John Speller's Web Pages Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - L&NWR, MR, G&SWR and CR Joint

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Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway

On 10 August 1857 the Port Patrick Railway obtained an Act to build a line from Castle Douglas on the Glasgow & South Western main line to Portpatrick on the west coast, where there constructed a port and harbor. The location at Portpatrick proved so exposed that it was later necessary to build a short branch to Stranraer and construct another harbor there. The Larne & Stranraer Steamship Company, formed in 1871, provided daily steamship service between Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Wigtownshire Railway, which was formed in 1872, built a branch line from Newton Stewart on the Port Patrick Railway to Wigtown, which was later extended to Whithorn. Following protracted battles between the Midland and Glasgow & South Western Railways on one hand, and the London & North Western and Caledonian Railways on the other, both the Port Patrick and Wigtownshire Railways were merged by an Act of 1 August 1885 into the Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Committee. This was jointly owned by the Midland, London & North Western, Glasgow & South Western and Caledonian Railways in equal shares. The Joint Committee put a considerable investment into expanding the harbor at Stranraer and there was for many years a very lucrative ferry trade using the shortest sea route between Scotland and Larne, Belfast and Northern Ireland. Both the Glasgow & South Western and Caledonian Railways ran boat trains from Carlisle to Stranraer over the Joint line, and the Glasgow & South Western Railway also ran a boat train, nicknamed "The Paddy," from Glasgow via Ayr to a junction near New Luce using the Girvan & Portpatrick Junction Railway. The latter line, built by the Glasgow & South Western Railway and opened in 1876, provided a shorter route from Glasgow to the Joint line than the existing one via Kilmarnock and Dumfries. All this led to a rather complicated management situation and, for example, the signalling was the joint responsibility of the G&SWR and CR, who operated it in alternate years. Somehow the Caledonian seemed to manage to get the G&SWR to be operating in the most expensive years! It was the job of the Secretary of the Joint Committee to bring some order out of all this administrative chaos. Before 1885 this was a Mr. Cumming, and from 1885 to 1913 it was Frederick W. Hutchinson (b. 1842).

Following nationalization the Portpatrick Joint went into a period of rapid decline and closure. First was the Stranraer Town to Portpatrick section, which closed on 6 February 1950, though milk traffic continued between Colfin and Stranraer until 1959. Next came the Whithorn branch, which closed to passengers on 29 September 1950 and to goods on 5 October 1964. Most of the rest of the line, from Challoch Junction near Glenluce to Castle Douglas, together with the Castle Douglas to Dumfries section of the former G&SWR closed under the Beeching Axe on 14 June 1965. Only the Challoch Junction to Stranraer section is now open, and most trains run from Glasgow Central via Ayr to Stranraer. Nevertheless there have been some recent attempts at more imaginative services, including a Newcastle-Carlisle-Dumfries-Kilmarnock-Ayr-Stranraer service. For a video of two Stanier 4-6-0's at Stranraer, click here. A National Library of Scotland video of the Dumfries to Stranraer line before closure may be accessed from this webpage.
Loch Ken Viaduct, Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Railway. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Stranraer Engine Shed.
Newton Stewart station, Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway, junction for Wigtown and Whithorn
Stranraer-Carlisle boat express behind G&SWR Manson 4-4-0 No. 78 at Gretna Green station in around 1905
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