Leven Railway

(Leven Branch, Fife Coast Railway, Leven and East of Fife Railway)

A disused single-track branch of the East Coast Main Line railway in Fife, the Leven Railway extends for 5½ miles (9 km) from Thornton Junction to Levenmouth, following the course of the River Ore and then the River Leven. This was an easy route which avoided the need for any expensive structures. The line was the work of the later-disgraced engineer Thomas Bouch (1822-80), who specialised in building lines cheaply to places where the operating profits might not be significant. His work was found to be lacking and improvements were made before the line opened in 1854. Further problems came to light thereafter and Bouch was replaced, although the line was to prove profitable, primarily through goods transported to and from the mills and harbours of Leven and Methil, together with branches serving nearby coal mines. It was extended to Kilconquhar (1857), Anstruther (1863), Boarhills (1883) and finally to St. Andrews (1887), becoming known as the Leven & East of Fife Railway. These extensions were not greatly profitable, most of the money being made taking holiday-makers to the coast in the summer. The North British Railway took over the line in 1897 and invested, resulting in increased traffic, but the advent of road transport firstly damaged the lucrative goods traffic and then took passengers away from the line. The eastern section beyond Levenmouth proved wholly uneconomic and closed in 1966. The western section continued until 1999, delivering grain the Cameron Bridge Distillery and coal slurry to Methil Power Station. More recently the first half-mile (1 km) of the line was used to export coal from the Earlseat opencast mine, which was exhausted by 2015. The track remains and, in 2019, the Scottish Government announced its intention rejuvenate the line and reopen it to passenger traffic as an extension of the Fife Circle Line, with new stations at Cameron Bridge and Leven.

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