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5th February 2019 -  The Mid Lanark lines of the Caledonian Railway

The President welcomed members to the meeting on Tuesday 5 February and introduced our guest speaker Jim Watt whose talk was The Mid Lanark lines of the Caledonian Railway. This talk was a fascinating look at the growth of the railway network supporting a booming mining industry during the mid 19th century. The Caledonian Railway had been formed in 1845 as an inter-city trunk line, but its attention early on was turned to other demands. Local interests in Lanark promoted a branch line to their town, opening in 1855. Coal owners in South Lanarkshire pressed for a railway connection, and the Lesmahagow Railway was formed by them, opening in 1856. It was later absorbed by the Caledonian, but other lines followed in the sparsely populated but mineral-rich area. As new coal mines opened, so new branches were needed, connecting Coalburn, Stonehouse, Strathaven, Muirkirk and Darvel and many other places, with new lines built right up until 1905. Throughout this period of growth the Caledonian Railway was dominant and acquisitive ensuring little competition from other companies. When the coal became exhausted in the second half of the twentieth century, the railways were progressively closed; passenger traffic had always been light and it too disappeared. In 1923 as part of the Railway Groupings exercise. the Caledonian Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish railways. Only the passenger traffic to the Lanark and Larkhall branches remains in operation. Bill Allen gave the vote of thanks. The next meeting is our Open Meeting on the 19th February. All are welcome when we meet to hear Helen Russell whose talk is titled Feed the Minds Transforming Lives.

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