Dundee to Newtyle Railway
Scotland's 1st passenger railway
Main dates covering the history of the line:
- 5 January 1825 Proposal for a feasibility study to build a railway from Dundee to Strathmore.
- 16 June 1826 First meeting of Dundee and Newtyle Railway company.
- January 1827 Hatton Incline – Auchterhouse Moss – Balbeuchly Incline section of the line completed. Sandstone for sleepers was quarried from Pitnappie.
- 16 December 1831 Regular passenger service commenced. A coach left Newtyle at 10.00am daily, using the Hatton incline, being drawn up by the newly installed stationary engine. After the top of the incline, a horse or horses provided the traction and the coach left Dundee for the return journey at 3.00pm. The initial trains did not use the Law incline and tunnel as these were not yet complete.
- April 1832 Completion of Law incline and tunnel, including the stationary winding engine. Stationary engine at Balbeuchly installed about the same time. From 1832 there were three journeys a day at 8am, 10.30am and 4pm, departing from the Ward Road station.
- October 1833 Two steam locomotives the Earl of Airlie and Lord Wharncliffe replaced the horses on the level sections.
- 15 June 1834 Locomotive derailment at Pitpointie resulted in the death of John Anderson, miller at the Mill of Auchterhouse.
- September 1846 Lease of Dundee and Newtyle Railway by Dundee and Perth Railway, thus enabling the future Lochee deviation.
- November 1860 Completion of Auchterhouse deviation, removing the Balbeuchly incline, requiring the repositioning of Auchterhouse station.
- May 1861 Completion of Lochee deviation, round by Ninewells, removing the Law incline.
- July 1861 Completion of Alyth branch from Newtyle.
- July 1865 Caledonian Railway takes over the running of the line.
- August 1868 Completion of Newtyle deviation eliminating the Hatton incline.
- January 1885 Fairmuir branch from Lochee (goods) open for traffic.
- 1889 Opening of new (final) Dundee West station.
- January 1893 Alterations to Auchterhouse station including a new platform, waiting shelter, new signal box and a footbridge, and a new single siding.
- July 1923 Grouping – Caledonian Railway becomes part of London, Midland and Scottish Railway.
- February 1947 Line blocked by severe snowstorms; a train was snowed in for over a week
- 10 January 1955 Passenger services on the Newtyle branch were withdrawn.
- 5 May 1958 Section between Newtyle junction and Auchterhouse was closed.
- 5 April 1965 Section from Fairmuir junction to Auchterhouse was closed.
In 1840 the carriage stock consisted of first class and mixed coaches. The first class had three compartments, each seating 8 people.The mixed carriages resembled stage coaches, with the addition of an entirely open compartment before and behind. The numbers of passengers carried in 1833 was 31,000; this rose to 61,000 by 1839.
Mr Cox was the first station-master (see gravestone inscription).
The railway in its early days carried a lot of goods traffic, most of which was from Dundee to Newtyle, and consisted mainly of coal and lime. In the other direction much stone was carried from the quarries of Perthshire and Angus for the construction of buildings in Dundee. There were seasonal deliveries of fruit in the direction of Dundee as well.
Journey time from Dundee to Newtyle took one and a quarter hours, before locomotives were used and one hour once they were deployed. Horses still had to be used at some points.
Early fares were 1s 6d inside, 1s outside Tuesdays and Fridays (1831) - additional covered cart for the use of country people taking produce to Dundee (1s 6d return)
Starting in Ward Road, Dundee the original line ascended the slope of the Law (Hill), and near the summit passed through a tunnel to begin the descent to the Dighty valley. The three inclines at the Law, Balbeuchly and Hatton, were negotiated by means of stationary steam engines and rope haulage. The line length was 11 miles. (See the map for details of the route of the original railway and the later deviations).
From Balbeuchly, the summit level, the line ran through Pitpointie and above Eastfield to the depot at Auchterhouse. On the level sections of track the traffic was pulled initially by horses, occasionally helped by the wind when it was favourable. This was accomplished by the hoisting of a wagon sheet on a pole attached to the carriage. The line from the back of the Law ran through two stations; one at Baldovan (Downfield) and the other at Baldragon (close to the village of Bridgefoot). In the early days there was also one at the back of the Law called Crossroads Station.
Eventually steam locomotives were obtained for the level sections. The journey from Dundee to Newtyle could easily take 11/2 to 2 hours and it was resolved quite early on to get rid of the inclined planes. The first one to be removed was Balbeuchly incline which became redundant when the Auchterhouse deviation was created.
