The Village Railway Stations
ADRIAN THARME, August 2018
This article is adapted from the handout notes I produced in 2016 to accompany a small
exhibition in the Community Library of photographs and storyboards outlining the history
of the two railway stations which served the village from 1840.
This exhibition was not intended to be a definitive history. Rather it was hoped that the
displays would serve as interesting background for more recent residents and to “jog happy memories” for longer term villagers. For schoolchildren and younger people an aim was to show how different the railway services of the past were from those of today.
The First Village Rail Service 1840
The Glasgow Paisley Kilmarnock & Ayr Railway Co (GPKA) completed a rail link from Glasgow to Ayr in 1839. The project had taken 6 years and Lochwinnoch Station opened as an intermediate point on the route on 12 August 1840. Within a year a schedule of five trains daily in each direction (except Sun) was being operated.
The Glasgow terminus for this line was Bridge Street on
the south side of the Clyde. From there the line to Paisley
(renamed Paisley Gilmour Street in 1883) was shared with
another rail company and included stops at Shields Road
and Moss Road (renamed Cardonald in 1879).
From Paisley to Ayr the track and stations were fully
owned by GPK&A. The stations on this line were Elderslie,
Johnstone (renamed Johnstone High from 1851 till 1962),
Cochrane Mill (renamed Milliken Park in 1853) , Howwood
(closed in 1842 and then reopened in 1876), Lochwinnoch,
Beith North, Kilbirnie (renamed Glengarnock in1951),
Dalry, Kilwinning, Irvine, Barassie, Troon, Monkton,
Prestwick, and Ayr..
The end-to-end journey took two and a half hours. This was
due not only to the lower speed capability of locomotives at
that time but also because the transit time at each stop included the loading and unloading of items being transported in the goods van
which was coupled to the passenger coaches. However, this was less than half the time taken by the Fair Trader Stage Coach which had provided the only previous transport between Glasgow and the Ayrshire coast via the Lochwinnoch Roadhead Inn.
Passenger carriages in the early days on this route were designed to hold 18 in First Class, and 30 in Second Class. Third Class carriages which had NO seats were situated next to the engine, followed by Second Class, then First Class and the Goods Van bringing up the rear.
The locomotives operating through Lochwinnoch in these early days were designed and built in Glasgow by GPKA. They were given names such as Eglinton, Phoenix, Prince Albert, and
Loudon. The engine pulling the first service through Lochwinnochon 12 August 1840 was the “Cutty Sark”.
The arrival of the railway reflected the
growing population of the village, its
continued industrial expansion, and the
increased need for faster and more
reliable transportation for people, mail
and goods to and from Glasgow and
Ayrshire. The impact on the social
development of the village was
significant and progressed Lochwinnoch’s
transformation from being a largely
self-contained and self-sufficient
The next developments
A series of mergers and amalgamations of regional private rail companies resulted in the formation of the Glasgow & South Western Railway in 1850. This company assumed responsibility for the management of the line from Glasgow to Ayr and in the ensuing years introduced three significant changes affecting Lochwinnoch.
The first was in 1876 when G&SWR established it’s Head Office at St Enoch’s Station in Glasgow. This led to the transfer of scheduled services from the old terminus at Bridge Street Station to
St Enoch’s resulting in a new route between the village and the city.
From 1876 trains operated from Lochwinnoch to Glasgow St Enoch’s Station via Paisley Canal Street, Hawkhead, Crookston, Corkerhill, and Cumberland Street in the Gorbals. This was the route operated for the next 90 years.
The second change was at Lochwinnoch Station where G&SWR built 7 cottages for local
railway workers. Station staff, signalmen, line maintenance workers and their families would
live in this railway hamlet until the cottages were demolished around 1960. Many locals will
recall the names of some of these railway cottage residents : O’Neil, Williamson, Fenion,
Gilmour, Douglas, McKinnon and latterly McGuire, McQuade, and Andrews. Sadly there is no
evidence of the cottages at the station today.
