125 years history of Largs Railway Station

Published: 21 Jul 2011 08:306 comments

In this week's "Know Your News" we look back at over 125 years of the Largs Railway Station, tracking back to its humble origins from steam engines to diesel and then electrification.

A postcard illustration of how Largs Railway Station used to look in 1908

On May 1885, the first passenger train steamed into the new station with about a dozen directors of the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company on board.

After waiting for a short time to inspect the buildings of the platforms and the wooden station the train steamed out again in a fusillade of fog signals.

The day was very wet and only a limited company saw the inauguration of a direct train service to the town.

Twelve days later on Monday June 1 the extension to Largs of the Ardrossan and Fairlie branch was opened to traffic.

The Largs News reported: "It is not many days since that people, judging from the state of the works at the station and on the line, were not slow to affirm that the railway would never be opened for June 1, but these assertions notwithstanding, the regular passenger traffic commenced on Monday morning and a railway to Largs is now a fait accompli.

"But the Largs line was in use two days before. On the Saturday special arrangements were made to carry the local company of Rifle Volunteers over the new line en route for the annual inspection at Kilmarnock.

"Shortly after 1pm, a long train of empty carriages was run into the Largs station and the volunteers under Captain Peter Watson, and Lieutenant Houston, speedily occupied the foremost carriages, which were then detached, and carried on to Fairlie."

Through the kindness of Captain Watson, the Largs News made the run to Fairlie in the train conveying the volunteers. The carriages, we reported, ran very smoothly on the new line, and we added: "with the splendid views of the Firth of Clyde, it makes this extension of the railway system as pleasant a little bit of travelling as to be found in Scotland.

"At Fairlie, the volunteers' train was coupled on to the regular train, the Fairlie contingent of volunteers were taken on board and the train moved off to Ardrossan. The return of the volunteers at night was watched by a very big crowd - the station being quite filled."

It was at the official opening of the line to ordinary passenger traffic on June 1 that the townspeople celebrated the occasion. The Burgh Commissioners (later the Town Council) recommended that all places of business will be closed from 1pm till 6pm in honour of the event.

The commissioners intimated that they had agreed to take a trip to Ardrossan by train to leave at 1.30pm and recommended as many inhabitants as possible to do likewise.

Not a great many people assembled at the station at 6.40am at June 1 to witness the inauguration of the passenger traffic on the new railway line apart from the town crier. The second train to leave at 7.55am carried quite a respectable number of passengers as the number of onlookers increased.

The first arrival was at 9am as the town began to assume a gala look with shop fronts being decorated with flowers and shrubbery.

It cost only 10p to travel by train from Largs to Glasgow in 1885. The first Saturday excursion fare for third class seats was two shillings but first class travellers had to fork out four shillings (20p).

For those wishing to go to London the third class ticket cost 52 shillings (£2.60) and first class 113 shillings (£5.65).

The first train from Glasgow at 7am took two hours and eight minutes to reach Largs because of stops at every conceivable station but journey times varied throughout the day from 1 hour 45 minutes to 1 hour 17 minutes.

On the way to Largs, the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company had opened West Kilbride Station in 1878, and Fairlie in 1879. Buildings on the site of the Largs station were demolished, included was the former town jail.

During the early 20th century, the first rail motor steam engine in Scotland operated between Largs and Ardrossan and Kilwinning. The successful Largs Thistle team arrived at Largs Railway Station in 1923 to a fanfare including a brass band after winning the Ayrshire Cup.

The old wooden station building at the Main Street entrance was demolished at some point in the 1920s/30s and replaced with a new Victorian style station building which included ticket office, waiting rooms new platforms and a roof structure.

One of the greatest days in the history of the station came in 1958 when The Queen and Prince Philip departed on July 7 after opening the Inverclyde National Sports Centre. The red carpet was rolled out for the prestigious event.

The "News" reported: "The station looking like a scene from fairyland with its banks of flowers, its canopy of gay bunting and its red carpet, provided a fitting final setting for a day rich in colour and pageantry."

In the 1970s, train parties from as far as Manchester visited Largs via a special diesel train, as Provost Dan Doris welcomed the flocks of holidaymakers as they arrived on the platform.

The 1980s signalled a significant change with the introduction of electrification on the line as the station also celebrated its centenary anniversary in the summer of 1985.

Scotrail hosted an anniversary party with brass band music, highland dancing, pipe music and railway displays. A special Scotrail train leaved Glasgow Central at 10am hosted by the management of Scotrail as a piper welcomed the party at Largs. In the early 1990s, a school plaque was also unveiled at the platform by Largs Academy.

However, it was in July 1995 on an infamous Tuesday morning in Largs as a train crashed through the buffers and came to a shuddering halt in Largs Main Street next to the taxi rank, as BBC and ITN covered news of the event throughout the day. The 6.15am train from Glasgow Central had ploughed its way into the Main Street and demolished two shops.

'It was a miracle nobody was killed' was the headline banner on the front page of the Largs and Millport Weekly News as the train failed to stop, blazing through the buffers at 7.15am on Tuesday July 11. Following a long battle between developers, with talk of a hotel and flats being mooted, a small ticket office was built in 2001, and recently a new fleet of trains by German manufacturers Siemens have recently started opeartion on the line.

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