This is the leading Scotch system. . . . The carriages on the through expresses are, however, excellent specimens, and almost unequalled in the kingdom. . . All over the system the carriages are fairly well lighted, gas being commonly used. In some few instances the stock is heated by the waste steam from the engine. Great progress has been made in fitting the Westinghouse brake, and the line is well signalled throughout. Despite these precautions, the Caledonian has had its serious accidents. The permanent way is probably unsurpassed in the kingdom, and the greatest care is bestowed upon its maintenance.

[The following passages are excerpted from Pattinson's late-nineteenth-century book on British passenger railways. — George P. Landow.]

General Description of the Line


This is the leading Scotch system, and extends over more than 700 miles of line. It comprises a main line from Carlisle to Aberdeen, via Carstairs, Stirling, and Perth. From this the main routes to Edinburgh and Glasgow branch off at Carstairs and Law Junction (or Holytown) respectively. From Glasgow and Edinburgh similar lines join the trunk at Glenboig and Larbert. The other important lines leaving the main route are those from Lockerbie to Dumfries; from Carstairs to Peebles; from Stirling to Oban vid Dunblane, Callander^ and Loch Awe; from Crieff Junction to Crieff, and thence to Perth; from Perth to Dundee, and round by Forfar. Not directly connected with the main route are the important sections from Edinburgh to Glasgow vid Midcalder and Holytown Junction; from Glasgow through Paisley to Greenock and Gourock, with a branch to Wemyss Bay; and from Glasgow over the joint line to Kilmarnock, with working powers over the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire from Lugton to Ardrossan. Then there are some minor lines in Forfarshire, and many short pieces in Lanark used chiefly as mineral lines. The company are also owners jointly with the London and North-Western, Midland, and Glasgow and South-western of the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railways, remarks on which will be found under the Glasgow and South-Western Railway.

Travelling Facilities

(a) Services between Chief Towns. To give a proper idea of the express services furnished on the Caledonian system, it will be necessary to furnish two tables^-one showing the communications between Glasgow, as the centre, and the other towns on the system, and the other, those between Carlisle and the North, thus giving an idea of the company's participation in the working of the West- Coast traffic. From an inspection of the first table it will be noticed that the towns of Edinburgh, Greenock, Ardrossan, Perth, Dundee, and Aberdeen are all fairly well served from Glasgow. This is the more praiseworthy when the extremely heavy gradients are considered. Particularly is praise due as regards the best trains between Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, and Aberdeen. Here the North British, the rivals of the Caledonian Railway, are completely beaten out of the field, and although 3J hours may seem none too speedy between Glasgow and Aberdeen (a distance of over 150 miles) it should be remem- bered that we are not in wealthy England, with populous towns springing up every few miles. To Greenock and Ardrossan the trains are also very smart, considering the shortness of their course. To Edinburgh the company's services are as quick as the North British, although their route is as hilly as the North British is flat.

Looking now to the services northwards from Carlisle in continuation of the London and North-Westem trains, we again find ground for praise. To Edinburgh the North British cut a sorry figure when compared with the magnificent two hours trains of the Caledonian (loi miles), as they also do if the times taken from Carlisle to Perth and Aberdeen by the two companies be compared. The Caledonian Railway is in each case the longer route, yet the journey is performed in quicker time. In the following table we make a more detailed comparison between the rival lines. To Glasgow and Greenock, however, the Caledonian Railway have an opponent of different mettle to deal with, and although in this case the company have a route 13 ½ miles shorter to Glasgow than the Glasgow and South- Western, their service is perhaps scarcely so good.

Punctuality on the Caledonian Railway is often very good, and often absent. The fastest trains are generally those which keep time best, and in general it is only the slow trains and those with connections off the Highland Railway which run late. Nevertheless, there is scarcely that machine-like discipline which one meets with on the London and North-Western; and the occasional want of this, coupled with poor station arrangements at one or two junctions, has much to do with what unpunctuality does exist. In the suburbs of Glasgow this has been remedied, and punctuality is observed, the services there now being excellent.