The third and most significant development was the establishment of a new loop line branching from the main Glasgow to Ayr track at Brownhill Junction near Dalry. This “Lochwinnoch Loop“ as it was known ran via Kilbirnie along the north side of the Barr and Castle Semple lochs stopping at the new stations of Lochwinnoch, Kilbarchan, and Johnstone North before rejoining the main line at Elderslie. A proposed station at Castle Semple never came to fruition but the planned site is still evident on the cycle track on the east side of St Bryde’s Bridge.
Glasgow & South Western Railway had bought land along this route over a number of years including the land in the village required for the new station, the railway sidings and coal yard
(Sandpiper Road and Station Rise). G&SWR also bought the Red House in Harvey Terrace as accomodation for the Station Master and Ardmannoch in Harvey Square for a senior manager based in Glasgow.
Hundreds of men were employed in the construction work and the 1901 Census lists the names of many of these workers and the sites of their temporary living quarters near the village.
The topography of the village was changed considerably by the creation of the embankment along which the track was laid. Where previously there had been an uninterrupted view of the loch, the embankment now obstructed this for much of the village as it was then.
This major engineering project was completed in 1904 and the first train service operated on 01 June 1905. As the new station was to be known as Lochwinnoch, the original station was renamed Lochside and this remained the case until 1985. The new station comprised of a Ticket Office, Lost & Found Office, Goods Office, two Waiting
Rooms (one of these was Ladies Only), the
Station Master’s Office, Porters Room, and
Ladies & Gents Toilets. The Waiting Rooms
were heated by large open fires – bliss on a
cold winter’s morning! Access to the
platforms was via subway tunnels from
Church Street and Lochlip Road. The latter
entrance is behind the bricked up section
under the bridge.
The number of daily passenger services
through the village station peaked at twelve
in each direction. Additionally there were freight trains bringing coal into the sidings yard or taking the barytes mined at Muirshiel to Glasgow for processing. This rail facility brought new employment opportunities to the village and older residents will recall the family names of some of those employed as station staff, line maintenance men, signalmen, porters etc including Wylie,
Ross, Richardson, Gibb, Price, Eadie, Grant.
A significant difference between the service provided in those days from that of today was the provision of mail and goods transportation on passenger trains. For the shops and factories this greatly improved access to needed materials and sales items. Heavy luggage and suitcases could be sent in advance, for example, to a family’s holiday destination on a door to door basis. Advance booking was, however, required when domestic pets, horses or livestock were to be transported! For example, an entire Lochwinnoch farm (yes, everything including cattle, sheep, and
hens, tractors and ploughs, plus all the farmhouse effects were transferred 550 miles on a special train from the village station to Bude in Dorset in 1952. (see footnote 1). In the Library archive there is also a “goods transportation” receipt in the name of Lady Lee-Harvey of Castle Semple House for transporting her horse from Lochwinnoch to Dunbar in 1879 at a cost of £1 and 4 shillings.
In 1921 Parliament passed the Railways Act which re-organised most private railways into four major companies. Both of the stations serving the village at that time came under the auspices of the largest of these, London, Midland & Scottish Railway ( LMS ), which was formed in 1923. No major changes to operations, other than increases to daily services, or changes to station facilities took place in the years running up to the nationalisation of the railways in 1948. The next significant change was the decision in 1955 to close Lochside Station as demand for passenger, freight and mail services continued to focus more at the station in the village.
In what was the “hey-day” of rail services in
the village many will recall not only the
scheduled services operated by steam
locomotives but also the special trains into
and out of the village. The former included
“Sunday School Trip Trains”, primarily but
not exclusively from Glasgow, which brought
hundreds to spend a day in Lochwinnoch
Public Park during the summer months.
The latter were mostly “Jimmy Speirs Specials”
taking village Darby & Joan Club members
(OAP’s) and their families on day outings to
various places such as Burntisland,
Dunfermline and Leven. The popularity of
these trips left the village a very quiet place
on those days! (see footnote 2)
Another “special“ train was the Saturday
night arrival from St Enoch’s at 6.40pm.
