Paisley Canal line

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Paisley Canal Line)
Jump to: navigation, search
Paisley Canal line
Paisley Canal railway station - Feb 2013.JPG
System National Rail
Locale Glasgow
Termini Glasgow Central
Paisley Canal
Stations 7
Opened 1885
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) ScotRail
Rolling stock Class 314
Class 380
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 25 kV 50 Hz AC
Paisley Canal Line
Up arrow City of Glasgow Union Railway
Glasgow Central
enlarge… Shields Junction (simplified)
Down arrow Glasgow & Paisley Joint Rly
Park Halt
Left arrow
Paisley and Barrhead
District Railway
Right arrow
Saucel (goods)
Paisley Canal
Paisley Canal (original location)
Paisley West
UpperRight arrow G&SWR Barrhead Branch
Corsebar Jn │ Potterhill Jn
Meiklerig Junction
Up arrow
Glasgow, Paisley,
Kilmarnock & Ayr Railway
Left arrow
Paisley and Barrhead
District Railway
Right arrow
Elderslie East Junction
Elderslie West Junction
Johnstone Junction
Cart Junction
Down arrow Bridge of Weir Railway
Down arrow Dalry and North Johnstone Line
Down arrow
Glasgow, Paisley,
Kilmarnock & Ayr Railway

The Paisley Canal Railway line was originally a Glasgow and South Western Railway branch line running from Glasgow, Scotland, through three stations in Paisley, to North Johnstone. After leaving Paisley West station, near Ferguslie, the line continued to Elderslie junction where it met and crossed under the main Glasgow and South Western Railway line running from Paisley Gilmour Street station to Johnstone, and beyond. After Elderslie, the line terminated at North Johnstone, however another junction allowed services from the Paisley Canal line (also part of the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company) to continue onto the Bridge of Weir Railway and Greenock and Ayrshire Railway to the latter's terminus at Greenock Princes Pier.

The line is electrified at 25 kV AC.


The Ardrossan Canal[edit]

Paisley Canal line in 1885

The 12th Earl of Eglinton developed Ardrossan Harbour in the early years of the nineteenth century, at a cost of more than £100,000: he intended it as a sea port to serve the City of Glasgow, as the River Clyde was not navigable for large vessels at the time. In 1806 he obtained Parliamentary authority to construct the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal. He hoped that other businessmen would subscribe to his scheme, but in fact only £44,342 was forthcoming. Work started at the Glasgow end, but the canal only reached Johnstone, by which time all of the money had been spent, and debts of £71,209 had been accumulated. As part of a financial reconstruction, the canal's name was changed to the Glasgow, Paisley and Johnstone Canal.

His attention later turned to building a railway at the Ardrossan end, and this became the Ardrossan Railway; it too was to connect Ardrossan to Glasgow, and it too ran out of money, reaching only Kilwinning and Eglinton's collieries in the vicinity. On 5 July 1865 the G&SWR was authorised by Act of Parliament to acquire the canal (for £91,000); it had long since controlled the Canal Company, having purchased its debt in connection with acquisition of the Ardrossan Railway, with which its financial affairs had been intertwined.[1][2]

The G&SWR undertook to keep the canal open and operational, and to pay £3,471 annually to the canal company proprietors.[3] At the time therefore, there had been no declared intention to use the physical infrastructure of the canal, but at a Shareholders' meeting in 1879, the Chairman referred to a newspaper article claiming that the G&SWR intended to convert the canal into a railway line. At that time there was extreme sensitivity among shareholders over what some saw as the Directors' whimsical and expensive schemes, and the Chairman had to deny the claim. "That had not entered into the minds of any of the directors, nor was it thought of in the most remote manner, till they saw it in the newspaper." The suggestion "was perfect nonsense".[4]

Congestion on the joint line[edit]

The Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR) had main lines to Ayr and Carlisle; but the first section of the Ayr line was over the Glasgow and Paisley joint line: the line was operated by a Joint Committee, answerable to both the G&SWR and its rival, the Caledonian Railway. This lack of sovereignty was difficult enough in the railway politics of the time; but as traffic developed, congestion on the busy line became a serious issue. At that time goods traffic was heavy and slow, and line capacity and reliability were heavily compromised.

