Caledonian Railway

The Caledonian railway development started in the 1830’s when it was decided to extend the railway to Stonehouse and Strathaven in 1897.

The first railway into Stonehouse was the Lesmahagow Branch of the Caledonian Railway which left at Dalserf Junction. The Lesmahagow Branch was connected from the Wishaw and Coltness Railway at Motherwell to Bankend near Coalburn, tapping into the rich coalfields along its route. It opened  to mineral traffic on 1st December 1856.

The Stonehouse Branch was opened in two stages, Dalserf Junction to Canderside on 1st September 1862 and Canderside to Cotcastle on 1st September 1864; with a station in Stonehouse.

The Cander Water Viaduct  was built in 1860 and carried the first railway line in to Stonehouse. It came from Dalserf Junction (Ashgillhead) to Birkenshaw, to Stonehouse then to Cot Castle Terminus. This particular line was changed when the Stonehouse and Larkhall Viaducts were opened in 1905. The line at this stage carried only goods and mineral traffic serving the many pits and works, with the terminus at Cotcastle serving the local agricultural community.

The Lesmahagow and Stonehouse Branches were then opened to passenger traffic, with trains running to Ferniegair from the 1st December 1866 and through to Motherwell and Glasgow Buchanan Street from 1st April 1868. Horse buses provided a connection from Ferniegair to Hamilton West Station for Glasgow South Side, running until 2nd October 1876, when the direct line from Ferniegair to Hamilton was opened. The Lanarkshire trains were then transferred to the South Side, which they used until 1879 when they were accommodated in the new Glasgow Central Station.

The station at Stonehouse was located between Lawrie Street and Vicars Road on the edge of the village. Stonehouse Station had four platforms, a foot bridge, two signal boxes, two water pumps (for filling the locomotive tenders up with water for the boilers) and a goods shed.

These early lines enjoyed great success. The only other railway in the area was the Hamilton and Strathaven railway opened in 1863, running via Quarter to a terminus at Flemington on the outskirts of Strathaven. However, the need for expansion became apparent and the Caledonian Railway applied to Parliament for authority to proceed. The Act was granted in 1896 and was known as the mid Lanarkshire Extension Lines Act. This allowed the Caledonian Railway to make extensions. These were the Merryton Junction on the Lesmahagow Branch to Stonehouse; Stonehouse to Coalburn; Cotcastle to Strathaven and the Strathaven to Glasgow and South Western Railway line coming from Darvel.

The line from Merryton Junction to Stonehouse required two large viaducts to be built over the valley of the river Avon. Larkhall viaduct is a six span steel truss bridge built on the straight, on a rising gradient of 1 in 80 towards Stonehouse, 530 feet long and 170 feet high. The spans were carried on masonry piers of locally quarried stone, whose foundations sat on a bed of solid rock 60 feet below ground level. The viaduct contained 1399 tons of steel and was reputed to be the highest in Scotland. It was also subject to a speed limit of 15 miles per hour to trains passing over it.

Stonehouse Viaduct was of similar construction built between 1903and 1904. This was an eight span steel truss bridge built level on a curve 158 feet above the river, 457 yards long  and contained 2273 tons of steel. Both viaducts were built by Arrol and Company of Glasgow, incorporating expansion joints on the tops of the piers to allow for the creep of the steel during hot weather. Whilst the viaducts were built wide enough for double tracks, only single track was ever laid on them. Most of the construction workers were Irish labourers.These new single track lines were operated by the electric token block system between the crossing places.