The railway company received its Act of Parliament on 19 May 1836. It was planned as a 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) gauge railway, because, at that time, it was expected to be a purely local railway with no connection to the national network. The main part of the line, some 14.5 miles (23.3 km) from Arbroath to a temporary terminus at Craigie, opened on 6 October 1838. A 1.5-mile (2.4 km) extension to Roodyards, at the east end of Dundee, opened on 3 June 1839, and the final section, of only 0.75 miles (1.21 km) from Roodyards to Trades Lane opened on 2 April 1840.
It soon became clear that the railway could not remain isolated from the rest of the network, and on 19 May 1845 a conference was held in London between representatives of the Dundee & Arbroath Railway, the Dundee & Perth Railway and the Arbroath & Forfar Railway to agree how to provide through traffic over the three railways.
This required the line to be converted to standard gauge, which took place on 6 July 1847. Then, on 23 December 1847, a connecting line at Arbroath was opened, which linked it to the Arbroath & Forfar Railway.
On 31 August 1848, the Dundee and Perth Railway was authorised by Act of Parliament to lease the company, with the latter being renamed as Dundee and Perth and Aberdeen Railway Junction Company. Although the Dundee & Perth Railway operated the Dundee & Arbroath line and paid rental to the Dundee & Arbroath company, the lease was never executed, and the arrangement was dissolved on 9 March 1850. The Dundee & Arbroath worked its own undertaking again from that date.
The original terminus station in Dundee, Trades Lane station, was replaced by the new Dundee East station on 14 December 1857.
With the exception of the short spurs for the stations at Dundee East, Broughty Ferry Pier and Arbroath LadyLoan, the line is still open, with passenger services operated by First ScotRail and East Coast.
Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN1-8526-0508-1. OCLC60251199.