Closed Branches - Monday 18th April 1949
G.H. Robin, J.R. Robin
My father, G.H.Robin, kept written notes of all his railway journeys and I thought these may be of interest to today's enthusiast. In this the first one he mentions his good friend and mentor Davie Smith who is well known for his books on the GSWR. Davie reviewed all his material and would complain that my father was "the devil for detailing all that he ate during the trips" but this made no difference to future texts.
Moniaive: Moniaive Trip. Driver, Guard, Fireman. C.R. 0.6.0 57378. G H Robin collection by courtesy of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow 18/04/1949
Closed Branches - Monday 18th April 1949
In accordance with my policy to travel over as many branches as I have not yet had the pleasure of a journey, I made up my mind to make the 1949 start on the Glasgow Spring Holiday, and decided on the Moniaive Branch with a fine ambitious programme on the return from Dumfries via Lockerbie, Moffat, Wilsontown etc.
By the official courtesy of the high-heid yins of the British Railways I was furnished with an official pass to travel on the Moniaive freight. As this train departed about eight o’clock in the morning I had to stay in Dumfries overnight, and for this privilege I acknowledge the courtesy of Mrs G.H.
In accordance with my plans I set off for Dumfries on the Sunday evening, 17/4/49, per the 5.40 pm ex Central for Lockerbie. It had been a beautiful day and at the head of the train was 4.6.0. 45535, Sir Herbert Walker C.B.E., in rather a filthy condition and given the task of eleven passenger vehicles including two diners and two vans weighing 344 tons tare. We set off on time and owing to p.w. repairs we were run on the slow line from Gushetfaulds to Polmadie Bridge. This cost quite a little time and our recovery was easy and we did not exceed 56 m.p.h. at Uddingston but hung into it on the hill and our minimum speed up to Motherwell was 49 m.p.h. where we arrived one minute late. Leaving again on time I thought we took matters very easily up to Law Junction where we stopped although it was not so scheduled in the public timetable. Speed rose to 33 after Flemington but was down to 28 before shutting off for the Law stop. We restarted in 30 seconds but I did not time very seriously as it was now the dinner call and, as I had no other means of getting an evening meal, I adjourned to the Diner about Carluke. On the way back I noticed that we had shed our last vehicle of 22 tons tare and after passing Craigenhill summit at 30 m.p.h. we attained 64 ½ m.p.h. before stopping at Carstairs 33 mins. after leaving Motherwell, or 1 minute late.
Our restaurant car staff were pathetically slow and it was past Leggatfoot before we got our soup and approaching Lockerbie before we were finished. It was a poor meal (definitely my poorest in peacetime) and I was only able to make a few notes. We did 65 beyond Lamington, were just below 60 at Wandelmill and down to 56 at Abington but passed the summit in 28m 50sec from Carstairs at 36mph.
Speed rose quite normally once over the top, but we got a moderate p.w. (say 30) about mp 46 and once away we rose rapidly to exactly 90mph about mp 41¼ before brakes were slammed on for the stop at Beattock Station, where we arrived two minutes late. Having left Carstairs two minutes late we took our scheduled time all but 10 seconds.
We got away to time and by maintaining about 65 – 67 mph most of the way drew to a slow stop at Lockerbie with about 30 seconds to spare.
To be brief with the next bit I got a lumbering big bus to Dumfries and, after contacting the stationmaster, I got a bed in the Station Hotel (no less) because they were the only ones who would get me up for six the next morning. I wanted to catch the 6.38 am to Lockerbie and return immediately, due in at 8.09 am as the Moniaive goods was not due to leave until 8.45 am.
I got a very comfortable room, bed and bath, and the night porter brought up my breakfast at 5.50 am and so I was out in the station in plenty of time and found plenty doing. It was just on sunrise so was quite light.
Dumfries - Lockerbie
I found my train in platform No. 1 consisting of two ex L.N.W. bogies of 27 tons each and headed by the L.N.W. 2.4.2. 46635 augmented by Caley Jumbo 57509. Despite the early hour I decided to risk a photo (not bad). The Kirkcudbright train left with a jumbo, 2 on and 2 passengers (about) and at 6.38 I set out on my first new ground. We left on time and had a van for Lockerbie next the train engine. We swung round to the right across the main lines and round the curve and came to a cabin called Dumfries Goods Jct. after which the line became single.