(b) Rolling Stock and General Accommodation. The general accommodation provided by the company is fairly good and improving. Most of the branch-line trains, and indeed some of the slow main-line ones, are still composed of very poor rolling stock. But elsewhere, and in those cases where new coaching stock has been provided, things are much better, though perhaps not up to the latest standards. The carriages on the through expresses are, however, excellent specimens, and almost unequalled in the kingdom, as may be supposed when it is mentioned that they are built by the London and North-Western Company. All over the system the carriages are fairly well lighted, gas being commonly used. In some few instances the stock is heated by the waste steam from the engine. Great progress has been made in fitting the Westinghouse brake, and the line is well signalled throughout. Despite these precautions, the Caledonian has had its serious accidents. The permanent way is probably unsurpassed in the kingdom, and the greatest care is bestowed upon its maintenance. The stations are too frequently below requirements, obviously so at important points such as Stirling and Larbert. The same cannot now be said of Perth, Dundee, Glasgow, and Carlisle, where the pressure up to comparatively recent times used to cause much inconvenience. At many of the roadside stations there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Locomotive Work

(a) Speed. The Caledonian, in common with most of the railways concerned in working the Scotch through traffic, has of late years materially advanced its booked rates of speed. The best the company can show us is found on the main-line trains running from Carlisle northwards. These are generally composed of the Glasgow and Edinburgh through carriages, and although the trains are split up at Carstairs, still the hardest and steepest part of the journey has been accomplished before reaching that point Hence it is that the north-going main-line trains are much harder to work than those coming south, which perform the hardest part of their journey with light loads before reaching Carstairs, where the trains are united, and after which point the road to Carlisle is tolerably easy.

(b) Gradients, These are excessively severe all over the Caledonian. From Carlisle the main line descends gradually to almost sea-level for 7 miles, and then mounts 8 miles of 1 in 200, followed by one mile of 1 in 200 down, and two miles level to post up. Then come four miles of 1 in 200 up, two miles of i in 200 down, and five miles of 1 in 528 down, after which the line rises gradually for four miles on grades of 1 in 880 and 330. Then for two miles there is a slight fall and level stretch, followed by two miles of i in 206, one mile of 1 in 200, and one mile of i in 165 and I in 263 rising, bringing us to the foot of Beattock bank. . . . . The other sections of the Caledonian are nearly all steep, and very trying to the locomotive.


The Caledonian Railway 124 — a 4-4-0 express passenger engine. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

(c) Locomotives. Probably on no other line, except perhaps the Preston to Carlisle section of its ally, the London and North- western, do speed, gradients, and heavy loads combine to offer a harder task to the locomotive than on the Caledonian Railway. Before the late locomotive superintendent, Mr. Drummond, assumed the reins of management, the company suffered from a multiplicity of types, many of them good, but not good enough for the arduous tasks they had to perform. The labours required have since become still more herculean, but Mr. Drummond has proved fully equal to all demands. His well-known bogie engines [i.e., engines which have swiveling unpowered trucks] have achieved a wide reputation, and even the most thorough-going adherents of the Midland and Great Northern types have at last begun timidly to compare the performances of their favourites with the engines of the Scotch company. Particularly famous we might justly say the most famous engine in the kingdom is C.R. No. 123, which twice every day during the race to Edinburgh in August, 1888, ran the "West Coast Flyer," and never lost a minute during the month. This locomotive, as well as a very fine coupled type, were built at the same time, and exhibited in the first Edinburgh exhibition. . . . The bulk of the very fine express work on the Caledonian is, how- ever, done by the well-known 6 feet 6 inch coupled bogies, with cylinders 18 inches by 26, and 1,208 square feet of heating surface. This class, which is almost similar to the 6 feet 6 inch type built by Mr. Drummond for the North British Railway, has given exceptionally good results ever since it was introduced about ten years ago. Another type built by Mr. Drummond for use on the Greenock and Oban sections is of similar general appearance, but has smaller dimensions, and only 5 feet 6 inch wheels. Besides these four varieties just described, Mr. Drummond has built two or three types of tank engines (strongly recalling London, Brighton and South Coast practice) for shunting purposes and short-distance passenger journeys. Before closing this section it would be unjust to pass over un- mentioned two old classes which in their time have worked the fast trains of this company. These are Mr. Connor's 8 feet 2 inch singles, and the 125-129 class, 7 feet 1 inch coupled. The former had 174 by 24 inch outside cylinders, 1,172 square feet of heating surface, and weighed 30 tons 13 cwts, in working order, with 14 tons 11 cwts. on the driving wheels. One of this class was shown at the Exhibition of 1862, and fully described and illustrated in Colburn's Locomotive Engineering. Considering their low tractive force, they did their work well. The latter class, built by Neilson in 1877, had 18 by 24 inch cylinders, and weighed 41 tons 12 cwts., of which 28 tons was on the coupled wheels. Some of them have been renewed, and work on the northern section of the company's system. The locomotives are painted blue with white stripe. The brake used is the Westinghouse automatic.


Pattinson, J. Peabody. British Railways: Their Passenger Service, Rolling Stock, Locomotives, Gradients, and Express Speeds. London: Cassell, 1893. Internet Archive version of a copy in the Stanford University library. Web. 26 January 2013.

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Last modified 27 January 2013