John Speller's Web Pages Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - Other Railways
Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway Untitled Untitled
The Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway must have been one of the most isolated railways in Great Britain, a 2 ft. 3 in. gauge line, many leagues from the nearest main line, on the Kintyre Peninsula in the County of Argyll & Bute. Coal was discovered near Machrihanish as early as the fifteenth century, and to faciliate the transportation of this James Watt was called in to build the Campbelltown and Machrihanish Canal, which opened in 1794. In addition Campbeltown was a major producer of Scotch Whiskey. By 1876, however, the canal was woefully inadequate and it was replaced by a 2 ft. 3 in. industrial railway four-and-a-half miles long and partly built along the old canal. Machrihanish was a major tourist center with a first class golf course, and to maximize their profit from the railway the owners decided to apply for a light railway order in order to allow the conveyance of passengers. The Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway Order of 1905 duly became law, and the railway opened to passenger traffic in 1906. Obtaining a ticket for the price of 7 shillings from any of the Caledonian, Glasgow & South Western or North British Railways in Glasgow, passengers could travel by a modern steamer owned by the shipping company Turbine Ltd. to Campbeltown, and thence via the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway to Machrihanish. On some weekends as many as 2,100 passengers a day were carried. Traffic declined, however, and the line closed in 1932. It would be interesting to speculate on how successful it would be in the tourist season if it were still operating today.

The Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway owned 5 locomotives in the course of its history, all but one of which were built by Andrew Barclay at Kilmarnock. The first of these, "Pioneer" was an 0-4-0 well tank purchased at the opening of the railway in 1876; following a minor derailment it was later converted to an 0-4-2 well tank. "Chevalier" was built as an 0-4-0ST in 1885, and in 1926 it too was rebuilt as an 0-4-2. The only non-Barclay locomotive was "Princess," a Kerr Stuart 0-4-2T delivered in 1900. For the introduction of passenger trains a rather larger locomotive was deemed necessary, an the line obtained "Argyll,"an 0-6-2T with outside Walschaerts' valve gear, from Barclay in 1906. A sister engine to "Argyll," "Atlantic" was delivered in 1907. The locomotive livery was a smart olive green lined out in black and yellow. The bogie passenger coaches, which were uncommonly comfortable and well-appointed for such a small railway, were painted olive green with cream upper panels.

The station at Machrihanish was close to one of the earliest transatlantic radio stations and an old postcard was captioned: "This way to America -- Rail to Machrihanish and thence per Wireless Telegraph to New York"!
Map of the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway from the 1906 Ordnance Survey Map. To enlarge click here
Postcard view of a passenger train at Machrihanish in around 1910
Andrew Barclay 0-6-2T "Argyll" with a passenger train waiting for the steamer at Campbeltown station in 1907
Builder's photograph of the last locomotive built for the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway, Andrew Barclay 0-6-2T "Atlantic," 1907
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