On our left hand was Dunlop’s factory, while the main item of interest was an airfield full of derelicts on the right hand side which accompanied us for a long stretch. The line was fairly straight here and we crossed some marshy-looking ground as we climbed to the single platform station of Locharbriggs, situated on the Dumfries side of a large and extensive quarry. The line was single at the station, but there was an old passing loop just beyond. It was now steep down and through green fields in a succession of curves to the isolated platform which is Amisfield Station. There was no sign of nearby habitation, and as there was no sign of life on the platform we were not required to make the conditional stop.
We were now faced with a steep climb up through an earthwork cutting on which speed rose to 34 1/2 and after some more reverse curves Shieldhill station was passed.
Here is a passing place and fully signaled, but the box was 'out', and we took the points very slowly. The station had a single platform, but unlike all others this was on the North side of the track, and was very tidy, and while the station was quite 'open' there was a deep cutting on either side. We left on a sharp curve and a short distance later we reached the summit, and made down for Lochmaben. The Annan now appeared in its gravelly bed on the North side and kept us company for some distance. It was now the same fields and marshes as near Dumfries, while the distant scenery was very attractive, especially to the South, where a large hill or “Knock' was prominent. After a max of 47 3/4 mph. we arrived at the station of Lochmaben where we made our only stop. It must have originally been a passing place as two platforms are provided, but only the main one on the south of the line, is now in use, but the “run round' is still there. One railway workman boarded here.
When we left, Lochmaben Loch appeared on the right hand side, and the main road ran between us. After the latter diverted from us we crossed the Annan on a long low viaduct, which I would term as quite a 'Caley' structure. It was really a short distance to Lockerbie, which town was reached through a long, sharply curved and steep rock cutting. We had a signal check, but no stop, before trundling into the bay platform on the 'down' side of Lockerbie main line station.
Here the few Edinburgh passengers alighted, and I watched the fun of disposing of the van marshalled at the head of the train. It is too complicated to describe but the help of both engines was required. A 5P 4.6.0. and four corridors comprised the Edinburgh train.
After some delay, owing I believe to a strange signalman being in the box, we got a late start and I was informed that the signal could not be lowered because the Jumbo which had piloted us here was standing in the yard, and so was 'in the section”.
Then when we did get the right of way, something was found wrong with our brake and the driver had to walk back to the engine (pushing at the rear) locate the trouble and return to his post before we finally left eight minutes late. Behind the engine was a 'bread' van for Lochmaben, and all staff with the 'Key' had to assist in disposing of this wagon into the loop. All the while I was getting worried about too late an arrival at Dumfries. The box at Shieldhill was still “out', and I noticed that Amisfield was a very bad station to find, being situated round a sharp curve in an earthwork cutting at the foot of a steep bank. Must have been really difficult in the blackout. Having no pilot on this run I found the hills much easier as our wee engine made heavier work on them, and it was very steep up through the quarry to Locharbriggs where tickets were collected. We were now ten minutes late, but despite a signal check at Dumfries Goods Junction we economised handsomely to the Passenger station, and were only nine minutes down when we stopped in the mainline platform. The junction outside Dumfries is very strangely arranged, and trains from the Lockerbie direction have to cross the Glasgow lines and onto the Stranraer lines, and then use a crossover to come back on to the main line, thus twice fouling the 'Down' main line. I now alighted, crossed over the footbridge and set off to find Mr.Gass, the stationmaster.
I found the journey through to Lockerbie very pleasant as it was dry, but coming back there was a nasty raw wettish wind from the S.W. (according to my idea of direction), while there was a shower or two from Lochmaben onwards.
I found Mr. Gass as was arranged, and was extended every courtesy. My pass was all ready and I just had to sign on the dotted line. About 8.50 am the freight appeared and consisted of 2 of coal, 2 empties, a covered wagon for Sundries and brake, hauled by a very old Caley Jumbo', all nice and shiny being not long out of the shops and numbered 57378. It had been rebuilt in 1918, but was old enough to have an underslung tender. It was a dull morning just now, but later there were bright intervals and some heavy showers. The yard foreman came to the passenger station to see me safely aboard, and I was introduced to Mr. Blackstock the guard.