The path of the early Balbeuchly line can still be seen. Part of the embankment upon which the inclined plane was built still exists, where it crosses the road slightly to the west of Leoch farm. The line proceeded from Balbeuchly by a route which is now the west driveway of Pitpointie farm, to cross under the Auchterhouse – Dronley road by a bridge which still exists. The underpass of this bridge was bricked up a few years ago. The line then proceeded to Auchterhouse station where it passed through a bridge under the start of the Avenue (probably the existing one).
The line then took a line through the middle of what is now Auchterhouse shooting ground, and across an area of ground called Pitnappie Moss. The original line crossed the Bonnyton/Henderston Road roughly where the later bridge can still be seen, the earlier route being by a level crossing.
It then proceeded past Millhole Farm to the top of the Hatton Incline, where the last inclined plane was negotiated. This led straight down into the original Newtyle Station, whose building still stands. (Again see map).
The Auchterhouse deviation added one station to the route: that of Dronley. After this new line was created, schemes were investigated to eliminate the Law incline and tunnel. As suggested earlier, this was to speed up traffic, but also to make the line safer, as quite a large number of accidents occurred on the incline planes due to trains running away. Within a year or two after the Auchterhouse deviation was constructed, a completely new line was proposed which linked up with the then new Dundee-Perth line and thence to the new Dundee West station. This line left the main Dundee Perth line at Ninewells, passed near to Liff (where there was a station of that name), and proceeded to two further stations of Lochee West and Lochee, where the ornate station building which is now Lochee Burns Club still stands. It then crossed the main Lochee Road to eventually join up with original line south of Baldovan Station.
The Newtyle deviation was the last change to be made, and it eliminated the Hatton incline. The route from Pitnappie Quarry under the Bonnyton Road, and under a fine stone bridge leading to Millhole Farm, can still be clearly seen. It then crossed the main Dundee-Newtyle Road by an overbridge, before performing a large horse-shoe turn to lose the required height. A new station at Newtyle was created, quite close to the Newtyle Bowling Club. This then linked up with the railway lines to the north, leading to Coupar Angus/ Blairgowrie and Alyth, and joining onto the main Perth – Forfar – Aberdeen main line.
Once the various inclines were eliminated, this greatly reduced the journey time between Dundee and Newtyle. The line operated in this way for nearly 100 years from the 1860s until after the Second World War. However, by that time, there was much competition from other lines (e.g. the Dundee and Forfar) which probably restricted the future success of the line. After about 1930 with developments in motor transport and improvement of roads, competition became considerable and the line, which had never been particularly successful, ceased to be profitable, and it was eventually closed during the Beeching closure era. (1950s to 1960s).
There are many stories which have been told about that line. One concerns when the line was blocked during the severe winter of 1946-47. It is well known that a passenger train going from Dundee to Newtyle became snowed in at Dronley cutting, about a mile south of Auchterhouse Station. It remained there for over a week, and, according to Bill Skelly, a past resident of Auchterhouse, a very large squad of men was required to dig it out. During this period the coal on the engine was pinched by locals, and more had to be sent for to get the engine going again. Of course, that was at a time of severe rationing, and all the roads were completely blocked, so it is not surprising that some free coal disappeared!
At the same time, naturally it was necessary to clear the rest of the line from Auchterhouse to Newtyle. According to Mr. Skelly, the snow under the bridge at Auchterhouse Station (the one under the road, which still exists) was within a foot of the top of the bridge, and it would have been a mammoth task to dig it and the station out, so large were the drifts. So the decision was taken to send a pair of large locomotives from the Newtyle end, together with a large snowplough attached.
These engines managed to get to some distance from the station, but the drivers realised that they would need to get up some speed before tackling the drifts. So the station staff warned everyone to stand well clear, and the engines together with snowplough reversed back along Pitnappie Moss and then charged. The sight of this going through the station was one which Bill says he will never forget. After the engines had passed through, there was hardly a whole pane of glass left in the station buildings and the signal box, and all the doors were smashed, so great was the force caused by the snow being displaced by the speeding locomotives. It took over a week to repair the damage caused, but at least the line was open again!
Further reading: "The Dundee and Newtyle Railway" by Niall Ferguson – The Oakwood Press.
We are indebted to John Brush for the research done to extend the information on this page.