This article is reproduced from the Summer 1909 issue of "The Gallovidian" magazine. No author name is given. The Railway was closed in the 1960's

The Introduction of the Railway into Galloway Fifty Years Ago.

It is over a hundred years since the first railway was opened in Scotland, and that was a railway from the Duke of Portland's coal-fields, near Kilmarnock, to Troon, in 1808.

But it was not till 1824 that the first public railway was opened, and that was one which connected Stockton and Darlington. Soon thereafter schemes were discussed for linking the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh with the large centres of England, and railway surveying and making have flourished ever since. The Glasgow to Ayrshire Railway, extending to 40 miles, was opened in 1840, Dalry to Kilmarnock, 11 miles, in 1843, Kilmarnock to Auchinleck, 14 miles, in 1848; Auchinleck to Closeburn, 32 miles, in 1850, Closeburn to Dumfries, 12 miles, in 1849, and Dumfries to Gretna, 24 miles, in 1848. Up to 1860 the length of railway in the United Kingdom open to traffic was 9796 miles, of which 1369 was in Scotland. That same year nearly 40,000 persons were engaged in railway construction, and in Scotland alone 8567. At an early stage the formation of a railway between Dumfries and Castle-Douglas was advocated. The proposal had an encouraging reception, but nothing definite was accomplished till 1853, when a survey was made of the route to be taken. Two years later a meeting was held at Castle-Douglas, when it was decided to make an effort to raise the money necessary for applying to Parliament. This was quickly subscribed, and the undertaking had a successful start. Two petitions were presented against the Bill, but the objectors were met in a conciliatory manner, and the petitions were afterwards withdrawn, with the result that the Bill to construct the railway to Castle-Douglas received the Royal assent in July, 1856. Mr John Miller, C.E., surveyed and laid off the line, but the engineer during its construction was Mr Andrew Galloway, C.E. The length of railway was 19 miles, and the capital raised by shares and loans was £187,785, one-half of which was subscribed by the general public and the other half by the Glasgow and South-Western Rail way Company.

The cost of the railway was materially reduced by the proprietors of land through which the line passed almost invariably giving it at agricultural value. The contractors for the formation of the line were Messrs Henry Lee, Son, & Freeman, London, and Messrs Lawton Bros., Newcastle-on-Tyne ; and the formation of the railway cost the following sums :- Parliamentary expenses, £3431; engineer's plans, £4244; land and compensation, £25,830 ; Dumfries contract, 5 miles, £79,592 ; Dalbeattie contract, 7 miles 4 furlongs, £28,396 ; Castle-Douglas contract, 6 miles 3 furlongs, £39,576 ; Stations, £15,506; Permanent way, £36,557 - a total of nearly £200,000 The contract was, however, exceeded by £25,000. The railway was at first under the control of the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Railway Company, which was formed in March, 1857, and the Directors were Mr W. H. Maxwell of Munches (who was Chairman, and a leading spirit in the construction of the railway); Mr J. B. Neilson of Queenshill; Mr William Gordon of Culvennan; Dr James Cowan of Dildawn; Mr P. Dudgeon of Cargen; and Mr Francis Maxwell of Breoch. Mr Gordon of Castlehill, Dumfries, and Mr Richard Hewat, Castle-Douglas, were the Auditors of the Company; Mr W. H. Lidderdale, Castle-Douglas, being Secretary.

The new railway was opened for public traffic on Monday, 7th November, 1859. The arrival of the first train was eagerly awaited at Castle-Douglas, where a great demonstration was organised to celebrate the event. Soon after the opening of the railway a waggon load of sheep was despatched from Castle-Douglas to Liverpool. The extent to which the business at the railway station has increased may be gauged by the fact that as many as two hundred waggons are frequently despatched in one day during the autumn sales.

At the opening of the line, three passenger trains were sufficient for the passenger traffic between Castle-Douglas and Dumfries, and third-class carriages were only available by the morning and evening trains. At the present day there are nine daily, five local, and four express, besides extra trains on certain days.

From the start the railway was well patronised, and traffic came in increasing volume. So early as September, 1861, the Directors of the Company were able to declare a dividend of five per cent. on preference stock and two shillings per share on the original shares. The traffic over the railway was still more augmented when the Portpatrick Railway was opened in that year. At first that railway was designated "The British and Irish Grand Junction Railway Company," but some time afterwards it came to be known by the shorter title of the Portpatrick Railway. A statement of the Castle-Douglas Railway for the half-year ending July; 1862, may be quoted to show the rapidity with which the traffic on the Castle-Douglas line increased. For that period 55,364 passengers were carried, and the income amounted to £7201 9s 8d, while in the following half-year the income rose to £8649 2s, and in the second half-year of 1864 it was £9060 18s 9d. That was the last year of the existence of the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Railway Company, for on 5th July, 1865, it was amalgamated with the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company.

