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Dundee to Forfar Railway

MONIFIETH MODEL GROUP  

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DUNDEE TO FORFAR DIRECT RAILWAY  

(This article by J.G. first appeared in "Monifieth Matters")

Before this railway was constructed there were two rail routes to travel from Dundee to Forfar - the first was via Liff, Auchterhouse, Newtyle, and Eassie and on to Forfar. The other route was Dundee to Arbroath, then Friockhiem to Forfar - quite a roundabout journey. In fact proposals for a more direct line predated the construction of these two routes. Various companies looked into the feasibilities of a direct line but agreeing to the routes to be taken and the cost put the project on hold. Railway building in that era was based on individuals and companies assembling funding and arranging for legislation to be introduced into Parliament and passed into Railway Acts. Often this was a difficult process as landowners and businesses had to be persuaded to support a line.  

A committee set up by The Dundee and Arbroath Railway in 1845 made the decision to make a start. Was the cost of 150,000 too much of a gamble? Dock Street Station was opened in 1857 and a year later was renamed Dundee East Station. This was to be the starting point for the direct line to Forfar when it was eventually built. During the next few years from 1856 onwards a number of the various small companies amalgamated to form slightly larger ones but were still very local in make up. The building of the direct line was still very much in the minds of the SNER (Scottish North Eastern Railway) which was the name given to a newly amalgamated group of companies.  

More surveys were carried out but no concrete decisions were made on which route the new line should take. Suggestions were made as to where the line would leave the main track of the Dundee to Arbroath line. One of the main sticking points was competitors - e.g. the Scottish Central Railway who thought a direct shorter line would hike business away from their existing routes. 

In August 1866 Caledonian Railways took over all the railways in the East Coast which made for a much more positive approach to any new project. Alterations to the original planned route were made and tenders to build the northern end of the line were put out in April 1866 and by August 1870 Caledonian began a goods only service. In order to start a passenger service the Company had to obtain a Board of Trade Certificate. Captain Tyler was appointed to do the inspection work and after all of his recommendations was carried out passenger services started on November 14th the same year.  

The distance between Dundee and Forfar on the new line was 17.25 miles compared to approximately 30 miles using the other alternatives. After the line left Broughty Ferry there were originally only three stations between there and Forfar. These were Kingennie, Kirkbuddo and Kingsmuir, but residents in other locations were eager to have a station on their doorstep too. In 1871, after a petition by the residents of Monikie, work started on a station in March of that year. The cost to build this was 1,191 and it was finished later in the same year. Monikie seemed to prosper to such an extent that a siding was built, along with a three-ton crane, and later a house for the station-master was erected.  

Barnhill was the next place for a new station to be built with the new building inspected and approved in October 1874. Commuters to Dundee used this latest addition to the line and there were 5 trains a day that only went as far as Barnhill. The station was situated on Guthrie Street - the former station area now has some houses built on the redundant site. Remains of the bridge which crossed the line over the main road can still be seen.

View from Guthrie Terrace, looking south over Dalhousie Road, at the remains of the bridge pier (with parked cars on top) and of the railway embankment overgrown with vegetation to the rear.

A siding area was constructed mainly to "park rolling stock" to supply carriages for the busy commuter trains. In 1891 the residents of Gagie and Wellbank petitioned the railway company to have a station built but were turned down. The reason given was that 2,000 for a station at Gagie and 600 for one at Wellbank would be too expensive! Gagie did get one about 40 years later. Apart from the main stations there were also what was described as private sidings - some at quarries and one at a seed crushing plant at Monikie. As Barnhill became a busy commuter station it was necessary for a water tank to be erected to supply water for engine boilers and this was carried out for the princely sum of 35.  

During the 1914-1918 War, troop trains were often seen moving regiments and equipment around the countryside, and commuter services brought workers to the commerce and industry of Dundee . In 1920 the siding at Monikie, previously used by the seed crushing plant, was used as a goods entrance to the newly built Farina Mill. This was part of a Government scheme to turn potatoes into a type of flour similar to Farola or semolina, which could also be processed into cattle feed. 80,000 was spent on the project but it was never put into production. Some local experts said that the real cost was much higher. A manager was employed to run the mill. He was a Dutchman called Kornelis Munneke. Houses for employees were also erected. Two similar plants in England, at Boston in Lincolnshire and Kings Lynn in Norfolk were also built, and some observers estimated nearly 500,000 had been spent on the three operations that were a very expensive White Elephant!  

During the late 1880's and 90's there were two derailments - both incidents involving the same locomotive, a 2-4-0 No. 49, at Kingennie and Kirkbuddo, both being caused by points malfunctions. Fortunately there were no injuries to passengers on both occasions due to the slow speeds that the derailments happened. Two recorded incidents at the peaceful Kingsmuir station were, (1) in 1888 when the Station Master was charged with embezzlement and was committed to prison by the Sheriff at Forfar and, (2) in 1914 when the east gable of the Station Master's house collapsed. The building was described as "very old and past repair". The Railway Company built a completely new one for 355 which included in the price, was improved toilet facilities for the station staff.            

