Hurt pride led to Lanark building a railway station

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If a Tardis transported an Edwardian Lanark gent to today’s railway station ticket office, he’d probably soon start a row with the staff.

They would probably tell him that it’s not THEIR fault that the only place he could get a train to from the Royal Burgh nowadays is Glasgow, calling only at the intervening Lanarkshire stations.

He would still probably ask, aghast, “Do you mean I can’t get a direct train to Edinburgh or Ayr anymore?”

The staff would confirm this sad fact to him, informing him that these services hadn’t existed since the vicious Beeching Cuts of the Sixties.

However, if our time-traveller had been a very old man, he might have just recalled the days when Lanark didn’t even HAVE a station - and looked unlikely of EVER getting one.

Back in the 1850s it seemed the Royal Burgh would miss out completely on the-then national railway boom.

Certainly the new West Coast Main Line, running through Carluke and Carstairs, passed a few miles out of town at Cleghorn but the line’s operators, the Caledonian Railway, stated that Lanark was just too small and insignificant for them to bother to build a rail `spur’ to connect it to the main line.

Lanarkians, of course, were outraged at being told this and went about forming their own the Lanark Railway Company to build a station to allow trains to operate on the three miles or so to the Cleghorn connection.

It was such a success that, five years later, the Caledonian Railway saw the error of its ways and bought over the line, opening up Lanark to direct services to Glasgow and Edinbugh.

Just shortly aftewards, in 1864, the Murkirk Line was created, allowing Lanark passengers direct access to Ayrshire via the Douglas Valley.

The next big boost to the burgh’s rail service came in 1910 when a Lanark Racecourse Station was created on the Muirkirk line to serve the Air Show being held there that year, many of the 300,000 attending arriving and leaving via that new station.

That station and the line went on to serve the town for another 55 years until Dr Beeching killed them off in 1965.

The direct Edinburgh servuce went shortly afterwards, that spur of track Lanarkians laid down being pulled up and houses later being built on where the track went, possibly against the planning regulations of the time which were meant to protect defunct lines in case they were ever, eventually restored.

If, by the late Sixties, Lanarkian train travellers were feeling hard done by, they should have spared a thought for their neighbours 13 miles away in Biggar who had lost their passengers services back in 1950.

It was a major blow to that fine town’s prestige and a big comedown from less than half a century before; although Biggar, a stop on the new Symington to Broughton line, got its first station shortly after Lanark - in 1859 to be exact - it underwent a major expansion in 1906.

Like the Air Show gave Lanark its second station, Biggar owed its (excuse the pun) bigger and better one from the fact that the Royal Highland Show was held in Peebles that year and a connection to there deemed necessary to take the rural Upperward crowds to and from the event,

Although passenger services ceased in the Fifties, both Biggar and even its wee neighbour Coulter held onto their line for mostly agricultural freight until the mid-1960’s.

Of course, many other small Clydesdale stations went from the end of the War onwards (Tillietudlem actually lost its station in 1944) and its seems that almost since it was shut down, attempts have been going on to restore the Leadhills to Wanlockhead Railway which once connected the Lowther Valley to the rest of the Upperward.

It’s now fifty years beyond the time when Dr Beeching and his like decided our wee rural lines were `finished’ and be consigned to history.

The current campaign to have a Lanark-Edinburgh service restored and the huge success of the re-opening of the Border Railway proves they were very,wrong indeed.