At a few minutes to nine we set off up the main line for Cairn Valley Junction, and at a very slow pace swung onto the branch. I had been told it was very curvy, but I had to wait for that. At first it was straight over rushy fields, with the track in a very overgrown condition. Still on the straight we crossed the main Kilmarnock road and then through a long narrow cutting and made our first stop, Birkhall Gates. Here the fireman alighted and opened them, while my companion got out and closed them behind us. Then we trundled on again to Irongray station, with a very careful stop for the gates at the Dumfries side of the station which are situated round a nasty curve in a cutting.
We stopped here, 5 miles from Dumfries, and did a bit of shunting and picked up a wagon of logs, and I took the opportunity to transfer my position to the more exciting one at the front end of the train. During the shunting operations our fireman was in possession of the box. We set off again on the straight and about a mile later entered the valley of the Cluden River, which water we soon crossed on a wooden viaduct. The scenery became much prettier now, the view in the distance was of Galloway hills, but locally it was quite sylvan. The grades now began and we curved our way up to Newtonairds right on the river bank. We wasted no time here and set off again along the river bank and amidst beautiful scenery and crossing many bridges we made our way up to the blot which is Morrinton quarries, and one mile further on (8 3/4 from Dumfries) we stopped at the tiny platform of Stepford.
Stepford: Moniaive Trip. Shunting at Stepford. C.R. 0.6.0 57378. G H Robin collection by courtesy of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow 18/04/1949
This station is also on riverbank and here we 'parked' the logs picked up two stations ago. During the shunting I took a photo. When we were due to leave we had to handle the gates at the far end of the station, this being the third set. We were now on the 1/65 and battled our way up the winding bank to the summit at Dunscore station.
Dunscore: Moniaive Trip. Dunscore station. C.R. 0.6.0 57378. G H Robin collection by courtesy of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow 18/04/1949
This was quite a busy place. It was approached through a deep curved cutting and proved to be a passing place with a complete set of signals. I had thought there were none on the branch. There were signs of habitation on the platform and the van of sundries was unloaded and a wagon of coal put into the yard. The station staff operated the box here, and it is of interest to remark that there is a water tank at either end of the platform. I took another photo here, and we picked up our new tablet and went off down the hill and it was straight for nearly the whole mile to Snaidmill Gates situated at MP.10. This seemed rather a ridiculous place for gates, as the half pebbles, half grass road went for only about 25 yards beyond the railway to the river bank. As a matter of fact 1 would have thought this to be SnaidFORD crossing, but I was informed otherwise. It was now a beautiful and curvy section for another mile along the riverbank to Snaidford gates, and now I take off my hat to the elderly lady; tall, lean and with a pleasant smile and a wave, who opened AND shut both gates for us here, which saved us from stopping and we continued the next mile along the twisting river to Crossford Station, situated at M.P.12, or 13¾ miles from Dumfries. This station was practically on the riverbank and had only a single line of siding, which unlike the other yards faced towards Dumfries. Here we encountered the sixth and last pair of gates, and after leaving here we passed Maxwelltown house with its 365 windows (one for each day of the year) on the right hand side across the Cairn River.
It was a beautifully kept white mansion and in very tidy surroundings. The railway was kind of 'switchbacky' here while the river twisted and turned in its tortuous bed. The bed was still very gravelly, and while the ground was very swampy a great deal of reclaiming had been done around here.
This section also featured a large number of bridges carrying the rails over the waters, and after 1 3/4 miles from Crossford we entered the last station before the terminus. This is Kirkland, and was featured by having no buildings at all. All the stations were of the same type; situated on the North (right hand) side of the lines, they were very short and had only a very small shanty to act as station buildings. Mr. Carter in his article in the January 1944 Railway Magazine may have been right about the poor quality of the structures, while Davie Smith will no doubt have been correct in his later comments informing us of their neatness and tidiness. Nowadays, after six years of 'wasting', they still have a certain neatness and tidiness.
