Glasgow South Western Line

Annan Station
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Annan Station

Representing a 220-mile / 353.5-km network of railways serving SW Scotland, the Glasgow South Western Line connects Glasgow with Kilmarnock, where it splits extending to Troon, Ayr and Stranraer to the southwest, and Dumfries and the English border to the southeast. The Troon branch makes use of the former Kilmarnock and Troon Railway, and then continues south to Ayr, on track shared with the Ayrshire Coast Line, and then on to Maybole, Girvan and finally Stranraer. The Dumfries branch proceeds via Mauchline, Cumnock and Sanquhar to reach Dumfries, then along the north coast of the Solway Firth to Annan and onwards to join the West Coast Main Line near Gretna. There are two further branches; a 7¾-mile / 12.5-km branch diverges at Busby Junction (southwest of Pollokshaws) to Giffnock, Clarkston and East Kilbride, and a 10-mile / 16-km branch links Ayr and Mauchline, with a 8⅓-mile / 13.5-km diversion to the coal washing plant at the former Killoch Colliery.

The Kilmarnock and Troon Railway is the oldest section of track, built in 1812. The Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway opened in sections from 1839. The Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle Railway opened 1846-50, providing an alternative route to the English border to the Caledonian Railway Company's line which began operating in 1848. Almost immediately, the Glasgow, Dumfries and Carlisle company merged with the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr to become the Glasgow and South Western Railway. The East Kilbride branch opened 1866-68 and was worked by the Caledonian Railway Company. The Ayr to Mauchline branch opened in 1870.

The coastal route to Stranraer was opened in sections by a series of small railway companies between 1856 and 1861. The final section was part of the Portpatrick Railway, which once ran east to Castle Douglas, then on to Dumfries and England. This line gained particular importance during the Second World War, when Cairnryan became an 'emergency port'.

The Glasgow South Western Line became part of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) system with the re-organisation of the railways in 1923, but then suffered following the nationalisation of the British railways in 1948. A number of local branches closed and the great triangle of lines lost its base when the majority of the Portpatrick Railway and the entire Castle Douglas and Dumfries line shut in the 1960s, with several of the remaining lines reduced from double to single-track. The original Glasgow terminus at St. Enoch Station closed and services moved to Glasgow Central.

A number of branches and sidings were associated with the deep-mining of coal from the productive Ayrshire Coalfield until 1978 and by opencast mining until 2020, ensuring significant goods traffic on the railway. Today, although the majority of the line was never electrified, some double-track sections have been restored. The focus is now passenger services; despite Cairnryan being a key connection to Northern Ireland, there is no railhead and the large volumes of freight are carried by trucks.

A further branch diverges at Dalrymple Junction, 3 miles (5 km) south southeast of Ayr. This was built to serve the Dalmellington Ironworks, which closed in 1921. While the passenger service ceased in 1965, the line continued to serve a brickworks on the site of the former ironworks until 1986, after which the line was used to export coal from open cast mines in this area.

In total, the line now connects 35 stations; six in Glasgow City, five in East Renfrewshire, three in South Lanarkshire, six in East Ayrshire, eight in South Ayrshire and six in Dumfries and Galloway. It once had twice this number, but the others closed in the 1950s and 60s.

Journey times from Glasgow to Kilmarnock average 40 minutes, on to Ayr takes a further 22 minutes. Glasgow to Stranraer by this route takes 2 hours 27 minutes, while the journey to Dumfries averages 1 hour 49 minutes.

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