Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway

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Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway
Locale Scotland
Dates of operation 13 August 1869 – 28 October 1880
Predecessor Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway
Successor Glasgow and South Western Railway
and Caledonian Railway
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
City of Glasgow Union Railway
Glasgow South Side
Polloc and Govan Railway
to Glasgow Central
General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway
Pollokshields East(CDR)
Cathcart District Railway
Pollokshields West(CDR)
Maxwell Park(CDR)
Cathcart District Railway
Pollokshaws West
Busby Railway
Thornliebank Goods
Priesthill and Darnley
G&SW Barrhead Branch
Paisley and Barrhead District Railway
Barrhead (New)
Barrhead Central(G&SW Barrhead Branch)
Paisley and Barrhead District Railway
Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
Lugton East Junction
Lugton North Junction
Lugton South Junction
Giffen North Junction
Beith Town
Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway
Kilmarnock and Troon Railway
Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway

The Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway was a railway jointly owned by the Caledonian Railway and the Glasgow and South Western Railway, completed in 1873, and giving the latter a shorter access to its Carlisle main line. A branch to Beith was also built.

It was formed by extending the earlier independent Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway, which is also described here; that line was taken over by the joint company.

The main line between Glasgow and Kilmarnock continues in operation at the present day. The station at Neilston was closed, and the locality is served by a different line.


Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway[edit]

The Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway (GB&NDR) was authorised on 4 August 1845 to build its line of nine miles (15 km) with a capital of £150,000. It was to run from a terminal on the south side of Glasgow to Crofthead, near Neilston. The location was the centre of several local industries, in the valley of the Cowdon Burn, on the Ayr Road below Neilston.

Two short branches, to Thornliebank, and to Househill were authorised in the following year, with an additional £35,000 capital.[1]

A Glasgow terminal[edit]

The Glasgow terminal was somewhat remote from the city—Glasgow Bridge carried a toll at this time—but a small railway company could ill afford a central terminus.

Many early railways had been simply a means to move coal and other heavy minerals from a pit to a waterway. By the 1840s it was evident that they had a more strategic role, and in 1846 a Royal Commission deliberated on the desirable location of passenger and goods terminals to serve the city of Glasgow and the quays on the Clyde.

The Caledonian Railway CR had just been authorised (in 1845) and planned to get access to the city over the route of the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway (by now transformed into the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway) which terminated at Townhead, in the north-east margin of the city. Taking a strategic view the CR hoped to get authorisation for a more central terminal, and it collaborate with the GB&NDR to promote a passenger terminal in the city centre. Together they proposed the Glasgow Southern Terminal Railway, which would be located near St Enoch's Square, crossing the Clyde near Glasgow Bridge. It got as far as an authorising Act of Parliament, on 16 July 1846, but the details were left subject to approval by various authorities. In fact the Admiralty demanded a swing bridge for the Clyde crossing, and combined with other opposition, the scheme faced too much obstruction, and was reduced to the construction of a terminal station called South Side, in the angle of Pollokshaws Road and Cathcart Street.[2]

The Glasgow Southern Terminal Railway was absorbed by the GB&NDR by Act of Parliament of 2 July 1847, which also authorised a deviation of the route.[1] The CR also obtained authority to lease the GB&NDR line.

The Caledonian interest[edit]

At this period the Ardrossan Railway had grand plans to reach Glasgow from Ardrossan, where the 12th Earl of Eglinton had expended considerable sums improving the harbour; the Ardrossan Railway was largely sponsored by him. Its natural enemy was the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway (GPK&AR), which was building in that part of Ayrshire, and the Ardrossan company had purchased large quantities of GB&NDR shares, "to stop the Glasgow and Ayr swamping it".[3] If the Ardrossan company was hostile to the GPK&AR, then the Caledonian was a friend of the Ardrossan. A physical link between the GB&NDR and the Ardrossan company had been suggested, and the Caledonian calculated that possession of the GB&NDR would give it access to much of Ayrshire, beating off the GPK&AR.[note 1] In 1846 the Ardrossan Company had obtained Parliamentary authority to build a line from Crofthead, intended terminus of the GB&NDR, and Kilwinning and Kilmarnock.[2]

The GB&NDR opens[edit]

GB&NDR system in 1848

The GB&NDR opened its line as far a Barrhead terminus on 27 September 1848; the station was in the Grahamston district below the town, and on the north-west side of the Water of Levern. The Glasgow station was South Side.