It was now practically straight for the two miles into the terminus on the fringe of the small township. Here the staff was on the platform, and there was a coal lorry being loaded in the yard. We arrived without ceremony at exactly eleven o'clock: the fireman entered the box, I took some more photos, all the shunting was completed, and 57378 pushed her return train of one empty open, the closed van for sundries and the brake van into the passenger platform. The crew ate their piece, while the guard and I set off for the 'Town'. He had a message to do for himself, and I was told to take my time and find someplace to get 'a bite' and to return at my leisure - "they would just wait for me”. Very nice, so I adjourned and got a nice cup of coffee and a couple of buns.
Moniaive: Moniaive Trip. Entering Moniaive station. C.R. 0.6.0 57378. G H Robin collection by courtesy of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow 18/04/1949
I did not take long and returned along with the guard. A nasty shower came on and we all sheltered in the engine cab, and at twelve o'clock I took a photo of the three men on the platform, and we immediately set out tender first on the return journey.
It was now very sunny, and we set off into a nice balmy breeze. We had done all the work on the way up, and so we were free to go straight back to the Main Line Junction, except that we had to stop at Dunscore (which seemed to be the only place of any activity en route) for sundries. I had the opportunity to admire the scenery over the coals. This way I could see the curves to advantage and the beautiful shady views along the trees beside the river, and I took the chance to take some more photos. We stopped again at the same gates as before, while our kind lady friend once more obliged at Snaidford. Approaching Dunscore we found an advance signal situated well down the straight. We whistled several times as the same was at danger, and eventually a solitary spec was seen on the platform waving his arms. We went on in answer, and stopped for sundries and took water.
There was nothing more of note until we reached the junction where we were stopped to uplift a railway worker and an empty oil drum. We then trundled along the main line and into the passenger station at Dumfries where I bade farewell to my friends of this very interesting wee trip, and went back to Mr. Grass's office to hand back my permit. Thus ended to my delight the traveling over a very interesting little branch of 15 3/4 miles (17½ from Dumfries) which I thought was going to be denied me.
The Nith Valley
As we did not get back until 1.20 pm., I had of course missed all connections to Lockerbie, and then l was sore put as to how I could best utilise the rest of the day before darkness. Mr. Gass suggested I should go to Kirkcudbright, but I did not want to do so when I would have to go especially to Castle Douglas, and also I would not leave Dumfries again until 7.26pm., and in a very busy train from England, perhaps running late.
Now I am sure that while I have seen the Nith Valley in all conditions, from a beautiful spring morning to a beautifully placid snow covered landscape in a winter's full moon, that it must have been the summer of 1944 since I had last travelled here, so I decided on the 3.0 pm. local. This would give me a chance to see it from a slow train, and I would get off at Mauchline, try and thumb my way on to the Catrine Freight, and if lucky go by bus to Cronberry and get the evening passenger to Auchinleck, thus doing other two sections which were as yet undone by me.
I had a very comfortable and interesting journey over familiar ground, but there is nothing calling for special mention. We had 40663 and 5 corridors during a bright afternoon with slight showers, and we lost a little time to Mauchline. Here I alighted, took a photograph, and as the Western yards were empty I crossed over to the 'UP' ones, and was just in time to see a Jumbo and Brake sneaking out of the far end and away up the line. CURSES; I had just missed it!! What now?? I thought quickly, and found I had twenty minutes to catch a bus at the cross for Catrine, and I would try and make the return journey on the freight.
If I was refused permission I could still get the bus to Cronberry, and if I did get permission I could always try the passenger section another time.
Although the bus was very busy, and some were left behind, I got on and was taken to Catrine station, where I found some shunting going on. I contacted the guard and asked questions, and one favourable answer led to the asking of another question. So, now by the un-official courtesy of one of the vassals of the lower serfdom of British Railways, I was granted permission to travel not only from here to Mauchline, BUT also on to Ayr via TARBOLTON - another section closed to passenger traffic.
