Rail extension from Leadhills to Wanlockhead finally underway

The historic moment when the fence came down for the first time in 20 years and the way is clear towards Wanlockhead.


Picture by Hugh Dougherty.
The historic moment when the fence came down for the first time in 20 years and the way is clear towards Wanlockhead. Picture by Hugh Dougherty.

The final destination is at last in sight for a 30 year-long journey to recreate a rail link between two Lowther Valley villages.

When, back in the Eighties, a dedicated group of volunteers set about restoring the narrow-gauge line between Leadhills and Wanlockhead, closed just before World War 2, little did they suspect they’d still be at it in 2017!

The navvy spirit is alive and well at Leadhills! Railway volunteers, left to right, Terry Nicholson, Eddie Lund, chairman Alan Mackie, Darren Welsh, Robert McCartney, Martin Hollingsworth and Graham Pascal, on the digger, show their enthusiasm for the extension.

Photo by Hugh Dougherty,

The navvy spirit is alive and well at Leadhills! Railway volunteers, left to right, Terry Nicholson, Eddie Lund, chairman Alan Mackie, Darren Welsh, Robert McCartney, Martin Hollingsworth and Graham Pascal, on the digger, show their enthusiasm for the extension. Photo by Hugh Dougherty,

In fact, the early years of the project saw great progress with most of the line put back in use with mini-locomotives hauling delighted visitors up and down the restored stretch during summer months, helping raise funds towards the full restoration.

But 20 years ago the volunteers hit the buffers in completing the final, quarter-mile long stretch of line to Wanlockhead due to a legal land access problem.

However, it has now been announced that this ‘line blockage’ has finally been cleared and the final stage of the project can commence at last!

The volunteers have now broken the first ground beyond the fence which for the past twenty years blocked progress to start re-laying the last stretch of line to link with Wanlockhead.

“Thanks to an agreement we concluded with Buccleuch Estates, last year, we’ve now able to access the trackbed and are digging test pits to find out where the track drains need to be dug,” explained Lowthers Railway Society chairman, Alan Mackie.

He went on: “We’re following the trackbed of the former Caledonian Railway line which linked Elvanfoot with Leadhills and Wanlockhead and which closed in 1938. Already, we’ve found the original ballast still intact below the surface of the ground.”

He said that by August 2018, they plan to have the trackbed cleared with trains finally arriving at the restored Wanlockhead Station platform in 2020, some 82 years after the last train steamed away.

He added: “Our trains are running every weekend as usual between Leadhills and Glengonnar Halt, But, once we can run right through to Wanlockhead, it will boost passenger numbers as well as being good for tourism and attractions such as the Museum of Lead Mining and the world’s oldest lending library in the village.

“There’s a great deal of work to be done, but we’re confident that our experience gained in running trains on the existing line for the last 30 years, will allow us to complete the extension on time.”