Railways of Kinross

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The Railways of Kinross were a local network of three rural railways which made the town of Kinross in Scotland their objective in the 1850s.


They were:

These single-track rural lines became part of the main line network when the first Tay Bridge was opened in 1878, and then the Forth Bridge in 1890. For the Forth Bridge route two new sections of route were constructed, a cut-off line near Cowdenbeath, and the Glenfarg line connecting Mawcarse and Bridge of Earn, near Perth. All the local passenger services were discontinued by 1964, and the through Glenfarg route to Perth closed in 1970 to make way for the M90 motorway. [1]



In the interior of the country, Kinross, the county town of Kinross-shire, had developed little before the railway age. By 1829 its population was only 7,762 and cotton weaving had only lately become the industry. [2]

Nonetheless it became the destination of choice for the builders of three independent railways. By 1850 main line railways had been built surrounding it:

Coal workings had been undertaken for some time in the southern part of the area around Dunfermline, at this time the greater extent of the deposits was being discovered.

The Fife and Kinross Railway

The Kinross lines in 1872 Kinross lines 1872.png
The Kinross lines in 1872

The Fife and Kinross Railway was authorised by Act of Parliament on 16 July 1855 to build a 14-mile line, to build a branch line from the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway at Ladybank to Kinross. There was provision for future extension to Tillicoultry, where a connection could be made with the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway line to Alloa. The line was to be single throughout. Authorised capital for the scheme was £70,000. [3] [4]

The proposal had encountered considerable opposition in Parliament, especially from the EP&DR and the Scottish Central Railway, who both feared expansion of the line into a competing through route. The Act having been secured, a contract for construction was let in the sum of £47,818; [4] the first sod was cut among considerable rejoicing at Auchtermuchty on 14 January 1856. [note 1] Application was made to Parliament in November 1856 to make a deviation at Milnathort, and a new line from the deviation to the EP&D near South Lumphinnans, and a branch to Kelty colliery. The South Lumphinnans connection would have been a direct duplication of the Kinross-shire Railway route, and the latter was authorised while the F&KR proposed amendment was refused.

As the date of opening drew near, the Directors found that the EP&DR was unwilling to spare a locomotive to work the line, as had been hoped, although they were prepared to hire rolling stock to the little company. The F&KR was approached by R and W Hawthorn, who had acquired the Leith Engine Works, with an offer of a locomotive. The F&KR ordered two 0-4-0 tender engines, and part-paid in shares. When delivered the locomotives were named Loch Leven Castle and Falkland Castle. Rolling stock was procured locally, and the EP&DR's offer was not taken up. [5]

The line was opened from Ladybank to Strathmiglo on 8 June 1857, and extended to Milnathort on 9 March 1858, [note 2] and finally to Hopetown of Kinross on 20 August 1858. The line was single throughout. [4] [5] [6] [7]

The access at Ladybank was by a curve leading southwards on the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway main line; it joined that line some distance south of Ladybank station, and passenger trains arriving at Ladybank reversed on a headshunt parallel with the main line [note 3] to a bay platform there. [note 4] [8]

The line was authorised to be extended to meet the Kinross-shire Railway at a joint Kinross station by Act of 28 June 1858. [3] The extension was opened on 20 September 1860, when the original F&KR station was renamed Hopefield.

The working of the F&KR railway was finally taken over by the EP&DR on 5 April 1861; [7] the F&KR was always short of money and it secured absorption by the EP&DR by Act of 29 July 1862. [4]

The Kinross-shire Railway

The Kinross-shire Railway was authorised on 10 August 1857 to construct a single line route 7 miles long from the Dunfermline branch of the Edinburgh, Perth and Dunfermline Railway near Lumphinnans to Kinross. Authorised capital was £53,000. [3]

In the 1858 Parliamentary session a joint Bill was presented by the two companies to make a connection between the two lines and to make a joint station. The Kinross-shire Railway opened its line on 20 June 1860 to a temporary station about a quarter mile south of the now-authorised joint station, [note 5] and the extension to the joint station with the Fife and Kinross Railway was opened on 20 September 1860. The EP&DR had agreed to work the line provided that the Kinross-shire acquired its own locomotive, and it did so, obtaining one similar to the F&KR engines, also from R & W Hawthorn.