I waited on the passenger platform, and in due course 'Jumbo' 57351, stove- pipe fitted, pushed in quite a fair length of a freight. We then waited while the crew fed themselves, and then pulled up the long 1/60 up to Brackenhill Junction. Here we got a long signal stop, but eventually got away and into the 'Down' yard at Mauchline. 57351 watered and ran round and then crossed over to the Eastern yards and did some shunting, what time I stayed in the van (now next the engine) and got enough jostling to do me a lifetime. The 'boys' were in a hurry home, so they expedited matters and once more we got 'over the road' and made up our coal train for Ayr Harbour and at 7.15 pm approx. we set off on more new ground for me.
I was now up beside the works and we made a very gentle start over the brink here in case of a rug on the descent, but about a mile before the foot of the dip at the viaduct over the River Fail we got tore into it. We stormed down the bank and I was told to hang on like grim death. The warning was superfluous and after the regulator had been moved over several times I noticed that the reversing lever was right forward and nearly through the cab front! We hung into it and up to the summit at the very trim and pretty station of Tarbolton, all the time roaring and snorting like an enraged bull. We shut off now and put on the tender brake for the descent (we had 20 of coal on) and the crew informed me that the water was now 'oota sicht'. I looked - and so it was. They also said that when they had 30-40 wagons on that they came down the hill harder, so that must have meant full regulator and the lever out on the front buffer-beams.
This wee section really appealed to me, and must be and indeed have been, the scene of many a rush and sprachle. The scenery was beautiful near the viaduct, while the distant scene to the South was one of green plains rolling up to higher heights. And so it was gently down to Annbank where at the four-platformed - junction station I was once more on old ground. It was still easy on to Blackhouse Junction where we took the right hand fork round the back of the sheds to a signal stop at Newton. Here I waited for a little while and finally got off, bade farewell to more new friends, and set off towards Ayr, to get either the 8.35 pm. bus for Eaglesham, or if too busy to see Davie Smith for 5 minutes and then catch the 8.30 pm passenger.
I got a bus along right away and finding the queue already forming for the Eaglesham bus I made for No. 15. Of course I was about the last person on earth that David expected to see tonight but as it was now about ten past eight and neither of us knew of any specials being run tonight he put on his coat and accompanied me to the station to catch the 8.30 for St. Enoch. Naturally I had no ticket and did not fancy forking out 6/2 for a single so I asked for a Day return and put down 4/6. The booking clerk said that I could not return tonight, and I agreed but said that I would forfeit the return half. He then went one better and said that he could not issue a day return after the last opportunity was past to return that day so I went one better still and asked for a day return to Paisley as I could get the 9.45 pm. ex St.Enoch there. He consulted his timetable and found that I was right here and with rather a sheepish smile which he tried to suppress he issued me a return to Paisley for 4/5d.
The train came in from Girvan pretty well filled, but a special had just left Ayr for Glasgow making the stops that we were due to make, so we were not unduly crushed. My old friend 5575 'Madras' was in charge of a fair load of bogies and I am very sorry to say that we lost handsomely between most stations and with very little overtime at stations were 11-12 mins. down at Paisley Canal. I knew that I would have to offer to pay at St. Enoch, so to save confusion I alighted at Shields Road, after coming up the Canal at about the pace of a horse-drawn barge, and being now fifteen minutes down. I told the collector that I owed him the difference from Paisley. He was paralysed. “Excess from Paisley”?? “Where is that”? “What is that”??. To cut it short he lost chance of making a bob for himself and in his flustration gave me back my ticket and told me to lose it when I got to the street.
I now made my way to Strathbungo for the 10.10 ex Central to East Kilbride, but at 10.20 the signalman had not heard of it, so I had to scoot along to Victoria Road to catch the 10.20 bus ex Clyde Street.
And that was that and so ended another of my 'as much new ground as possible in one day' efforts.
It was really a very satisfactory tour in all ways. A few things did not go according to plan, but the alternatives easily atoned for that. That 90 down Beattock was great - especially in its 'unexpectedness', while that snorter down from Mauchline on the condemned Jumbo's footplate was my first real experience, though brief, of thunder and turf!
I still have a lot to do and as I go on holiday in ten days from now, I will see what I can do for myself then.
Day returns now re-introduced after the war. The price was usually cheaper than the ordinary single so you always bought the cheaper ticket and did not use the return half.