Station Name: LANGHOLM

[Source: Nick Catford & Bruce McCartney]

Date opened: 18.4.1864
Location: A new road linking High Street and Glenesk Road runs through the station site.
Company on opening: Border Union Railway
Date closed to passengers: 15.6.1964
Date closed completely: 18.9.1967
Company on closing: British Railways (Scottish Region)
Present state: The site has been redeveloped with no evidence of the station remaining. There is a commemorative plaque on a cairn and an interpretation panel near the site of the station.
County: Dumfriesshire
OS Grid Ref: NY365843
Date of visit: 19.5.2011

Notes: The branch terminus at Langholm opened on 11th April 1864, nearly two years after the first section of the line to Canobie (later called Canonbie) opened. The delay was to allow completion of the Byreburn viaduct. The official opening date is recorded as 18th April. The first train carried parts for a turntable which was installed in front of the engine shed; this was built at the back of the platform with one side wall acting as a support for the station's small trainshed (overall roof). The shed, with a water tank at its north east corner, opened on the 18th April 1864. The tank had a steam boiler in the room beneath it to heat foot warmers for first class passengers. The branch locomotive shedded there was often 'Langholm' or 'Gretna'. The station was well sited to serve the small market town with a population of 3,500.

The through service to Langholm was withdrawn after a few days because of a partial collapse of the Byreburn viaduct. The train service between Canobie and Langholm was replaced with a horse-drawn omnibus service until the viaduct was repaired, and the service was restored on 2nd November that year.

Langholm station had a single platform on the up side of the line. The main station building, which was at the end of a short approach road, was built of stone and comprised a single-storey booking office at right angles to the stationmaster's house. In 1894 the engine shed was shortened to allow the station building to be extended with a new general waiting room and booking office. The new building comprised the two-storey station house at right angles to the platform and single-storey wings on both sides. The platform was also lengthened at this time. There was a water column at the south end of the platform. As well as the normal passenger service Langholm had its fair share of excursions which included regular 'Rugby Specials' run to Murrayfield and Sunday school outings to Silloth.

On arrival at the station, once the passengers had left the train, it had to be propelled back out of the platform to allow the locomotive to run round its carriages before pushing them back into the platform again to collect passengers for the return journey.

A signal box was opened to the south of the station in 1894 on the up side. This controlled access to a goods yard of moderate proportions which was opposite the platform. It comprised three sidings, one of which passed a wide cattle dock (with a fourth short siding end-on to the dock), and continued through the goods shed and out the other end. The shed could also be
entered from the loop bypassing the dock. At the back of the dock there was a 4-ton crane mounted on a brick plinth with a weigh office and weighbridge to the north-west of the shed. Although surrounded by industrial buildings with woollen mills to the west and the gas works at the end of the line, there were no private sidings apart from one to Glen Tarras Distillery between Gilnockie and Langholm. During WW1 workers from the Gretna munitions factory were billeted at the distillery, and in this period branch trains stopped here. Glen Tarras was once again an unadvertised stopping place in later years for the Boy Scout camp that was established nearby. No platform was provided.

The signal box was closed on 3rd July 1927 and subsequently demolished. It was replaced with a ground frame opposite the water column. From 21st August 1930 the branch was worked by one token making it 'one engine in steam'.

The turntable in front of the shed was removed during WW1 and the shed closed in May 1932; after that date branch locomotives were shedded at Carlisle Canal shed. From 1931 many of the services were provided by railcars, usually 'Projector' but sometimes 'Nettle'. These remained in use until June 1944 being used on up to four of the daily return services.

The trainshed was probably removed during WW2, and the track into the shed was lifted in the early 1950s. Although its roof was removed, the shed survived until closure of the station as its west wall was an integral part of the station. The room under the water tank, now devoid of its boiler, was used as a bothy.

After closure to passenger traffic on 15th June 1964 the station remained open for freight, although the track into the passenger platform was lifted. Final closure came on 18th September 1967, and the track was lifted the following year. The station buildings remained in place until 1970 when the whole site was cleared to make way for a new residential and

industrial development.