Just before opening the contractor threatened to prevent it until his bill was paid. [5]

The passenger timetable on the two Kinross lines worked in harmony, with trains making good connections at Kinross. There was a traffic agreement between the two railways determining which route traffic originating or terminating on the line should take; this occasionally led to some counter-intuitive routings.

The company obtained an Act of July 1861 to build a branch from Kelty to Kingseat, where it was intended to make a junction with the West of Fife Mineral Railway. the line opened in 1863.

The financial performance of the little company was poor, and inevitably it had to seek absorption by its larger neighbour; Parliamentary authority to amalgamate with the EP&DR was obtained on 1 August 1861. [3] [5]

Devon Valley Railway

The Devon Valley Railway was incorporated on 23 July 1858 [4] to build a line from the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway station at Tillicoultry to Hopefield (Kinross); the authorised capital was £90,000. A further act of 1 August 1861 authorised several deviations, and then an Act of 1863 brought about a £10,000 reduction of capital. The Scottish Central Railway and the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway each had powers to contribute £30,000 to the share subscription, but on 4 August 1858 both those companies declared a change of mind. Nonetheless by 1864 the NBR contributed £40,000 fearing an incursion into Fife by the rival Caledonian Railway. [7]

The first sod was cut on 4 August 1860, but then nothing much was done as it proved difficult to raise the money. Eventually on 1 May 1863 the 6 1/2 mile section between Kinross and Rumbling Bridge was opened. [4] [6]

The next section was to traverse exceptionally difficult terrain, and it was decided to build from the other end of the route, at Tillicoultry. Work started there and the line was opened to Dollar on 3 May 1869. The NBR paid £10 for life membership of Dollar Water Supply Association for DVR engine water. [9]

The Devon Valley Railway Act of 1866 obliged the North British Railway to pay £60,000 for completion of the DVR line; this had been agreed to when the NBR was in expansionist mood and desired to exclude the Caledonian Railway from the area. Now the NBR had to make good on its promise. The NBR decided that the Rumbling Bridge station configuration was inconvenient for the extension, and it altered the proposed alignment, easing the ruling gradient from 1 in 50 to 1 in 63. The difficult intermediate section was completed and the line was opened throughout on 1 May 1871. [5] [9]

The DVR line joined the Fife and Kinross Railway line at Hopefield, now renamed Kinross Junction. The DVR company was independent but the line was worked by the NBR, until it absorbed the DVR in 1875. [5]

The DVR was vested in the NBR on 1 January 1875, with £100 DVR shares being exchanged for £62 10s NBR ordinary shares. [3] [7]

The Tay Bridge

Completion of the three Kinross lines gave the NBR a route from Ladybank to Alloa. The opening of the first Tay bridge enabled through carriages to be run from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Dundee and Aberdeen, via Kinross. Completion of the second Tay bridge transformed Fife, enabling the North British Railway to run fast trains from Dundee to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Some trains ran from Glasgow to Perth via the Devon Valley (portrayed for publicity purposes as the "Picturesque route"), and ten trains ran daily between those places, half on the Devon Valley route and half on the traditional route. [5]

The Forth Bridge

The Kinross in 1890 when the Forth Bridge opened Kinross lines 1890.png
The Kinross in 1890 when the Forth Bridge opened

The Forth Bridge was fully opened for all traffic on 2 June 1890. It required a number of enhancements to the main line routes of the North British Railway leading to it. The Kinross route was transformed into part of the main line from Cowdenbeath to Perth, and the entire route section from Kelty to Mawcasrse Junction was doubled and upgraded for main line running.

The Glenfarg Line

The Glenfarg Line is the name often given to the line between Kinross and Perth (actually Mawcarse Junction and Hilton Junction).