The large amount of work which Mr Maxwell of Munches performed as Chairman of the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Railway Company was fittingly recognised in 1866, when he was presented with handsome candelabra, which bore the following inscription "Presented with four other pieces of plate to W. H. Maxwell, Esq., of Munches, as a testimony to the high admiration in which the shareholders of the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Railway Company regard his valuable services as Chairman of that Company from its commencement in 1856 till amalgamation with the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company in 1865. Castle-Douglas, 1866."

The year before the amalgamation, the railway had been extended to Kirkcudbright, where it was heartily welcomed. The capital for the project was fixed at £60,000, and the Town Council at once volunteered to hold stock to the value of £3000. The local subscriptions amounted to the handsome sum of £40,000, and the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company agreed to give £15,000 and the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Company £5000. The works were let in 1862 and the line was opened for goods and mineral traffic on 17th March, 1864, and shortly thereafter for passenger traffic as well. It was, of course, worked by the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company until the Amalgamation Act of the following year was passed. For some years after the opening of the Kirkcudbright line it proceeded for some little distance along the Portpatrick Railway, and a Station in these days was placed at the lower end of Castle-Douglas for the convenience of the people in that district. The Station, a wooden erection, was designated St. Andrew's, but afterwards the Glasgow and South-Western, to get rid of the charge which they had to pay to the Portpatrick Railway for running over that small part of their line, made a new route, which struck off for Kirkcudbright at the end of Castle-Douglas Station, and at that time St. Andrew's Station was abolished. Midway between Castle-Douglas and Dalbeattie a siding was erected called Buittle, chiefly for stock and goods and for the convenience of people attending Dumfries Market on Wednesdays ; but it was discontinued after a trial of several years.

Up till 1876 the railway from Dumfries to Castle-Douglas was only double as far as Lochanhead. At that time the Station was not available for dealing with mineral traffic or live stock, and an agitation was commenced to have it equipped for all traffic. A petition was presented to the Directors, and this was granted and at the same time the line was doubled as far as Southwick, this work occupying till March, 1878. Two years later the double set of rails was extended to Castle-Douglas. This entailed the construction of a new viaduct over the Urr, and a splendid iron bridge was then erected by the late Mr J. B. A. M'Kinnell, of Dumfries Foundry. Prior to the erection of the new viaduct a night watchman was stationed at this bridge, but thereafter a watchman was not necessary.

At the opening of the line Southwick was only a siding on Barclosh farm, used almost exclusively for the unloading of coal, lime, and tiles. A movement was, however, shortly afterwards set on foot to form the present roadway to Southwick Station to connect with the Kirkbean district, and receiving support from Southwick House and other influential quarters, the road was opened and a suitable Station formed.

The railway from Dumfries to Castle-Douglas traverses one of the most picturesque parts of Kirkcudbrightshire, and one of the most notable structures in the nineteen miles is the Goldielea Viaduct, which, in respect of height, workmanship, and picturesque surroundings, compares favourably with either the Carronbridge Viaduct or the noted bridge at Ballochmyle in Ayrshire.

The original Station at Dumfries was of a very humble and unpretentious character, consisting almost entirely of wooden sheds. These were situated between the Annan and Lockerbie roads, and occupied the site presently used for the joiners' shops. The Passenger Station was a wooden erection thirty feet long, and the Goods Station was on the north side of the main line and on the east side of the Annan Road. A new Station was erected in 1859 on the north side of the Lockerbie Road, and trains from north and south arrived at the same platform. The ground adjacent to the Station was beautifully laid out with plants and flowers, and for many years the Station, on account of the floral display, was regarded as one of the prettiest in a wide radius. In 1861 the branch railway from Dumfries to connect with the main line of the Caledonian Railway was opened, and the traffic had so much increased that in 1885 it was found necessary to add to the platform accommodation. The handsome new Offices and Platform were then erected on the up line. The Office accommodation was further increased in 1902, when the splendid new Station Hotel was opened in the piece of ground formerly used as a nursery between the Station and the Lovers' Walk, and the premises formerly used as the Hotel were devoted to railway purposes. The Cairn Valley Railway was opened in 1905, and the traffic still continuing to expand, even the present large accommodation has become cramped, and for some time excavations have been proceeding at the north end of the Station with a view to the shunting lines being extended in the near future.

