Ardrossan was a fascinating place, a town and Harbour planned by the Duke of Eglington which had five stations and was completely surrounded by railways and sidings, which in the 1960s were still filled with wagons of all sorts. At this time most of the stations (3 were on the ex-G&SWR line) and 2 on the ex Caledonian were still largely intact, but although summer Saturdays could see you connecting with one of the turbines or if lucky PS Caledonia from Montgomerie Pier on a duplicate sailing to Brodick, (I have only hazy memories of the pier at Whiting Bay which closed in 1961) the train never stopped at Ardrossan Town which by then was looking pretty run-down, having looked that way since the LMS borrowed the station canopies to enhance the passenger experience at Buchanan Street, the Caledonian's most temporary looking main terminus.
I had always assumed that the Ardrossan station was the original structure from the line's opening in 1888, with the through line to Montgomerie Pier not opening until the harbour expansion was complete in May 1890, but in fact the original was totally destroyed by fire on 27th December 1898 and quickly rebuilt on the same layout.
The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald of 30 December 1898 reported:
The original stucture was pure Western Section L & A timber built, similar in style to the original Loch Awe and Barnton amongst others. The replacement was externally more like Wemyss Bay in its style and use of more permanent (or at least less combustible) materials Dave LFIRE AT CALEDONIAN RAILWAY STATION, ARDROSSANOn Tuesday evening (27 December 1898), when the gale was at its height, great excitement was created by an outbreak of fire at Caledonian Railway Station. he station was opened in September 1888. It appears the fire originated in an oil store considerably to the east of the offices and as the piping south-east gale was recognised as the most powerful factor in determining the course of the fire, it was at first considered that the offices might be saved. Wind is, however, of all things the most uncertain and the fire followed the course in which it could be best be fed. The extensive structure was of fancy woodwork with iron frame and the flames unchecked made their way to the booking office. In about two hours time, the offices, waiting rooms, the refreshment bar and the handsome clock and tower surmounting the structure had been consumed. The blaze was a brilliant one and the populace poured into Barr Street and Montgomerie Street from all parts of the town. People came from as far as Kilwinning to see the fire. The progress of the flames was rapid and very soon the outbreak assumed proportions never before witnessed in the district. Mr Simpson and his staff did all that could be done to save such property as was portable, two men, an inspector named Gilbert and a porter named Clark, being overcome by the fumes while carrying on salvage operations. The safe was emptied and some of the more valuable of the furnishings in the office removed. Of course, there was other salvage work of a kind less legitimate performed in connection with the bar. Part of the bridge spanning the double line of rails running to and from the pier was also consumed. The total damage has been put at about £2000. The falling of the tower and clock was probably the most sensational sight of the fire. It was highly interesting to watch sides of the buildings totter and fall before the 'devouring element' and the thick heavy glass dissolve in the heat but the tongues of flame twisting and writhing and licking round the doomed tower was quite an appropriate prelude to the final fall. What is understood to be the fire brigade was on the spot. There was some shouting but this did not produce any effect worth speaking about on the flames. The hose was fastened to a plug by the wrong end. This was eventually remedied but there was very little water to be found. In any case, of course, nothing could have been done. The brigade helped to hold the bridge and prevent the flames from finding fresh fuel on the other side on the line. The young lady in charge of the refreshment bar evinced a spartanlike disposition to stick to her post. She wanted to wait until her employer to give her permission to go. She was led to see differently but it required the trained intellect of an ex-Commissioner to induce her to move. Trains arriving on Tuesday night were brought to a stand at the end of the platform and passengers detrained at a safe distance from the burning buildings. The service suffered no interruption. By Wednesday morning (28 December 1898), a temporary booking office had been requisitioned on the north side of the line and traffic went on as usual.