As early as 1863, long before the construction of the Forth or Tay bridges, the North British Railway had obtained Parliamentary powers to build a line through Glenfarg, linking the proposed Dunfermline and Queensferry Railway and the Kinross lines, which were to be doubled. From Glenfarg the line would run directly to Perth, by-passing the Caledonian route from Hilton Junction through Moncrieffe tunnel. At the Queensferry end, there would be train ferries across the Forth.

In 1867 nothing had been done and the Company had to ask for authority for extra time to build the line; meanwhile shareholders were becoming concerned about the financial commitment to numerous new construction schemes, and the project was dropped. [7]

The scheme was revived during the preparation for the construction of the Forth Bridge. It was obvious that this would fundamentally change traffic patterns: NBR traffic was still crossing the Firth of Forth by ferry steamer. As well as the immediate approach railways at Queensferry, a new line was built from Saughton, some distance west of Edinburgh, to Dalmeny. In Fife the Glenfarg line was being built, connecting Mawcarse, on the Fife and Kinross line, with Bridge of Earn on the NBR route from Ladybank, close to Hilton Junction from where the NBR had running powers to Perth.

Leaving the north side of the Forth Bridge, trains would reach Inverkeithing over the approach railway, and then Touch Junctions at Dunfermline by the 1866 line. Joining the Dunfermline branch of the old EP&DR company, trains could run eastwards for a few miles before running on to another section of new route at Cowdenbeath giving access at Kelty South Junction to the old Kinross-shire Railway. The route then continued through Kinross on to the Fife and Kinross-shire line, diverging at Mawcarse on to the new Glenfarg route, and thence to Perth. All this was double track, and the relevant sections of the Kinross railways, which had been quiet backwaters, were doubled and upgraded to main line running standards.

On 2 June 1890 the Forth Bridge was opened to through traffic, and on the same day the Glenfarg line and the deviation line by-passing Cowdenbeath were also opened.

Cowdenbeath improvements

The cut-off line at Cowdenbeath, from Cowdenbeath South Junction, used a new, more convenient, Cowdenbeath station, named Cowdenbeath New, and from 2 June 1890 the original station was named Cowdenbeath Old. There were numerous colliery connections off the old main line in the Cowdenbeath area, and congestion there prompted the construction of a short connection from the new Cowdenbeath line returning to the original line at Lumphinnans. This was operational by 1915, [10] and through trains towards Thornton were diverted to it. It was known as the Cowdenbeath Loop. There were now two passenger stations in Cowdenbeath, "Old" and "New" and on 31 March 1919 Cowdenbeath Old station was closed and Cowdenbeath New was renamed Cowdenbeath. [note 6] [11] The section of the original main line was downgraded to mineral line status and remained open at least to 1960. [12]

The deviation route remains in use today: ordinary passenger trains towards Glenrothes diverge from the original main line at what had been Cowdenbeath South Junction on the 1890 new line, calling at what had been Cowdenbeath New station; they then follow the Cowdenbeath Loop at Cowdenbeath North Junction and rejoin the original main line at the former Lumphinnans South Junction. This is the only part of the network described in this article that remains open to traffic.

1938 passenger trains service

In 1938 the passenger service on the Kinross lines was on two axes.

The first was from Edinburgh via Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath to Kinross and Perth. There were six fast trains on the route including two sleeping car trains from Kings Cross to Inverness. Most daytime trains called at Dunfermline and Kinross. In addition there were four through stopping trains and some short workings.

The second was from Alloa and Tillicoultry to Kinross and Ladybank. There were four stopping trains each way, with some short workings. [11] For the few years between the opening of the Tay Bridge and the Forth Bridge, this had been a significant route for the North British Railway between Glasgow, Alloa, Kinross and Dundee but that importance had vanished after 1890.


The Devon Valley Railway route closed on 15 June 1964, although goods services continued between Tillicoultry and Alloa until 25 June 1973.

The Fife and Kinross line closed between Ladybank and Mawcarse Junction on 5 June 1950 to passengers, and to goods on 5 October 1964.