Today there is no evidence of the station apart from a cairn with a plaque which reads "The last train 13th June 1964". Alongside there is an interpretation panel provided by the Langholm Archive with a brief history and photographs of the branch. Click here to see this panel in close detail.(8M pdf file)

The Border Union Railway, the Hawick branch of the North British Railway, was opened on 1st November 1849. However, it was a further thirteen years before the Waverley Route was completed between Hawick and Carlisle. The last mail coach, from Hawick, ran on Monday 30th June 1862, via Langholm to Canonbie, and the main line from Carlisle to Edinburgh was opened to regular traffic the following day.

In 1845 the North British Railway obtained powers to build the Hawick branch, and in the following session they applied to Parliament for further powers to extend the line through Langholm to Carlisle. The Caledonian Railway opposed this extension, and in due course the North British Company’s plans were thrown out by the Government Committee. Matters dragged slowly on, with meetings in Hawick of many of the manufacturers who felt the need for a railway to the south. However, no substantial progress was made until 1856 when a survey was made of the Liddesdale route. The Caledonian Railway also had plans for a station in the Lower Haugh in Hawick, with a railway through Teviotdale and Langholm to Carlisle. (Over 1,500 women who used the Lower Haugh as a washing green objected to this scheme.)

To the astonishment of many inhabitants the claims of the Langholm line were approved and those of the Liddesdale scheme rejected. So indignant were the supporters of the Liddesdale railway that a meeting outside the Town Hall in Hawick attracted some sixteen hundred people expressing the view that the decision was totally against the wishes of southern
Scottish residents.  An appeal was taken to the House of Lords which resulted in the Langholm Bill being thrown out.

In 1859 the railway battle raged again before Parliament, and on Tuesday 22nd March it was announced that the Clydesdale scheme had triumphed.

Langholm had come close to having a through line to Hawick, worked by the Caledonian Railway Company, who would have built another station in Hawick away from the existing North British one.

As a consolation to the people of Langholm, the train fare north of the town to Hawick and beyond was calculated as if the line ran directly to Langholm, rather than south, to Riddings before going north again. This led to the strange situation that the fare from Langholm to Edinburgh was cheaper than the fare from Canonbie to the capital, although Canonbie was some six railway miles nearer!

In many ways, Langholmites felt cheated. However, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps a Caledonian Railway branch through Langholm to Hawick would not have served the town as well as inhabitants would have wished. Kelso had a station shared by the North British and the North Eastern railway companies, who, although nominally friendly, did not always run trains to allow through connections from St Boswells to Berwick. Both the Caledonian and North British Railway companies (who were arch-rivals) had separate stations in Peebles, but little effort was made to allow traffic to interconnect between them. Perhaps Langholm people would have experienced great difficulty in making a day trip to Edinburgh via Hawick. They might have found themselves, and the goods manufactured in the town, routed to the south to Carlisle by the Caledonian Railway
and then north by that company’s main line via Beattock to Edinburgh – with all the revenue going to the Caledonian Railway. Via Hawick, of course, the revenue would have been shared with the North British Railway Company.

Thus Langholm, its inhabitants, and its blossoming industries, had to be content with a seven-mile single-track branch line, although a main line through the town, with direct connections to the north and south, worked by the same railway company from Edinburgh to Carlisle would have been the ideal situation

The line opened to Canobie (note original spelling) in 1862 but it was a further two years before the Byreburn viaduct was completed. The first train arrived in Langholm on Tuesday 29th March 1864, carrying the turntable to be installed in the yard; the extension was officially inspected the following Monday. The local paper records that passenger and goods traffic to Langholm started on Monday 11th April 1864; although 18 April is the recorded official opening date.