The following is an account of the celebration of the opening of the line at Castle-Douglas, taken from the Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser of 11th November, 1859:-

The regular passenger and goods traffic, according to previous announcement, commenced upon the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries line of railway on Monday last, and the trains since that time, with one exception, have continued to run with the greatest punctuality. There will, no doubt, be some inconvenience felt by certain classes during the transition from the coach to the rail; but a short time will put all to rights again, and people will soon accept the new arrangements as if they had been accustomed to them from their infancy.

So far as Castle-Douglas is concerned, the opening has already created a great change, the coal trade especially causing a continual traffic to and from the Station through the principal street, whilst the two omnibuses which leave the Douglas Arms and Commercial Hotels, on the arrival and departure of the passenger trains, help considerably to increase the stir. How the interests of the different classes of people in business in Castle-Douglas may be affected it would be hazardous even to form a conjecture but from tables published by the London Times it was incontestably established from statistical evidence that towns situated upon lines of railway increased in trade and population in a much greater ratio than towns not blessed with such means of communication.

That some will suffer no one can question ; but, on the whole, the inhabitants of the town and district generally may congratulate themselves that they are now connected with the rest of the country by the great modern means of communication. Such, indeed, appeared to be the general feeling here on Monday last, for high and low, rich and poor, young and old, turned out to welcome the first regular train which arrived at our Station ; and to give an official character to the welcome, the Magistrates and Town Council, preceded by a banner and band of music marched to the Station just previous to the arrival of the train, which took place at the appointed hour, amidst the shouts and huzzas of the assembled throng. On Mr Maxwell of Munches (the Chairman of the Directors), accompanied by Mr Maxwell of Breoch, leaving the train, they were greeted with loud cheers, and our worthy Provost, after congratulating them on the successful completion of the undertaking they had met to celebrate, invited these gentlemen to the Douglas Arms Hotel to drink success to the opening of the line. Dr Cowan of Dildawn and Mr M'Kie of Danjarg (two local Directors) having joined the company, they proceeded in procession down King Street, amidst the shouts of the people, the band enlivening the proceedings by playing several popular airs.

The company having assembled, Provost Nicholson, in proposing "Success to the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Railway," congratulated those present on the completion of the link which now united them with the great network of railways all over the country.

Mr Maxwell of Munches, in reply, thanked the Council for the kind reception they had given the Directors that morning. The public had no doubt often been disappointed, but the difficulties the Directors had had to contend with had not been expected. It would be unnecessary, however, to enter upon them at the present time. The result of the undertaking he had not the slightest doubt would be for the public advantage, although certain individual interests might suffer. The speaker then, in feeling terms, alluded to the changes which had taken place since their first meetings many were now gone who would have been rejoiced to see that day. No place, in his opinion, would benefit more from the completion of the line than the town of Castle-Douglas, which from its central position would always be a place of importance. He could not, at the same time, help complimenting the town on its improved appearance, both as regards private dwellings and shops; and the completion of the through line to Portpatrick would still further tend to its prosperity, as it would bring to its Markets the farmers of Wigtownshire, who were cut off from attending them in the meantime.

Provost Nicholson next proposed "The Health of the Directors" for the great personal sacrifices they had made on behalf of the Company; and this compliment they richly deserved for the excellent way in which they had discharged their duties.

Mr Maxwell replied. He could assure the company the office of Director was no enviable one. They had all endeavoured to do their best; but many changes in regard to the work had taken place which could not be foreseen. For instance, who could have foreseen that the Portpatrick line would be projected and commenced so soon after their own undertaking had been entered upon? This, alone, had to a very great extent interfered with their original estimates. They had, however, always received the greatest support from the Glasgow & South-Western Company, which, he thought, did not deserve the charges which were apt to be brought against it in certain quarters.

The Directors of that Company took a very warm interest in the success of our line, and it was likely that, in the course of a few weeks, the Council might have the opportunity of complimenting them, as it was their intention to go over the line and inspect the works in person. In conclusion, he could assure the meeting, now that the line was completed, it would be the endeavour of the Directors to develop the traffic, consulting at the same time the interests of the shareholders and the public in general.

