The Campbeltown & Machrihanish Light Railway (Oakwood)

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Originally published in 1970 by David & Charles, with a second edition in 1993 by Plateway Press, this new edition by Oakwood has minor updates and some ‘new’ old photographs. After visiting Campbeltown in the early 1930s, and again in 1941, the author became interested in the Campbeltown & Machrihanish Light Railway, a 2ft 3in narrow gauge line in Kintyre, western Scotland, which had originally been built to move coal economically from pit to ship.

Coal working in the area had been taking place, on and off, since the 15th century and in the early days the coal was transported by cart or pack pony. This was not ideal and in the 1780s a canal was cut and was soon conveying around 4,500 tons of coal to Campbeltown yearly. By the time the National Coal Board started mining coal there in the 1940s the canal had been filled in, so a steam narrow gauge railway was a good solution to move the coal to Campbeltown.

When construction of the railway commenced in 1876 the route began at Kilkivan Pit and ran to the end of Argyll Street at Campbeltown. Coal was transported in hutches which were loaded onto flat wagons and pulled by an 0-4-2 tank engine, it then had to be transferred to carts in order for it to reach the ships; this constraint resulted in most of the coal being used in Campbeltown, and requirement was therefore very seasonal.

To improve this service and enable the railway to carry passengers, thus benefiting from the numerous holiday makers and day-trippers, the colliery engineer, T. L. Galloway, put forward a proposal to extend the line and applied for a light railway order. The Light Railway order was passed in 1905 authorising the railway to carry passenger and goods traffic between Campbeltown and Machrihanish.

In 1906 the newly extended line ran from the end of the New Quay at Campbeltown, with a passing loop at Lintmill, and at West Mechrihanish Farm the old line ran straight on to the colliery, and the new line branched off and terminated at Machrihanish. An 0-6-2 tank engine and four carriages were delivered in 1906 and after a trial run on 4th August 1906, the first fare paying passengers were carried on 18th August. Within three weeks of operation it had attracted 10.000 passengers. During the First World War coal production increased, sand was also mined for steel and glass making, and the railway thrived.

After the war competing services from buses, financial problems and the fact that Machrihanish coal wasn’t of especially high quality, all contributed to the demise of the line in 1933. Traces of the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway line are still visible along the route today.

A detailed account covering all aspects of the railway; also includes drawings of the locomotive and rolling stock both in use, and proposed.

Over 100 black & white illustrations. 136 pages

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