Less than a month had gone by before apprehension was expressed by a number of ‘self elected inspectors’ at the state of Byreburn viaduct (where one of the piers went as far below the surface of the burn as it was above). Subsidence caused by a slippage into the old coal workings had resulted in the collapse of a portion of the crown of the third arch from the Canonbie end of the viaduct. Trains were halted at each side of the viaduct, and passengers had to walk across the unsafe portion! In early May 1864 the Langholm to Canonbie train service was temporarily discontinued and the horse-drawn omnibus reinstated.

Feelings ran high in the town. It was felt that, having obtained the monopoly of train services, the North British Railway Company was being tardy in its efforts to resume the service. Mr H Dobie, the acting Chief Magistrate, stated that the line should have been kept open as it had been in the week following the slippage. He decided that a statement would be laid before the railway directors and if necessary, the whole matter would be brought before the Board of Trade. It is believed that a staging post north of the viaduct at Gilnockie was established at this time to serve an intended station. In due course the railway reopened on Monday 2nd November 1864, with six passenger trains running on weekdays and two on Sundays. A new station at Gilnockie opened in December 1864.

By 1906 there were 7 passenger trains in each direction but no Sunday service. By 1922 this had dropped back to 6 trains in each direction which was maintained until closure, but in the 1950s some trains ran through Gilnockie (which was unstaffed after 1953).

A letter in the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser in December complained about the “unholy” Sabbath trains. The Sunday trains were discontinued in February 1865, the reason being given that they did not pay. The local paper commented, “The Sabbath rest will be a great boon to the employees along the branch, who, we understand, outnumber the passengers
travelling from Langholm on the Sabbath-day.” No more Sunday trains ran in the next hundred years, except for the occasional excursion.

The branch line, on crossing Liddel Viaduct at Riddings Junction, entered England; but how many passengers knew that just south of Riddings the Waverley Route, through a quirk of ancient boundaries, crossed back into Scotland for 7 chains, then returned finally to England? A day visit to Carlisle from Langholm involved crossing the Anglo- Scottish Border six times - surely some sort of record?

The branch line and the successive railway companies, the North British, the London and North Eastern Railway and finally British Railways served the town well during times of both peace and strife. Everyday traffic included textiles, coal, newspapers, post, whisky (until the distillery closed), general merchandise and parcels. Single-coach steam railcars, usually 'Nettle' or 'Protector' were introduced on some services between the wars. Unusual traffic included specials to the new munitions factory at Gretna during WWI
and, in WWII, double-headed trains drawing tanks to and from the Camp on the Castleholm. On occasions the Cornet’s horse came by rail.

However, after WWII, the use of private transport increased and, in common with rural branches all over Britain, the number of passengers using the Langholm branch decreased to the extent that the passenger service became uneconomic.

When the Beeching plans were announced in 1962, the Langholm Branch and the Waverley Route were proposed for closure. A public meeting was held in the Buccleuch Hall in Langholm on 18th October 1963, when representatives of Langholm Town Council and other objectors were able to put forward their cases of hardship to members of the Transport Users’
Consultative Committee. Both oral and written objections were considered by the Committee, their unanimous conclusion being that, although it would be inconvenient to some, and might even cause hardship to a few, the closure of the branch would go ahead. The end was, however, inevitable, in 1964 only 350 passengers were using the 32 trains a week. The Beeching ‘Axe’, which meant that the sound of a train would never be heard again in many rural valleys, fell in Eskdale on 15th June 1964, with the last passenger trains leaving Langholm for Carlisle on Saturday 13th June. Many local people and train enthusiasts made a last-day trip over the seven-mile branch line.

The line remained open for freight traffic with three trains a week, although the layout at Langholm station was simplified with the removal of the track beside the platform. The very last passenger train was the Branch Line Society/Stephenson Locomotive ‘Society Scottish Rambler No. 6’ railtour from Glasgow on Sunday 26th March 1967. The Sabbath-breaking locomotive had difficulty running round its five-coach train, catching the last coach and removing splinters from its side. The freight service lasted until 17th September 1967.

Click here for a more detailed history of the Langholm branch.(8.3M pdf file). For additional photographs see the Langholm Archive Group web site. Some of their photographs are reproduced here with permission.