Mr A. Blyth in very complimentary terms next proposed "The Health of Mr Win. H. Lidderdale, the Secretary of the Company."

Mr Maxwell could endorse to the fullest extent the remarks of Mr Blyth. He had never known a more efficient official than Mr Lidderdale had proved himself. Mr Lidderdale returned thanks.

Provost Nicholson then proposed "The Engineers, Contractors, and Navvies, who had constructed the line. The navvies, he was happy to say, had always conducted themselves well.

Dr Cowan next gave "The Provost, Bailies, and Councillors." He was perfectly satisfied that they took great interest in the welfare of Castle-Douglas, and that they were men of high character and sound principle. All the Directors were eager that Castle-Douglas should prosper. He regretted the high terms charged for building ground, and considered that nothing was more detrimental to the interests of a town than this circumstance. Dalbeattie had privileges in this respect which he hoped Castle-Douglas would soon enjoy.

Provost Nicholson felt exceedingly flattered at the way in which the toasts had been proposed. He and his brother Magistrates had done nothing more than their duty. He thanked the company for their kind wishes.

Mr Maxwell of Breoch then proposed the health of Lady Abercromby, the lady of the manor. He felt confident if any suggestions were laid before her which would forward the interests of Castle-Douglas, they would receive her ladyship's utmost attention.

An interesting conversation then took place as to the rise and progress of Castle-Douglas, in the course of which the high feu-duty was mentioned as a cause which tended to retard building. Mr M'Kie of Dunjarg suggested, as Lady Abercromby was now residing among them, it would be advisable that a deputation wait upon her ladyship, when the drawback might possibly be removed. The meeting then broke up.

The Gatehouse band perambulated the town during the day, enlivening the rejoicings, and in the evening a bonfire blazed on the Market Hill, accompanied with a splendid display of fireworks. The Town Hall was also illuminated, and four beautiful devices, got up with Mr Borland's usual taste, ornamented the windows. A large company of our principal citizens concluded the day's proceedings with a Social Meeting in the Douglas Arms Hotel, when all the usual loyal and appropriate toasts were given and responded to. Provost Nicholson officiated as Chairman ; and Mr Johnston, teacher, acted as Croupier. Amongst the company, and who contributed much to the pleasure of the evening, was Alexander Davidson, Esq., banker, Carlisle, who on all occasions takes a deep interest in everything tending to the prosperity of his native town.


The celebration of the opening of the railway took place at Dalbeattie a week later, and was reported in the Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser as follows:-

A number of gentlemen connected with Dalbeattie and its neighbourhood, anxious to testify their appreciation of the services of the Directors of the above line of railway, invited them to a Public Dinner, which took place on Thursday week, in the Assembly Rooms in connection with the Commercial Hotel. The Directors were received at the Railway Station by the Commissioners of Dalbeattie, and welcomed by a large concourse of people with great cheering. The company afterwards formed in procession, and, headed by the band of the Dumfriesshire Militia, marched through the principal streets. At the rear of the procession was a van on which was mounted a cannon, which kept up a continued round of salutes. Flags were also displayed from many private residences, and the day generally was observed as a holiday.

At four o'clock about ninety gentlemen sat down to dinner. The Chair was taken by Mr Thomas Maxwell, Chief Magistrate of Dalbeattie, supported on the right by Mr Maxwell of Munches, Sir Andrew Orr, Dr Cowan of Dildawn, Captain Sanderson of Glenlaggan Mr M'Kie of Dunjarg, Mr Maxwell of Breoch, Rev. Mr Grant of Buittle, &c. ; and on the left, Mr Grieve, banker, Dalbeattie; Provost Leighton, of Dumfries, Mr Neilson of Queenshill, Mr Dudgeon of Cargen, Mr M'Diarmid, Dumfries, Mr T. D. Currie, Dumfries, &c. The Croupiers were Mr Mundell of Bogrie, Dumfries, and Provost Stewart, of Maxwelltown, the former supported by Mr Maxwell of Glenlee, Mr Jardine, yr. of Applegarth, Mr Gordon of Castlehill, Mr Welsh of Meikle Firthhead, and Mr Elliot, Dalbeattie ; and the latter by Mr F. Nicholson, Dumfries; Mr Davidson, Thornhill; Bailie Waugh, Dumfries; Mr Carswell, Dalbeattie; Mr M'Laren, Dalbeattie; and Mr M'Kelvie, Cornwall Mount, Dumfries. A letter of apology had been received from Mr Mackie, M.P., regretting very much that he could not be present owing to a previous engagement.