The Kelty - Kinross - Glenfarg - Hilton Junction line closed on 5 January 1970, although goods traffic continued to Kinross and Milnathort until 4 May 1970. [6] When the Glenfarg line closed, Perth to Edinburgh services were diverted over the slower route via Stirling and subsequently, with some improvement in journey time, along the Bridge of Earn to Ladybank line when it was reopened (it had closed to passengers in September 1955) [13]

The original section of the Kinross-shire Railway between Lumphinnans Central Junction and Kelty South Junction closed to passengers on 2 June 1890 when the cut-off line opened, [13] but remained open for mineral traffic at least until 1960. [12]


Kinross-shire Railway

Fife and Kinross Railway

Devon Valley Railway

Glenfarg Line

The gradients on the post-1890 route from Cowdenbeath to Perth were severe. Cowdenbeath was at the summit of a stiff climb from Inverkeithing, and on leaving the line fell for two miles at 1 in 80 / 78. There were the switchback undulations as far as Milnathort, after which the line climbed at 1 in 158 - 200 as far as Mawcarse Junction. The difficult terrain from there to Bridge of Earn forced a three-mile climb at 1 in 94 followed by a drop at 1 in 75 for six miles without a break as far as Bridge of Earn. [16]


  1. Thomas, Forgotten Railways, page 109; Thomas and Turnock say 12 January.
  2. Thomas and Turnock; also Thomas page 110; Brice says (page 93) it opened as far as Milnathort on 15 March 1858 and to Kinross on 26 August 1858. Ross says (page 53) between Ladybank and Kinross on 15 March 1858.
  3. OS 25 inch map, 1892-1914 series
  4. From Archivist of the North British Railway Study Group. Cobb shows a northwards spur at Ladybank, but this is not supported by available large scale maps.
  5. Actually on the south-east side of the Cowdenbeath Road.
  6. Although the 1938 "Bradshaw" still uses "Cowdenbeath (New)".

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  1. "Proposals for direct Perth to Edinburgh train link to be considered by Transport Scotland". www.railtechnologymagazine.com. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  2. The Edinburgh Gazetteer or Compendious Geographical Dictionary, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green, Edinburgh 1829
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 E F Carter, An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Cassell, London, 1959
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 William Scott Bruce, The Railways of Fife, Melven Press, Perth, 1980, ISBN   0 906664 03 9
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 John Thomas, Forgotten Railways: Scotland, David and Charles (Publishers) Limited, Newton Abbot, 1976, ISBN   0 7153 7185 1
  6. 1 2 3 John Thomas and David Turnock, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 15, North of Scotland, David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1989, ISBN   0 946537 03 8
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 David Ross, The North British Railway: A History, Stenlake Publishing Limited, Catrine, 2014, ISBN   978 1 84033 647 4
  8. 1 2 Col M H Cobb, The Railways of Great Britain -- A Historical Atlas, Ian Allan Publishing Limited, Shepperton, 2003, ISBN   07110 3003 0
  9. 1 2 John Thomas, The North British Railway, volume 1, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1969, ISBN   0 7153 4697 0
  10. Ordnance Survey of Great Britain, 1:2,500 plan, Fifeshire
  11. 1 2 Bradshaws July 1938 Railway Guide, David & Charles Publishers, Newton Abbot, 1969, ISBN   0 7153 4686 5
  12. 1 2 British Railways, Scottish Region, Sectional Appendix to the Books of Rules and Regulations: Section 1 - East, Glasgow, 1960, pages 79 and 82
  13. 1 2 Gordon Stansfield, Fife's Lost Railways, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine, 1998, ISBN   1 84033 055 4
  14. Gordon Stansfield, Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire's Lost Railways, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine 2002, ISBN   1 84033 184 4
  15. M E Quick, Railway Passenger Stations in England Scotland and Wales—A Chronology, The Railway and Canal Historical Society, 2002
  16. The Railway Magazine, Gradients of the British Main-Line Railways, published by the Railway Publishing Co, London, 1947