Lease finalised[edit]

The 1847 Act had merely authorised the lease by the Caledonian; the terms had to be negotiated, and these were being finalised by a further Act of 1 August 1849, by which time the CR had succeeded in reducing its financial commitment to the original GB&NDR shareholders; even so the outlay was £16,500 on a 999-year lease; "receipts were barely enough to cover the working costs".[2]

South Side station[edit]

On 1 June 1849 the Clydesdale Junction Railway CJR was completed, terminating at South Side station. The CJR was effectively under the control of the Caledonian Railway, and trains to and from England now used the station. From 10 September 1849 trains from the Hamilton line also used the station. In that year the station was rebuilt to a design of William Tite; although cramped, the facade was imposing.[2]

Extending to Kilmarnock[edit]

In 1865 the G&SWR promoted a Bill to build a line from Kilmarnock to Glasgow via Stewarton—the direct route which the citizens of Kilmarnock had wanted from the GBK&AR at the outset. The Caledonian responded with a Bill to extend the Glasgow Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway, which they leased and worked, from Crofthead (i.e. Neilston) to Kilmarnock. Both these schemes obtained Parliamentary authority. The lines would be closely parallel, and at this time the respective shareholders strenuously made it clear that the duplicate expenditure was wasteful.

At first the compromise was that the two routes would converge at Stewarton, continuing as a single route to the G&SWR station at Kilmarnock. In fact the proposals were held in suspense for some time, until in the 1869 session a Bill was put forward merging the schemes entirely: the rival companies agreed to build the line jointly from Crofthead to Kilmarnock. This was authorised by a fresh Act of Parliament on 12 July 1869, which cancelled the two earlier Acts. The line was to be called the Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Line. The G&SWR had already constructed a short length northwards from Kilmarnock, and now extended that to make an end on junction with the GB&NDR line at Neilston. By then a new station had been opened at Neilston, on 27 March 1871, forming the temporary southern extremity of the GB&NDR line.[4]

GB&KJR system in 1873

The line between Barrhead and Neilston was closed temporarily from 1 May 1870 to enable the doubling of the line; the new Neilston station was located a short distance on the Kilmarnock side of the former location.[5][6]

The 1869 Act had authorised building a short connecting line from near South Side to the City of Glasgow Union Railway, which had been authorised in 1863, so as to enable G&SWR trains on the Kilmarnock line to reach the planned St Enoch (passenger) and College (goods) terminals. The Act included a clause imposing a penalty of £60,000 if the through line were not ready by 28 June 1872.

In fact the deadline was not met: the line was opened only as far as Stewarton on 27 March 1871.[5] An Act of 25 July 1872 removed the penalty as well as clarifying the City Union line connection. The through route was opened on 26 June 1873. As well as the line from Glasgow to Kilmarnock, there was a branch to Beith from Barrmill, opened on the same day. However the Glasgow terminal remained the awkwardly located South Side station: the connection towards St Enoch was not ready.[note 2] The former Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway company was bought out.[4][5][7]

The new route was difficult to operate: "a veritable switchback" with 3½ miles (5 km) of 1 in 67-70 on Neilston bank.[4]

The G&SWR discontinued its passenger service from South Side station towards Kilmarnock on 1 September 1877.


While Glasgow commuting built up in the 1960s, the outer limit of frequent passenger train services was Barrhead. The Neilston station on the line was closed, as the alternative line to Neilston High was electrified. The East Kilbride line, branching from the Kilmarnock line at Busby Junction, assumed greater importance as the housing construction there developed.

The track between Barrhead and Kilmarnock was singled as part of the rationalisation of the route in the mid 1970s following the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, with a passing loop at Lugton. However, in 2009 the section between Stewarton and Lugton was redoubled, forming a dynamic loop, as part of capacity improvements between Glasgow and Kilmarnock.

The section from Strathbungo Junction to Cumberland Street Junction, by which trains reached the City Union Line from 1873, has been closed.