Grace was said by the Rev. Mr Dudgeon, Dalbeattie, and thanks returned by the Rev. Mr Grant of Buittle. The cloth having been removed, the Chairman gave in succession "The Queen", "The Prince Consort," and "The Prince of Wales." He then gave "The Army and Navy" in a few appropriate remarks, coupled with the name of Captain Sanderson, who returned thanks.

Provost Stewart having briefly given "Her Majesty's Ministers," the Chairman said: It now devolved upon him to propose the toast of "The Directors of the Castle-Douglas Railway Company.'' It was well known to them all how perseveringly the Directors of that Company had laboured in the service of the shareholders, what an amount of labour they had undergone, what difficulties they had been perplexed with, and how protracted had been the services which they had rendered to the shareholders. It was not easy fully to comprehend all the difficulties of the duties that devolved upon persons placed in the situation of their Directors. They had lent it the weight of their social influence, and they had expended liberally of their means to bring the undertaking to a satisfactory issue. He could not doubt, therefore, that they would most gratefully, unanimously, and cordially drink to their good health.

Mr Maxwell of Munches said it devolved upon him to return thanks for himself and the other Directors for the honour done to them on that occasion. He was sure that none of his co-Directors - and he was glad to see they were nearly all present - could be otherwise than greatly gratified and pleased with the reception they had that day met with. They fully understood the kindly feeling that had prompted the demonstration of that day, and to a certain extent considered that it was an expression of approval of the past conduct of the Directors, while it might also be viewed as an inducement to persevere in that course. Anything he had done in support of the railway had given him great pleasure, and he had never felt more satisfaction in looking at anything in his life than when seeing friends going up and down the new line for the last ten days. In the name of the Directors he returned thanks for the honour that had been done to them, and he hoped that prosperity might attend the shareholders and others connected with the railway.

Mr Mundell proposed "The Lords-Lieutenant of the Stewartry and Dumfriesshire" in a few appropriate observations.

Mr Maxwell of Glenlee begged to propose "Success to the Castle-Douglas and Dumfries Railway." In the first outset of any undertaking it must always be doubtful whether or not it would succeed, but when it became an accomplished fact discussion ceased; and in the case of this line he was glad to say that discussion had ceased, because the new railway had achieved such a gigantic success that it had far exceeded the anticipations of its promoters.

Mr Neilson had been asked to return thanks for the toast of "Success to the Railway ;" he had great pleasure in doing so, and even at that early stage of the railway's history, he had every confidence that it would be successful. He had on a previous occasion publicly stated his belief that it would be a paying concern, and he was happy in being able to say the same thing, now that the line was opened.

Provost Leighton of Dumfries gave, in a few complimentary remarks, "The Local Members." Dr Cowan then gave "The Health of Sir Andrew Orr and the Directors of the Glasgow and South-Western Company, and great and continued success to the Glasgow and South-Western Railway." The toast was enthusiastically received.

Sir Andrew Orr returned thanks, and concluded by proposing "The Portpatrick Company," coupled with the Health of Mr Maxwell of Glenlee. Mr Maxwell returned thanks.

The following toasts were afterwards given "The Provost and Magistrates of Dumfries," by Mr Maxwell of Munches, to which Provost Leighton replied. "The Provost and Magistrates of Maxwelltown," by Mr Elliot, Dalbeattie; Provost Stewart responded. "The Commercial, Manufacturing, and Agricultural Interests," coupled with the name of Sir A. Orr, by Mr Neilson. "The Clergy," to which the Rev. Mr Dudgeon replied. "The Press," coupled with the name of Mr M'Diarmid, to which that gentleman responded. "The Schoolmasters," by the Rev. Mr Dudgeon; acknowledged by Mr Farish. "The Strangers," by Mr Grieve. "The Magistrates and Town and Trade of Dalbeattie," by Provost Leighton Mr M'Laren returned thanks, and anticipated for the trade of Dalbeattie the greatest benefits from the Railway. "The Chairman," by Mr Dudgeon of Cargen; the Chairman replied. "The Croupiers," by Mr M'Diarmid. During the evening Mr Maxwell of Glenlee entertained the company with several songs, while the band of the Dumfries Militia enlivened the proceedings by playing several popular airs.

In the evening a splendid display of fireworks took place, under the direction and at the expense of Mr Miles Leighton, junior, of Dumfries, which wound up the day's rejoicings.