Fife Coast Railway

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Fife Coast Railway
Locale Scotland
Dates of operation 1887 – 1969
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
The St. Andrews Railway
St Andrews
Mt. Melville
St Monans
Lundin Links
Cameron Bridge
Edinburgh and
Northern Railway
Edinburgh and
Northern Railway
Glen Class D30 "Glenfinnan" leaving Largo on Fife Coast Railway Line in 1958

Fife Coast Railway. Three different companies were involved in building a railway round the Fife coast of Scotland. The Leven Railway opened the section from Thornton to Leven in 1854. Since John Haig, proprietor of Haig's whisky, was also chairman of the railway company, an extra station was constructed at Cameron Bridge to serve his distillery. The line was worked by the Edinburgh, Perth & Dundee Railway. The East of Fife Railway built a line from Leven to Anstruther opening in 1857. Finally the Anstruther and The St. Andrews Railway completed the line to St Andrews in 1887. Apart from the termini at Thornton and St. Andrews fourteen other stations were constructed. The first two companies amalgamated in 1861 to become the Leven and East of Fife Railway. [1] A further amalgamation with the North British Railway occurred 1877. The Anstruther and St Andrews Railway remained independent till 1897 before becoming part of NBR .In 1923 following the grouping it became part of LNER then, following nationalisation in 1947, was taken over by British Railways.


There was considerable hostility from the local landowners while the line was being built. In spite of the fact that the railway company had bought and paid for the land the line went through, the farmers objected to their crops being destroyed. [1] The engineer appointed to build the Leven line was Thomas Bouch. This engineer achieved notoriety 30 years later as one of the people considered responsible for the fall of the first Tay Bridge. He did not build the line to the approved plans. The curves were sharper, the gradients steeper and the ballast not deep enough. [1] The railway company's board had great trouble in communicating with their engineer. The directors of the The East of Fife Railway, hearing of the trouble caused by Thomas Bouch, appointed his assistant as their engineer. Most of the line crossed reasonably flat country. However, the section from Anstruther to St Andrews contained some steep gradients, the greatest of these being 1 in 50 between Mount Melville and St Andrews.


In the early years of the Leven line there were problems with engines. Hawthorn & Co. Leith Engine Works, Great Junction Street, Leith owned by R & W Hawthorn of Newcastle Upon Tyne supplied the first one. It proved unsuitable for the line. It could not go round curves safely at a speed necessary to maintain the service. This was almost certainly because the line had not been built to the original plans. This locomotoive was later sold to The Caledonian Railway for £1900. Another one was ordered from the same company which suffered from early mechanical problems. [1] Steam tended to escape from the boiler and the cylinders. There was also trouble with wagons being unable to carry the required weight. It was reported that, when a load of one ton was placed on a wagon, the springs were so depressed that the buffers went under those of the neighbouring wagon.[1] So great was the demand from the local farmers and fishermen for railway services, that, following the amalgamation with The North British Railway, a powerful 6 wheeled locomotive was brought in to haul the freight trains.

Glen Class D 30 "Glen Douglas" at Mount Melville with RCT railtour round the Fife Coast from Thornton to Leuchars Jct at Mount Melville in 1960


In 1910 it took 2 hours for local trains to travel from Thornton to St Andrews and there were 5 trains each day. At holiday times there were special excursions. In the same year a Fifeshire Coastal Express from Edinburgh and Glasgow was started. This service continued till 1960.[2] A large quantity of fish was transported by freight trains. In one day, in 1865, 190 wagons left the East Neuk of Fife, many of them bound for England. [2]


In the 1960s the line became uneconomic and the section from Leven to St Andrews was shut to passengers in 1965 and to freight in 1966. The remainder of the line from Thornton to Leven was closed in 1969. However, whisky distiller Diageo, is having talks with Network Rail about the possible reopening of this four mile section of the line. The branch, just north of the Fife Circle Line, could also be used to join Levenmouth to the passenger rail network, a project which local authorities are pursuing with Transport Scotland. Parts of the line have been used for the Fife Coastal Path, a popular walking route.

Dismantled railway near Largo. Now part of the Fife Coast path


  1. ^ a b c d e Thomas, John (1976). Forgotten Railways Scotland. David & Charles. pp. 15–22. ISBN 0-7153-7185-1. 
  2. ^ a b Bruce, William Scott (1980). The railways of Fife. The Melven Press. pp. 103 – 105. ISBN 0-906664-03-9. 

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