[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 comparatively small system is only about 325 miles in length. Its main line, over which are conveyed the expresses brought from London, etc., by the Midland, runs from Carlisle to Glasgow through Dumfries and Kilmarnock. At the last-mentioned town another line seeks Glasgow by way of Dairy and Paisley. Besides this main route, there are the lines between Glasgow and Greenock, and between Glasgow and Girvan, which latter on its way south serves, either on its own route or by short branches therefrom, the seaside resorts and coast towns of Fairlie, Largs, Irvine, Ardrossan, and Ayr. The company are also joint owners with the London and North-Western, Midland, and Caledonian, of the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railways, which, connecting at Castle Douglas with the Glasgow and South-Western branch from Dumfries, run west through Newton Stewart to Stranraer, with a branch to Wigtown. From Stranraer an excellent service of fast paddle boats crosses the channel to Lame, the passage of nearly 40 miles being accomplished in two hours by the Princess Victoria and Princess May, The other lines owned by the company are for the most part short connections from Kilmarnock and the coal districts to the coast towns. The direct route from Kilmarnock to Glasgow b jointly owned with the Caledonian Railway.

Travelling Facilities

(a) Services between Chief Towns. There is probably no railway in the British Islands which serves its district so well as the Glasgow and South-Western. Taking Glasgow as a centre, we see, in the table presented below, how admirably the various points of importance on the system are served. Especially is this the case with Kilmarnock, Dumfries, and Carlisle, which towns get the benefit of the through expresses to and from the Midland line some of the smartest trains to be found north of the Border. Then there are trains to Greenock and Ardrossan for the watering-places down the Clyde, and to Ayr, which though, with few exceptions, not quite up to a 40 miles an hour standard, are yet really excellent.

(b) Rolling Stock and General Accommodation. The accommodation offered is good, as a rule, throughout the system. On very few branches is any old stock to be seen, and in general the coaches supplied by the company are some of the best in the kingdom. Pullman Day Cars (at first class fares) and Sleeping Cars run in connection with the Midland trains. The third class is frequently supplied with lavatory conveniences. Most of the coaches are lighted by gas, and some are warmed by hot-water pipes in winter; both of which improvements, we believe, originated with this company. The Automatic Vacuum brake is used, the signal- ling is excellent, and the permanent way in particularly good condition. The line has a very high character for safety, and it is not within the writer's memory that anyone has lost his life from causes beyond his own control while travelling on the system. In other ways, too, the company sustain their all-round first-class reputation. The stations are equal to all traffic requirements, which is not the case, as a rule, on the other Scotch lines. St. Enoch (Glasgow), both stations at Paisley, Kilmarnock, Ardrossan, Dumfries, etc., are all fine structures, and we very much doubt if there is a town of the same importance in the kingdom with so handsome a station as Ayr. The company are also the owners of three hotels.

Locomotive Work

(a) Speed. The booked speeds on the Glasgow and South-western main line are generally high. Between Carlisle and Dumfries the timing is just under 50 miles an hour for the trains which do not stop (39 minutes is the best), while those which stop at Annan are invariably allowed 43 minutes, including stop, for the 33 miles. The best trains get only 70 minutes between Dumfries and Kilmarnock (58 miles), which is just short of 50 miles an hour; and from Kilmarnock to Glasgow (24J miles), a most difficult piece, only 31 to 33 minutes is usually allowed.

The coast lines present us with nothing quite so good as the main line, although lately some very smart short runs have been inserted in the time table. The best of these are well above 45 miles an hour, and in some few cases exceed 48. Ardrossan to Paisley (Canal) in 28 minutes (23J miles) and Paisley (Gilmour Street) to Prestwick in 41 minutes (30J miles) are excellent.

(b) Gradients, Perhaps on no line in Great Britain can the effect of gradients be so well studied as on the Glasgow and South- Western. Here in a short course of 115 miles we have 33 miles of level, 58 miles of moderately steep road, with one or two banks quite long enough to enable us to test their effect on speed, and 24 miles of some of the steepest main-line gradients in the kingdom.


The Glasgow and South Western Railway 153, a 4-4-0 express passenger engine. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

(c) Locomotives. The working of such fast trains over such a trying road demands high-class locomotives. These the Glasgow and South-Western have in plenty. Indeed, we may say that no railway company in the kingdom have such an averagely powerful stock of engines. Every one can perform what is known as the 15-coach test, and no one other line can say this of all its locomotives.

Particulars are given below. We will therefore content ourselves here with saying that the design (that of Mr. Smellie) of all the types is unusually neat and symmetrical. The colour adopted is a dark green. Several of the latest class are fitted with a smoke-box extension; all the recent passenger locomotives have a leading bogie, and no engines on the system have domes. There are scarcely any tank engines on the line. The company's experience with brakes has been singular. Starting with, perhaps, the best possible brake the Westinghouse they discarded it in favour of the Automatic Vacuum. This action was probably due to Midland influence. The present Locomotive Superintendent is Mr. Manson (late of the Great North of Scotland Railway).


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.

Last modified 27 January 2013