Click here to see a 4 minute film of the Langholm branch featuring all stations c.1964
Click here to see a 3.37 minute film of a freight workings (diesel and steam) on the Langholm branch

Brief history by Bruce McCartney, tickets from Michael Stewart, (except 0224 and season ticket Bruce McCartney), Totem from Richard Furness, route map drawn by Alan Young.


To see other stations on the Langholm branch click on the station name:
Glen Tarras, Gilnockie, Canonbie & Riddings Junction

Langholm station in 1910. NBR Loco 22 named 'Langholm' was built in 1878 at Cowlairs Works to a design by Dugald Drummond. It had moved to Langholm shed to replace horse traction on the branch. Passing into LNER ownership, the last of the class were withdrawn in 1926.
Photo from Bill Lynn collection

1899 1:2500 OS map.

Railcar 'Protector' at Langholm station in April 1934. Railcar No39 was built by Sentinel Waggon Works of Shrewsbury in August 1929 with bodywork constructed by Cammel Laird & Co, (later to become Metro Cammel). Fitted with a six cylinder engine powered by a vertical water tube boiler, it lasted until June 1944 when it was scrapped. The last of the railcars was withdrawn in 1948; none are preserved.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Langholm station in August 1935.
Copyright photo from John Alsop and Roger Griffiths collections

Langholm station and spacious goods yard looking north c. 1950s. Langholm's 4-ton crane is seen on the left. One further siding is out of view to the left. The engine shed, which is seen on the far right, closed in May 1932 and is without track or a roof in this picture. The cattle dock is seen in the foreground.
Photo from Langholm Archive

Loco 43045 propelling its train out of the station to the run-round loop in February 1962. 43045 was built at Horwich works in October 1949. An Ivatt 4MT design for the LMS, most of the class were built by BR, only 3 being built for the LMS before nationalisation in 1948. This loco was withdrawn from 12D, Workington shed, on 3.9.66 and scrapped by Motherwell Machinery and Scrap, Wishaw in January 1967.
Photo by Brian Johnson

A Riddings Junction train preparing to depart from Langholm station in the early 1960s. This loco is 43139, built to an Ivatt LMS design for BR in 1951 at Doncaster Works. It entered service on 27th July at Carlisle Canal shed, 12B. These class 4 Moguls were sometimes called Flying Pigs as their high running-board made them look ugly; their other nickname was Doodlebugs. 43139 lasted little more than 16 years in service when it was withdrawn from Carlisle Kingmoor shed on 30.9.67 and cut up at Motherwell Machinery and Scrap, Wishaw in February 1968. There is one of these locos preserved: 43106 was the last of the class to be withdrawn and was saved by a group from the Severn Valley Railway where it can be found today.
Photo from Langholm Archive

A freight train is seen in Langholm goods yard in the early 1960s. The Buccleuch Mills are seen beyond the good yard.
Photo from Langholm Archive

A busy day at Langholm station in 1964.
Photo by Bobby Morrison from the Langholm Archive

Passengers waiting to catch a train from Langholm to Riddings Junction on 13th June 1964, the last day of public service.
hoto from Langholm Archive

The Kingmoor - Langholm/Newcastleton pickup freight stands in the goods yard at Langholm in August 1967. This trip, originally intended to be the last, carried an additional brake van for members of the Border Railway Society. As it happened, the service was reprieved on two further occasions.
Photo by Bruce McCartney from the Langholm Archive

Langholm station in 1970 shortly before demolition.
Photo by Bobby Morrison from the Langholm Archive

The site of Langholm station in the early 1970s during the construction of the Townsfoot residential and industrial development.
Photo by William Ewart from the Langholm Archive

Looking north at the site of Langholm station in May 2011. A residential development beside the photographer covers the south end of the station site.
Photo by Nick Catford

This oblique aerial view shows the site of the station and goods yard after redevelopment. The mill buildings on the far right are visible on the far right of the high angle 1960s view above.

Click here for more pictures of Langholm station

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