In the 1881 Parliamentary session, a Bill was lodged by the G&SWR to drain the Canal and convert it to a railway: exactly that which the former Chairman had described as perfect nonsense. There was no serious opposition now, and the Bill was passed,[3] and the G&SWR found itself having to find money for the line as well as the quadrupling of the joint line and the extension of Gilmour Street station at Paisley simultaneously. The canal had been built as a contour line, following exactly a particular altitude; this avoided locks at the expense of a circuitous route. Many of the loops taken by the course of the canal were eased in the railway construction by the use of earthworks.


Goods trains started running on the line in March 1885,[1] and the new line opened to passenger trains on 1 July 1885.[5] As well as local trains, some long distance expresses used the route; the best time from St Enoch to Paisley Canal was 17 minutes, compared with 16 minutes to Gilmour Street on the joint line.[1]

The following year the Potterhill branch of the Canal line opened, on 5 February 1886, reflecting the expanding industrial importance of Paisley. Eight westbound and seven eastbound stopping trains ran on the Canal line daily, of which five were extended to or from Potterhill; the others ran through to Johnstone. There was a triangular junction for the Potterhill line.

The Potterhill branch formed the base of the later Barrhead Branch

Carriage depot and engine sheds[edit]

In 1894-1895, construction work was going on to build extensive carriage sidings at Bellahouston, on the Canal line; and an engine shed was under way at Corkerhill, nearby. The availability of land at these locations rendered the schemes much more economical, at the expense of additional empty mileage.[1]


System map of the Paisley Canal Railway Line in 1886

The line left the City of Glasgow Union Railway (CGUR) at Shields Junction (at the point where the CGUR joined the joint line) and followed a course south of that route, running through the southern part of Paisley Burgh and rejoining the G&SWR line to Ayr at Elderslie. As the CGUR was controlled by the G&SWR, G&SWR passenger trains from St Enoch, and goods trains from College, could reach Ayr without the necessity of entering on any part of the joint line. Despite the easing of the worst curvature, the new Canal Line was unsuited to fast running due to the alignment. A loop in the canal was used to hold cooling water for the cotton thread mills at Ferguslie.

At Elderslie Junction it ran alongside the Glasgow and South Western Railway line running from Paisley Gilmour Street station to Johnstone and beyond, before crossing it via a dive-under crossing. The line terminated at a station at North Johnstone, however another junction near Elderslie provided access onto the Bridge of Weir Railway. This is not the G&SWR Johnstone North railway station on the Dalry and North Johnstone Line, but an earlier station of the same name at a slightly different location.[6][7][8]


Entries in italic were not passenger stations. Main line opened March 1885 to goods, 1 July 1885 to passengers. Closed 10 January 1983; reopened from Shields Jn to Paisley Canal (new station) 28 July 1990.

  • Shields Junction; with St Enoch line;
  • Bellahouston; closed except to workmen's trains 1 January 1917; reopened 1919; closed 20 September 1954; reopened and renamed Dumbreck 28 July 1990; Note: there had earlier been a Bellahouston station on the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Line.
  • Bellahouston Park Halt; opened by LMS 1925; closed 1 January 1939;
  • Corkerhill; opened 1 December 1896;
  • Mosspark; closed January 1917; reopened 1919;
  • Crookston; closed January 1917; reopened 1919;
  • Hawkhead; opened 1 May 1894; closed January 1917; reopened 1919;
  • Paisley Canal;
  • Paisley West; opened 1 June 1897; closed 14 February 1966;
  • Corsebar Junction; for Potterhill branch;
  • Potterhill Junction; for Potterhill branch;
  • Elderslie Canal Junction; with Gilmour Street to Johnstone line.