The line to Beith closed to passengers on 5 November 1962 and to freight two years later.

In 1968 the severity of rationalisation was such that the line was to be closed, and trains diverted via Paisley and Dalry—the original GPK&AR route.[8] In the event this was not done, and the Dalry - Kilmarnock route closed.

Current operations[edit]

The main line is open and carries (2015) a typically half-hourly passenger service running from Glasgow to Barrhead and then all stations to Kilmarnock; in addition a half-hourly service runs from Glasgow Central to Barrhead, calling at all stations. There is a limited Sunday service.[9]

At Lugton, there is a goods-only branch line to Barrmill Munitions Depot; however the rail facility is dormant. The route uses the first part of the Beith branch as far as Barrmill, then continuing on the former Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway route.


Note: entries in italics were not passenger stations. Entries in bold are still open.

  • Cumberland Street Junction; junction from City of Glasgow Union Railway;
  • Langside Junction; junction from Larkfield Junction on Motherwell line (CR);
  • Strathbungo Junction; junction from General Terminus, CR;
  • Strathbungo; opened 1 December 1877; closed 28 May 1962;
  • Crossmyloof; opened June 1888;
  • Pollokshaws; Pollokshaws West from 1952;
  • Busby Junction; junction towards East Kilbride (Busby Railway);
  • Crofthead; Kennishead from 1850; junction for Spiersbridge; (also known as Kinnishead, Thornliebank and Spiersbridge variously before 1850);
  • Nitshill;
  • Priesthill and Darnley; opened 1990;
  • Barrhead; junction for Potterhill (G&SWR); relocated 17 October 1978;
  • Crofthead; Neilston from 1868; closed 1 May 1870;
  • Neilston; opened 27 March 1871; Neilston Low 1953; closed 7 November 1966;
  • Caldwell; Uplawmoor from 1962; closed 7 November 1966;
  • Lugton; junction from Neilston High (L&AR); junction towards Beith; closed 7 November 1966;
  • Dunlop; closed 7 November 1966; reopened 5 June 1967;
  • Stewarton; opened 27 March 1871; closed 7 November 1966; reopened 5 May 1967;
  • Kilmaurs; closed 7 November 1966; relocated and reopened 12 May 1984;
  • Kilmarnock; junction from Dalry (G&SWR).

Spiersbridge branch

  • Crofthead;
  • Spiersbridge; opened 27 September 1848; closed 1 May 1849; sometimes spelt Speirsbridge;
  • Spiersbridge goods.

Beith branch

  • Lugton;
  • Barrmill; opened 26 June 1873; closed 5 November 1962;
  • Beith; opened 26 June 1873; Beith Town 1953; closed 5 November 1962.[10]


  1. ^ a b E F Carter, An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Cassell, London, 1959
  2. ^ a b c d David Ross, The Caledonian—Scotland's Imperial Railway—A History, Stenlake Publishing Ltd, Catrine, 2013, ISBN 978 184 033 5842
  3. ^ Statement by Lord Eglinton, quoted in Ross, page 56
  4. ^ a b c David Ross, The Glasgow and South Western Railway: A History, Stenlake Publishing Limited, Catrine, 2014, ISBN 978 1 84033 648 1
  5. ^ a b c Stephenson Locomotive Society, The Glasgow and South Western Railway 1850–1923, The Stephenson Locomotive Society, London, 1950
  6. ^ Campbell Highet, The Glasgow and South Western Railway, Oakwood Press, Lingfield, 1965, page 38
  7. ^ Ross, Caledonian, page 105
  8. ^ H C Casserley, Britain's Joint Lines, Ian Allan Limited, Shepperton, 1968, ISBN 0 7110 0024 7
  9. ^ Scotrail publicity
  10. ^ M E Quick, Railway Passenger Stations in England Scotland and Wales—A Chronology, The Railway and Canal Historical Society, 2002


  1. ^ The GPK&AR formed the Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR) in 1850.
  2. ^ Highet implies on page 38 that it was opened in 1873.


External links[edit]

  • [1] Commentary and video on the Lainshaw or Annick Water Viaduct at Stewarton.