Ardrossan Station

Any aspect related to the structures and equipment on the Caledonian Railway Company.
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Dave Lochrie
Posts: 449
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:38 pm

Ardrossan Station

Post by Dave Lochrie »

I've always had a close interest in the Caledonian's Clyde Coast developments, especially the L & A line to Ardrossan and its fairly camera-shy branches to Irvine and Kilburnie. Ardrossan has held a fascination from early childhood when it was the frequent destination for the rail connection to the Arran ferry when travelling down to the house in Whiting Bay.
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:
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On 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.
The original stucture was pure Western Section L & A timber built, similar in style to the original Loch Awe and Barnton amongst others.
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The replacement was externally more like Wemyss Bay in its style and use of more permanent (or at least less combustible) materials
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Dave L
John Paton
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Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:50 pm

Re: Ardrossan Station

Post by John Paton »

Thanks for this post, David.

Like you, I have cherished early memories of Clyde Coast train - boat connections, but in my case it was at Fairlie for the turbine down to Campbeltown then bus up to Carradale. I well remember the BR Scammel lorry bringing the luggage back to our flat a few days after our return.

Your information has explained something that has mystified me for a long time : why was Ardrossan North station designed in the James Miller turn-of-the-Century style when the station opened in the 1880s? I had never before heard that the original station was burned down.

I have the drawings of Montgomerie Pier station (a massive sheet), and intend at some time to do a "Station Spotlight" article on it. With your help and information, this could be extended to include the North station.

Incidentally, I have a "draft" station spotlight on the twin stations Barnton and Irvine (which were more or less identical). I am struggling to find a good street-side view of Irvine. The station is distant in the only one I have. Does anyone have such a photo?


Dave Lochrie
Posts: 449
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:38 pm

Re: Ardrossan Station

Post by Dave Lochrie »


I have quite a few 1890's and later shots of Ardrossan, more of Montgomerie Pier than of the Town Station. which I'll collect and send on to you so as not to spoil the article. The mont gomerie Pier drawings sound interesting, a lot of "step and repeat", I'm at work so not sure how many bays but 13 or 15 ring a bell.
Your Barnton/ Irvine article is fascinating especially the linking of the two. Do you have drawings for either (I'm sure Lindsay Galloway will have already asked about Barnton)? The reason I ask is that Irvine station building still exists (now the local newspaper office) and "as built" it is completely different from Barnton or Kilbirnie, or the surface buildings at Kilwinning.
Whether for reasons of cost or plannining considerations (ouch) the L & A purchased the fairly recently built stone villa on the street frontage and converted it, linking it by the usual glass canopy to the single plaform behind (very modelable station). Another explanation may be that it's terminus status was only seen as temporary, with the possibility of future extensions south to Troon and Ayr!
I have several Caledonian period shots of Bank Street, Irvine with the Caledonian Railway signage in place (because otherwise it would have been totally camouflaged to the casual traveller) I can post one (if only so anyone reading this can understand what I'm talking about), or again keep them for the Spotlight article. Photos of the railway side of the station in CR days are limited to 1, and about 3 in LMS days.

Dave L

I remember the Scammels on PLIA duties, but they were much more exiting collecting, because it meant that the holiday was a only few days away (no last minute packing in those days)
Jim Summers
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Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:54 pm

Re: Ardrossan Station

Post by Jim Summers »

Dave's recollections of the steamer to Whiting Bay might be revived by the book "The Marchioness of Graham: a Purser's Log", by Richard M. Orr, published by the Grimsay Press. A different view of activities of the ship.

Jim S.
Dave Lochrie
Posts: 449
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:38 pm

Re: Ardrossan Station

Post by Dave Lochrie »

my father did 4 summers on both of the turbine Duchess's as a Purser whilst at university in the late 1940's and early 1950's after he returned from his 5 year stint with the Indian Army.
The tale I remember best was when he dropped a pram which he was loading via 2 planks to keep the gangways clear. Whilst the pram was fortunately devoid of wain at the time , its natural bouyancy was impeded by the carry-out (or on this case carry-on) hidden within (bottled in those days)! It all sounded like the equivelant of an 18-30s rep but with a smarter uniform.
Although my grandfather would have denied it, it seems that securing this sought after job was not unconnected with his senior position at Buchannan Street.

David L
dumb buffer
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Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:13 pm

Re: Ardrossan Station

Post by dumb buffer »

Just a touch of whimsy, since Whiting Bay has been mentioned (Khaki shorts were de rigeur for gentlemen in those days on Arran, except on Sundays in Whiting Bay!)
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This would be about 1957, when the Caledonia was in regular use as a weekend relief to the Marchioness of Graham.
The pier was fairly decrepit by then, and a "rough shunt" by one of the steamers could cause it to oscillate about a foot backwards and forwards. When the first Sunday call was made (1960?) by one of the duchesses, the pier was full to half it's length (and it was a long pier) with sightseers. But the duchesses were always beautifully handled, and there was nary a wobble.

I travelled once via Montgomery Pier, having come from Belfast the day after the Belfast Orange parade. I've never been so scared. The train was 8 coaches, hauled by a 2P, with the front two coaches off the platform -- I got into the front coach and travelled on my own

Allan F
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