Potterhill branch. Opened 5 February 1886. Closed

  • Corsebar Junction and Potterhill Junction;
  • Meikleriggs Junction;
  • Potterhill; opened 1 June 1886; closed 1 January 1917.[9][10]

Blackhall Bridge[edit]

Blackhall Bridge 7 January 2015

The line crosses the White Water of Cart at Blackhall Bridge. This was originally an aqueduct, the River Cart Aqueduct, built for the Ardrossan Canal 1808 - 1810 under the direction of Thomas Telford. The contractor was John Simpson and the cost of construction was £5,440. It is a freestone masonry segmental arch of 88 ft 6in (27 m) span and a height over the water of about 30 feet (9 m). The bridge is probably the longest span masonry aqueduct of the canal age on a British canal, and one of the world's earliest bridges carrying a public railway. It was widened to carry the double track railway, and the line crosses the bridge at a slight skew because of the easing of the sharp canal curvature.[3][11]

Running difficulties[edit]

David L Smith recounts an anecdote illustrating the difficulty of working fast trains over the Canal Line:

In later years, as a driver, Coutts got no. 80, a Manson 4-4-0, and he had her a long while. One night he was on the 5.10 with her, 50 minutes non-stop for the 41.9 miles [from St Enoch] to Ayr; Felix Hill was firing to him. Well, some of the "Heid Yins" were going down to Turnberry Hotel for the weekend, and they were travelling in the Directors' Saloon, a vehicle which Mr. C Hamilton Ellis once described as of "more than imperial splendour". The G&SW men had no such reverence for it. They called it, crudely, and no doubt unfairly, "The Shebeen". Some economist at St Enoch thought that a bit of mileage might be saved by tacking "the Shebeen" on the back of the 5.10. Now the 5.10 in those days went out by way of Paisley Canal, a route which has about as much curvature per mile as the Darjeeling-Himalayan, and with only ten minutes allowed in which to cover the first 8¼ miles to Paisley, a driver hadn't much time to ponder over radii and centrifugal force.

Away they went, thunder-and-turf, out the Canal Road. Coutts took [the curve at] Saucel at about his usual [speed], and he slid the whole crowd in "The Shebeen" under the table. Paisley Canal station did the same; and so did Elderslie. Right out at the cow's tail and getting all the wag, the distinguished party had a pretty stormy trip all the way to Ayr, at which point the murder of Coutts was strongly advocated. But when they found that Coutts had actually lost a minute to Paisley, they began to think something must be wrong with the routing, so the 5.10 was altered to run via the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Line, which was at least straight.[12]

Later changes[edit]

The main difference between the original and current routes into Glasgow after 1966 was the alteration of Shields Junction to head to Glasgow Central instead of St Enoch, which was closed on 27 June 1966 to passenger services and 5 June 1967 to goods and parcel trains; the station was demolished in 1975 and the St Enoch Centre (taking its name from the former occupier of the site) now stands on the site of the old station.

Changes since 1960[edit]

Run down of passenger services[edit]

St Enoch station was closed by the Beeching Axe, together with the section of track to Shields Junction. Elderslie station closed in 1966 and was demolished.[7] Hawkhead and Paisley West stations also closed at the same time.[7]

Passenger services continued on the Paisley Canal Line until its closure, running from Glasgow Central station to Kilmacolm, and occasional trains to the Ayrshire Coast Line (using Class 101, Class 107 and Class 126 diesel multiple units among others). In latter years, as a cost reduction exercise, the signal boxes were only single shift manned, resulting in the last train of the day being around 7pm.

The line between Elderslie and Kilmacolm closed completely and between Elderslie and Shields Junction to scheduled passenger services on 10 January 1983.[7]

Use as a diversionary route[edit]

The tracks between Shields Junction and Elderslie Junction were used for another two or three years to enable heavy merry-go-round coal and iron ore traffic from Hunterston Ore Terminal, on the Ayrshire Coast Line, to bypass the main line between Elderslie Junction, Paisley Gilmour Street Station and Glasgow Shields Junction. There were also occasional passenger train diversions away from Paisley Gilmour Street due to works associated with the AyrLine electrification project.

However, even this traffic was diverted onto the line through Paisley Gilmour Street and the Paisley Canal line was closed completely to all traffic between Hawkhead and Elderslie, partly as a result of the resignalling scheme associated with the AyrLine electrification project resulting in the severing of the line at Elderslie. The section between Hawkhead and Shields Junction remained open to serve the oil depot.

