Thornton Yard

Location type


Name and dates

Thornton Yard (1956-)

Opened on the Thornton Marshalling Yard and Rothes Pit (British Railways).


This group of sidings is on the north side of the Dunfermline Branch (Edinburgh and Northern Railway) west of Thornton West Junction. The yard is a shadow of the marshalling yard it once was.

The western approach is at Clunybridge Junction, a single lead junction. The eastern approach is Redford Junction, another single lead junction. The Westfield Opencast branch, disused, runs north west from the east end of the yard. The southern part of the yard has several looped sidings (six - roads 13 to 18, the southern three much overgrown) and the northern has dead end sidings approached from the east (possibly one intact, but much overgrown). At the east end was Thornton Junction TMD, demolished in 2019. For years the yard has been used to store redundant stock, old DMUs, carriages, coal wagons, but even this has ended. The yard is not in regular use, sometime host to permanent way and other traffic.

The yard was developed in the midst of an area of mining. Nearby were the Bowhill Colliery washery, Westfield Opencast, Seafield Colliery and the planned Rothes Pit, a 'superpit' with a projected lifetime of a century.

The yard was laid out with up and down receptions at the west end of the site leading eastwards to a hump with a control tower and thirty five sorting sidings. The east end of the yard led directly to the NCB exchange yard for Rothes Pit. The up reception sidings were reached by a bypass line on the south side of the sorting sidings. It came into use 1956-58.

It was a sophisticated yard, radar could be used to gauge how much wagons would need slowed by the retarders, just downhill of the hump.

The Rothes Pit was not a success and its exchange yard was removed in the 1960s. (Its secondary connection, from the main line east of Redford Junction remained for many years.)

Around 1973-5 the hump was taken out of use and the reception sidings abandoned. Thornton Yard Tower was abandoned completely in 1975. Much of the northern part of the yard was disconnected at the west end. In 1980 the area came under control of the Edinburgh Signalling Centre, but the east end signal box Thornton Yard Signal Box remained to control the eastern approach to the sidings, Westfield branch and (after opening in 1984) Thornton Junction TMD.

East of Cardenden to the triangle of junctions at Thornton was a freight only area in the mid 1980s. Cardenden was a terminus. With the reduction of freight traffic a circular service was able to be introduced, known as the Fife Circle.

By the mid 1980s the southern yard remained largely intact, with 18 roads and the bypass line to the south still intact. The northern yard still had 11 roads.

With the general withdrawal of older DMUs and the end of most locomotive hauled trains the northern portion of the yard became a store for redundant stock. The southern part continued to be used for coal traffic and trips to locations such as Cameron Bridge, Methil, Rosyth Dockyard and Auchmuty Paper Mill. Much of this was lost during the run up to privatisation of British Rail when Speedlink traffic was discontinued. Methil Power Station closed around 2000.

With the removal of many sidings the yard became a coal loading point itself in the 2000s. Once redundant stock was removed the yard was rationalised to the six through sidings in the southern portion.



Yard sidings marshalling yard