This brought the Final Editions of the
Glasgow Evening Times and Evening Citizen
containing the day’s football scores and
reports to the village. Both paper-shops
closed at lunchtime on Saturdays but
reopened to sell these papers – and there
were always queues!
The Beeching Axe
In the early 1960’s the British Railways Board commissioned a report to review it’s operations. “The Reshaping of British Railways” produced by Dr Richard Beeching was accepted by the Board and in 1963 this was adopted by the Government of the day. The result was the closure of about 1/3rd of the UK rail network including the Lochwinnoch Loop Line. A committee (Lochwinnoch Rail Users) was formed to oppose the proposed closure of the line and the village station and had great help from our then MP, Norman Buchan. It became quickly clear, however, that the closure decision would not be reversed and the Committee re-focussed its efforts on persuading British Railways to reopen Lochside Station which, though closed in 1955, had never been demolished. Negotiations were successful and on 27 June 1966 Lochside reopened using the old ticket office and waiting room.
The previous evening, Saturday 26th June, a much less welcome event had taken place at
Lochwinnoch Station when the last train operated. The train from Glasgow was met by the
Committee and many other villagers who draped black ribbons around the station and the front carriage before presenting the driver with a bottle of whisky which had a specially printed label stating that the driver had operated the last train at Lochwinnoch Station. Just two members of that Committee are around today, Marcus Gatheral and Adrian Tharme.
As part of the deal negotiated with British Railways to reopen Lochside a subsidised bus service was to be operated between the village and the station and scheduled to meet each departure and arrival. A small residual component of this deal remains in place today for some of the evening trains.
Another station which closed as a result of Beeching was St Enoch’s in Glasgow. Trains to and from the village transferred to Glasgow Central but still via the Paisley Canal Street route. It was not until the early 1980’s that the Paisley Gilmour Street operation was introduced.
Initially Lochside was manned by some of the staff who had previously worked at the station in the village. A few years later, as part of a cost cutting exercise, staff were brought in on a daily basis from Johnstone before, eventually and inevitably, Lochside became an unmanned station. In the early 1980’s electricification work was started on the Glasgow to Ayr line and on completion of the section through Lochside in 1985, the ornate metal footbridge linking the two platforms was taken down, the station buildings were demolished, and the station was renamed Lochwinnoch. The wheel is indeed round!
Today, twice hourly trains get you to Glasgow Central in about 30 minutes, usually in comfort and with reasonably good punctuality. It makes it hard to imagine the euphoria in the village when that first train operated on 12 August1840, especially if you had been travelling in 3rd Class with no seats!
The Noah's Ark train from Lochwinnoch
In 1952 Hugh MacLean-Walker, the tenant farmer of East Tandlemuir on the Muirshiel Road, was moving to a new farm at Bude in Cornwall. Such was the difference in services offered by British Rail in those days that this could be accomplished by a special charter train. Wagons were parked for two days in the sidings at the village station and every item from the farm was loaded. This included all household effects from the farmhouse, tractors, ploughs, other farm machinery and implements, AND all the livestock ! Cows, sheep,chickens, farm dogs were all brought down to the station close to departure time. The journey of 550 miles was, at the time, a British Railways record for the transportation of a farm.
Donald Maclean-Walker, now 79 (as of 2018) but just 4 when he travelled on the Noah’s Ark train with his parents, visited Lochwinnoch in 2008 and was delighted to see his family’s adventure featured in the library archives.
The Jimmy Spiers Specials
Throughout the 1950’s the Darby & Joan Club,
a social club for elderly village residents, went on day outings to various places in Scotland on specially chartered trains. These were organised by the Club President and local district Councillor, Jimmy Speirs. Members and their families would depart on these trains from the village station and en route therewere light refreshments donated by village businesses such as Struthers Lemonade and the bakery shops plus musical entertainment. At the destination people would have free time before meeting at a venue, more often a community or church hall, for a pre-arranged High Tea.These were very special days for the villagers of the 1950’s and all made possible by the service provided by British Railways from our local station AND a real Lochenyochian star, Jimmy Speirs.