Bridge pier near the north of Crombie Reservoir on the former Dundee to Forfar Railway. View from bridge on B9127. Site of Kirkbuddo Station on the former Dundee to Fprfar Railway. View northwards from B978 towards the site of the Former Kirkbuddo Station, crossing the Kerbet Burn.
Bridge pier on the small road passing the north side of Crombie Reservoir.  View from bridge on B9127, looking south over the site of the former Kirkbuddo Station. View northwards from B978 towards the site of the former Kirkbuddo Station, crossing the Kerbet Burn.
 

In October 1952 there was, what was called, a minor incident at Barnhill station when a trainload of sugar beet that was destined for the factory at Cupar in Fife which had a brake failure while approaching the station. It derailed just south of the platform, spilling several tons of sugar beet over the embankment.  

Bad weather in the winter could affect the line and there are old photographs showing trains stuck in, and negotiating deep snow and ice. The winter of 1947 was particularly difficult. Statistically the total length of the line was 17 miles, almost all-single line apart from passing places or loops at the stations. The line was designed to reduce the gradients, making it easier for the early engine technology. It looped around the countryside to the centres of population and is thus, longer than a direct straight line on the map. The track bed was double-headed rail in 24ft lengths. There were 19 over-bridges, 26 under-bridges and perhaps the most famous landmark on the line is the viaduct known locally the "Seven Arches". It was 150 yards in length with seven spans 50ft high, reaching to a total height of 85ft. The engineers John Willet and George Mackay designed it. Contractor William Leslie undertook construction. The Seven Arches is now designated listed building which is a favourite route for cyclists and haunt for dog-walkers, ramblers and walkers between schools and new housing. Pausing to look gives one a sense of the quality of Victorian engineering and construction.

In the 1850’s a driver’s wage was 64 per annum and a fireman would receive 55. In 1900, at the turn of the century, the driver’s wage had gone up to 100 per annum.

At the other end of the pay scale booking clerks and gangers would earn approximately 2.10.shillings a fortnight.


Monikie Station, looking east.

During its heydays the station at Monikie was the stop off point for "picnic specials". These were trains that were used by organisations such as Church groups for Sunday school outings to what is now called Monikie Country Park and at that time was The Dundee City Waterworks. There was easy access from the station to the park as the station entrance was practically opposite the North Gate. Various companies of the Boys Brigade also used the park for summer camps.

During the First World War the railways were under state control although not nationalised. This remained the situation until the government of the day passed the 1921 Railways Act known as the Groupings Act and after much discussion and debate, the "Big Four " was established. The Forfar line was then run by the LMS (London Midland and Scottish) from 1923. The 1939-1945 war placed many demands on the line and rolling stock. Some research suggests that armoured trains mounted with heavy guns, as defence against invasion or parachute attack would have patrolled the line. The railways were nationalised by the government from January 1st 1948 in an attempt to develop a new transport policy.

However, the rail network was losing money on local branch lines against competition from buses, cars and lorries and needed new investment in rolling stock etc. Dr. Beeching was commissioned by the government to look into the system and his proposals resulted in the closure of a great many lines, including the Dundee to Forfar line. It was closed to passenger traffic in 1955 and the line was then truncated at Kingsmuir for freight use only until 1958 when these services were also stopped. The southern section of the line carried on transporting goods only until 1967 when the line was finally closed. Dundee East station was closed in 1959 so the line operated through the Tay Bridge goods yard.

Forfar Station was gradually run down, being used occasionally for Rail Historical Specials until 1981. Today, driving or cycling along the route, one can see former bridges, track beds and old platforms. Tracks were removed and over bridges were taken down but a number of under bridges remain with roads above the bridges. Modern housing has been built on station lands and in Forfar old sheds are now in industrial use. Farmland has consumed some of the track but in many places the track bed is still clearly seen and can be walked along.

 

Those seeking further information will enjoy reading "Arbroath and Forfar Railway the Dundee Direct Line and the Kirriemuir Branch" by Niall Ferguson, a local railway historian.

Monifieth Model Group is completing a large model of the route, which is to be installed in Monikie Country Park that should attract the attention of young people, and those interested in our industrial, engineering and transport past. We have met people who have used, worked and lived alongside the line. Their memories contribute to local history and we welcome others who can help to ensure that the memory of the line is retained. The group was pleased to be part of Angus Heritage Week in 2014 and in association, gave a well-received presentation in Monifieth Library. Oral history memories are also now available in the library. The new website address is www.monifiethandangushistory.co.uk to reflect our contribution to broader local history. 

 

The Webmaster invites any relevant photos which can be used (copyright free) on this page.

You may wish to read on this website about the Dundee to Newtyle historic railway.

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This page was updated - 08 February, 2015