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Leadhills Railway

Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway, Britain’s highest adhesion railway

The Railway was founded in 1983 to establish a Narrow Gauge tourist railway from Leadhills to the nearby village of Wanlockhead, using part of the trackbed of the former Caledonian Railway branch line from Elvanfoot to Wanlockhead.

The Caley branch line (a “Light Railway”) was completed in 1901 mainly to take minerals from the then burgeoning lead mines around the 2 villages (which are the highest in Scotland, with concomitant wet and windy weather) to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The railway closed in 1938 with the ending of lead mining, which had commenced around the year 1350.

The present railway is and always has been run entirely by volunteers and has charitable status. It opens at weekends generally from April to September and most public holidays during the season. It can open by prior arrangement for coach parties provided sufficient volunteers can be rostered. There are special running days at Halloween and early December (“Santa Specials”).

The station building at Leadhills is on the site of the former Leadhills Station. However the Caley buildings were all removed along with the rail, and the volunteers had to start from scratch. In 1996 the new track reached the Lanarkshire/Dumfries-shire county boundary. There are now at Leadhills an engine shed, a shop/ticket office, a signal box, with toilet and various signals and storage containers. The length of the section of line open for public services is 0.75 mille, with a substantial area occupied by sidings.

Services are hauled by diesel locomotives. There are on site two steam locomotives needing a great deal of restoration. One day the railway may see one or other of these in action. In past years the railway has put on an annual Steam Day, using an imported locomotive.

The railway line is immediately adjacent to the Leadhills Scheduled Ancient Monument Area – such is the importance of the older mineral workings.

Current activities (January 2013) include a programme for the reballasting of much of the track and one rot the training of train drivers, guards and signalmen.. There are plans for the extension of the railway to Wanlockhead, and aspirations to construct an additional shed for the coaches and locomotives and a runaround loop.

The railway services are run in “partnership” with Hidden Treasures Museum of Lead Mining at Wanlockhead – in that joint tickets are sold and the “Santa Special” trains are organised along with the Museum. (Santa resides in the mine at Wanlockhead.)

Harvie Paterson
20 January 2013

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