Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway
|Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway|
|Dates of operation||1876–1932|
|Track gauge||2 ft 3 in (686 mm)|
The Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway was a 2 ft 3 in (686 mm) narrow gauge railway in Kintyre, Scotland, between Campbeltown and the coalmining village of Machrihanish. Only three other passenger-carrying lines in the UK operated on the same gauge, all of them in Wales - the Corris Railway, the short-lived Plynlimon and Hafan Tramway and the Talyllyn Railway.
Coal has been mined on the Kintyre peninsula since 1498 or before. Although not of the highest quality, the coal found there was abundant and relatively cheap to extract. In the middle of the eighteenth century the collieries of the area were kept busy supplying the many whisky distilleries in the Campbeltown area.
This early transportation link fell into disuse and had been virtually abandoned by 1856. In 1875 the Argyll Coal and Canal Co. acquired the main colliery and found the canal in a state of disrepair. They decided a better transportation system was required and began to investigate the building of a railway to Campbeltown.
As rail transport developed in the 19th century, the colliery owners sought to build a tramway to replace the canal. In 1876 a lightly constructed industrial railway was built connecting Kilkivan Pit to Campbeltown, a distance of 4 1⁄2 miles (7.24 km). For a short length the line ran on the formation of the canal before reaching Campbeltown, where it ended on a pier.
The colliery railway only ever carried coal traffic and used two locomotives, Princess and Chevalier to haul the trains of mine tubs.
The colliery railway's traffic was largely seasonal as most of the colliery output was consumed locally. Around the turn of the century the mine owners began to search for additional traffic for the summer season. At the same time, new steam ships began bringing tourists to the remote Kintyre peninsula. This led to the formation of the Association of Argyll Railway Co. Ltd. which applied for an order under the Light Railways Act to build a railway connecting Campbeltown with Machrihanish, on the west coast of the peninsula.
Construction of the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway began in November 1905. The majority of the route of the new railway followed the colliery tramway, but with several of the steeper gradients and sharper curves eased. The colliery line was also extended west to the new terminus at Machrihanish. The work was completed in 1906 and the railway opened on 18 August 1906. It was an immediate success, attracting 10,000 passengers in its first three weeks of operation and replacing the horse-drawn tourist charabanc traffic in Campbeltown.
In the years leading up to the First World War the railway thrived on a mixture of coal and passenger traffic. After the war, competition from new motor buses began to reduce the railway's profitable tourist trade. By 1931 the summer tourist trade had dwindled significantly. Although passenger trains did run in early 1932, the railway was failing and it abandoned passenger services in May 1932. By November 1933 the railway had been wound up and in May 1934 the last trains ran, assisting in the scrapping of the line.
Maisel Oil Company
According to Davies both the railway and the colliery were acquired about 1929 by the Maisel Oil Company, which had a patent for a process to produce oil from coal. This concern was not successful and the line closed to passengers in September 1931 and to all traffic in November 1932.
Macmillan gives a slightly different version:
"In June (1928) the Franco British Co. acquired the Argyll colliery and at a Campbeltown Town Council meeting on 13th August, Mr. Maisel, a director, said that gas could be got from a proposed coal distillation plant and bought by the town. A report to the shareholders stated that a testing plant of the Aicher low temperature carbonisation process had been in operation for a fortnight, under the supervision of Mr. Aicher. Tests gave yields of between 34½ and 74 gallons of crude oil per ton of coal [154–331 L/t or 37–79 US gal/short ton]. In addition 2350 cubic feet/ton [65.5 m3/t or 2,100 cu ft/short ton] of gas and the residual coke were available from the process. In June 1929 the Franco British Company re-emerged as the Coal Carbonisation Trust and their prospectus mentioned carbonising 1,000 tons [1,016 t or 1120 short tons] of coal per day yielding 11 cwt of coke per ton [550 kg/t]. Almost immediately afterwards the pit at Kilkivan was abandoned and the whole project 'melted like snow aff a dyke'."
It seems that there was some concern about the company's conduct and a question was asked about the matter in Parliament  on 14 February 1933.
|Pioneer||Andrew Barclay & Co||0-4-0 WT
(converted to 0-4-2 WT)
|unknown||1876||Delivered for the original colliery railway; never ran on the C&MLR.|
|Chevalier||Andrew Barclay & Co||0-4-0 ST
(converted to 0-4-2 ST)
|269||1885||Rebuilt in 1926 using parts from Princess|
|Princess||Kerr Stuart||0-4-2 T||717||1900||Skylark class, scrapped before 1931|
|Argyll||Andrew Barclay & Co||0-6-2 T||1049||1906|
|Atlantic||Andrew Barclay & Co||0-6-2 T||1098||1907||Identical design to Argyll.|
R.Y. Pickering & Co. of Wishaw supplied four passenger bogie carriages for the line in 1906. Each carriage had a central saloon with wooden tramway style seating for 64 passengers and open end platforms. Two further carriages were supplied by Pickering in 1907, the second of which had a central luggage compartment.
The carriages survived the closure of the line and in 1934 were moved to Trench Point on the other side of Campbeltown Loch where they were used as holiday homes. During the Second World War they were used by the Admiralty. After the war they were left to deteriorate until the remaining underframes were finally scrapped in 1958.
There are six saloon coaches on the 15 in (380 mm) gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria which are based on the exterior designs of the Campbeltown passenger stock, built in 1989 and 1990 for the Gateshead Garden Festival.
The colliery railway probably used mine tubs from the collieries' internal lines when it opened in 1876. By 1902, 18 flat four-wheeled wagons were in use, each of which carried four mine "hutches". The hutches were small mine tubs each of which carried 9½ cwt (480 kg) of coal. The hutches were mounted transversely on short lengths of rail on the main railway wagons.
With the rebuilding of the colliery line in 1906 the opportunity was taken to replace the hutch carrying wagons with more conventional stock. A set of 3¼ ton four-wheel open-sided coal wagons were purchased from Hurst Nelson Ltd. of Motherwell. Like the earlier colliery wagons, these had dumb buffers and centre couplings. Later batches of wagons were built to a 4½ ton design. In all the railway used approximately 150 coal wagons, all owned by the Campbeltown Coal Co. rather than the railway.
In addition to the coal wagons, the railway also had a small number of other freight stock, all owned by the railway company itself. A 7 ton brake van was supplied by R.Y. Pickering. The same company supplied an open-sided milk wagon based on the design for the 4½ ton wagon but with open spars extending above the sides to provide extra support for carrying milk churns. Finally the railway had a detachable snow plough and a small platelayers' trolley for maintenance work.
- A.D. Farr The Campbeltown & Machrihanish Light Railway, The Oakwood Press, 1967, ISBN 0-85361-351-6
- Nigel S.C. Macmillan The Campbeltown & Machrihanish Light Railway, David & Charles: Newton Abbot, 1970