lothian Road, and this opened in 1861. A branch from the Granton line to Leith Docks was made in 1864. This line was opened to passengers from 1879: the Leith terminal was later renamed Leith North. After 1900 the port authorities built new modern docks to the east of the former Leith docks, and the Caledonian further extended its Leith line to reach the new facilities: the Leith New Lines opened in 1903. It had been planned to open a passenger service on the line, and passenger stations had been built, but street tramcar competition made it clear that and inner suburban passenger railway was unviable and the passenger service was never inaugurated.
The Edinburgh main line passed close to numerous mineral workings, and several short branches and connections were made to collieries, iron workings and shale oil plants. The Wilsontown branch from Auchengray, opened in 1860 was the most significant, and carried a passenger service.
The original Wishaw and Coltness Railway, now leased by the Caledonian, had long since reached Cleland ironworks from the west, and in 1869 the line was extended from near there to Midcalder Junction on the Edinburgh main line, passing through Shotts, Fauldhouse and Midcalder. This line connected in many further mines and industrial sites, and gave the Caledonian a passenger route between Glasgow and Edinburgh that competed with the North British Railway's route through Falkirk.
The first main line had by-passed a considerable centre of industry located on the Water of Leith south west of the city, and a branch line to Balerno opened on 1 August 1874. The line was successful in encouraging residential building, especially at Colinton, and also leisure excursions: for a time it was known as the picnic line, but it too succumbed to more convenient transport facilities by road, and it closed to passengers in 1943.
Speculative residential development encouraged the construction of a line to Barnton, west of Edinburgh. The branch line opened on 1 March 1894; the terminus was named Cramond Brig at first. The Caledonian intended to make the line into a loop, returning to the city by way of Corstorphine, but this idea was shelved.
The Central Scotland lines
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The core of the Central Scotland Lines came as a result of the absorption of the Scottish Central Railway in 1865.
Argyll and Perth
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Callander and Oban Railway
The Callander and Oban Railway was an independent company intended to connect the Western Seas to the railway network, but it had been promised financial support by the Scottish Central Railway (SCR). The Caledonian absorbed the SCR in 1865 and the directors were dismayed at the level of commitment to a difficult construction scheme barely started. Construction took many years, reaching a "Killin" station in 1870 and competing in 1880, and money was always desperately tight.
The line was never profitable although it contributed greatly to the development of the town of Oban. A branch was built to Ballachulish, opened in 1903.
The Crieff Lines
Crieff Junction Railway
Perth, Almond Valley & Methven Railway; and Crieff & Methven Railway
Lochearnhead, St Fillans and Comrie Railway
Crieff and Comrie Railway
This line connected the line entering Crieff from the south and east to the Lochearnhead, St Fillans and Comrie Railway at Comrie.
- On 2 October 1872, an express passenger train was in collision with a freight train that was being shunted at Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire due to errors by the station master and signalman, compounded by a lack of interlocking and absolute block working. Twelve people were killed.
- On 23 October 1899, an express passenger train was in collision with a cattle train at Coupar Angus, Forfarshire. One person was killed.
- On 6 April 1906, an express freight train was derailed 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire due to the failure of a wheel on the third wagon of the train. The derailed wagons fouled the opposite line; an express passenger train ran into them and was derailed. One person was killed and several were injured.
- On 2 April 1909, a passenger train became divided and was derailed at Crawford, Lanarkshire when the crank axle of the locomotive hauling it failed. A few passengers suffered minor injuries.
- On 22 May 1915, a troop train was in a head-on collision at Quintinshill, Dumfriesshire due to a signalman's error. An express passenger train then ran into the wreckage. A fire then broke out which killed 226 people and injured 246 in what remains the deadliest railway accident in the United Kingdom as of 2014[update]. Two signalmen were later jailed for culpable homicide.
Chief Mechanical Engineers
- Robert Sinclair 1847-1856
- Benjamin Connor 1856-1876
- George Brittain 1876-1882
- Dugald Drummond 1882-1890
- Hugh Smellie 1890
- John Lambie 1891-1895
- John F. McIntosh 1895-1914
- William Pickersgill 1914-1923
From July 1865, the Caledonian Railway adopted "a version of the Scottish arms, without, so far as is known, getting the blessing of the Lord Lyon King of Arms". This was a lion rampant with a riband bearing the motto of the Order of the Thistle, Nemo me impune lacessit. Above there was a crest showing helmet surmounted by a crown; the supporters were unicorns. This was slightly modified in August 1866 and from September 1888 a further riband was added below the motto; this bore the words Caledonian Railway Company. From the base of the shield hung a medallion of St Andrew. A lion séjant affronté was superimposed on the crest above which was the inscription In Defence [sic]. The motto was now worded Nemo me impune lacesset but this was corrected to Nemo me impune lacessit in 1899.
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