Disposal of land at Paisley Canal and beyond[edit]

The track between Elderslie and Paisley Canal station was lifted in 1986, and the land around Paisley Canal station, including the line and the goods yard, was developed for housing.[7] The station building was converted for use as a restaurant[7] and the station footbridge was demolished and the space between the platforms filled in.

Much of the abandoned railway line beyond the original Paisley Canal station has now been developed into a cycleway and walkway operated by Sustrans.[7]

Partial reopening[edit]

Plaque at Paisley Canal station commemorating the 1990 re-opening of the Paisley Canal branch line

On 27 July 1990,[7] the line between Shields Junction and Paisley Canal station was reopened to passenger traffic by Strathclyde Passenger Transport and British Rail. A new Paisley Canal station was built just to the east of the Causeyside Street bridge.

The intermediate stations at Corkerhill, Mosspark and Crookston were reopened at the same time. Subsequently, new stations at Hawkhead (one platform) and Dumbreck (two platforms) were opened. The stations had a single platform.


As part of the 1980s Ayrshire Coast Line electrification the line between Shields Junction and Corkerhill Depot was electrified, enabling use of the depot by electric stock.

Electrification of the section of line from Corkerhill to Paisley Canal began in July 2012[13] and was completed in November 2012.[14][15]

Class 314 and Class 380 electric multiple units operated the service from December 2012.


The reopening of the section between Paisley Canal station and Kilmacolm has been proposed.[16][17]

Connections to other lines[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d David Ross, The Glasgow and South Western Railway: A History, Stenlake Publishing Limited, Catrine, 2104, ISBN 978 1 84033 648 1
  2. ^ Julian Holland, Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On: Memories of Britain's Lost Railways, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 2013, ISBN 978-1446302675
  3. ^ a b c Jean Lindsay, The Canals of Scotland, David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1968, ISBN 0 7153 4240 1
  4. ^ Report in The Scotsman newspaper, 25 February 1869
  5. ^ Stephenson Locomotive Society, The Glasgow and South Western Railway, 1850 - 1923, published by the SLS, London, 1950
  6. ^ Thomas, pull out map: Glasgow and the Clyde
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Wham, Journey A
  8. ^ 1st Edition Ordnance Survey, Sheet 30
  9. ^ Gordon Stansfield, Glasgow and Dunbartonshire's Lost Railways, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine, 2003, ISBN 1 84033 235 2
  10. ^ R V J Butt, The Directory of Railway Stations, Patrick Stephens Limited, Sparkford, 1995, ISBN 1 85260 508 1
  11. ^ Roland Paxton and Jim Shipway, Civil; Engineering Heritage: Scotland, Lowlands and Borders, Thomas Telford Limited, London, 2007, ISBN 978 0 7277 3487 7
  12. ^ David L Smith, Tales of the Glasgow and South Western Railway, Ian Allan Limited, London, undated
  13. ^ "£12m "alliance" investment for Paisley Canal line". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  14. ^ "Alliance cuts cost of Paisley Canal line electrification". Railway Gazette International. DVV Media UK. 11 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  15. ^ First ScotRail Ltd. "Paisley Canal timetable changes - ScotRail". Retrieved 2012-09-18. 
  16. ^ "Transport Scotland Proposals". Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  17. ^ "Office of Rail Regulation" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-01-07. 

Further reading[edit]

  • (N A), (N D). Sheet 30: Reprint of the first edition of the one-inch Ordnance Survey of Scotland: Glasgow & Greenock. (Revised to 1896). Ellon: Caledonian Books. ISBN 1-85349-030-X.
  • Jowett, Alan (March 1989). Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland: From Pre-Grouping to the Present Day (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-086-0. OCLC 22311137. 
  • Thomas, John (1971). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. VI Scotland: The Lowlands and the Borders (1st ed.). Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-5408-6. OCLC 16198685. 
  • Thomas, John; Paterson, Rev A. J. S. (1984). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. VI Scotland: The Lowlands and the Borders (2nd ed.). Newton Abbott, Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-9465-3712-7. OCLC 12521072. 
  • Wham, Alasdair (2000). The Lost Railway Lines South of Glasgow. Wigtown: G.C. Book Publishers. ISBN 1-8723-5008-9. 

External links[edit]