BR Diesels In 'The Wee County'! (Part 2)

On the page BR Diesels In 'The Wee County'! (Part 1)  I summarized the early diesel era in Clackmananshire up to the late 1970s (or thereabouts), by which time the remaining operational lines in the 'Wee County' were a freight-only main line that had been partly singled in the late 1960s, the Kincardine branch, the Alva Railway from Cambus to Menstrie, Alloa New Yard, the branch to the former Caledonian goods via Longcarse Junction, and a few freight sites. 

The view west at Alloa West Junction LC in 1985, showing what was originally the junction for the Alloa railway, but which since the late 1960s had just been the junction for the two east end throats of Alloa New Yard.

One of these was the Alloa Co-op coal yard, sited a few hundred yards down the Tillicoultry branch from Alloa Station, which I don't have a closure date for but which must have lasted into this era. The reason I think that is that the eastbound track of the main line was retained from Alloa West Junction (where the level-crossing was singled in the late 1960s along will all of the main line west of there) as a long siding to Alloa Station and then onward to the coal yard - clearly the coal-yard was still open when the section through Alloa Station was singled. Alas, I don't have a date for the singling either so I can't say much more at present!

Alloa West Junction signal box in 1985. It probably dates from the construction of Alloa New yard in the 1950s, had gone out of use (I believe) in the early 1980s and was demolished a year or two after I took this picture.

This lack of dates for events about then (and to some extent the order in which they happened) means I had best jump forward quickly to 1983 as I got a car that year and was able to see all that was left. The main line had been closed east of Kincardine Junction, singled elsewhere, and was out of use east of Cambus (not necessarily in that order). The Kincardine branch was intact, but also disused. The coal-yard on the site of the Caledonian goods had closed, the branch to it disused, the long-siding to the Co-op coal yard was gone (although the point for it at Alloa West Junction was not taken out - was that siding in use after through traffic ceased?), and the brewery siding just east of Alloa station clearly hadn't been used for years.

The view east from Alloa West Junction LC in 1985 showing clearly the point that originally took the singled main line to double track through Alloa and was later the start of a very long siding to the Alloa Co-op coal yard. It isn't as clear on this scan as on the original photo, but the signal on the left for the removed siding still has a dwarf arm on it!

A single daily trip freight on weekdays from Grangemouth serving Alloa New yard (running round plus occasional van traffic), Menstrie (molasses traffic) and the distillery at Cambus (CO2 tanks) was all that ran by then, always, at least when I was watching, with a Class 20 and a brake-van. I watched it often in the summers of 1983 and 1984, during which time the loop at Menstrie was upgraded to allow running-round instead of propelling all the way. 

A Class 20 with the older blue molasses tank wagons at Alloa New Yard in the summer of 1983.

Soon after Class 27s replaced Class 20s on the daily freight, and new molasses tank wagons with a smaller barrel diameter and a distinctive blue and yellow paint scheme replaced the old ones on the working to the yeast factory at Menstrie.

27055 At Cambus heading for Alloa New Yard with the newer type of molasses tanks in 1984

What the railways of Clackmannanshire needed badly was a really positive development, and amazingly, this happened in the 1980s - the distillery at Cambus started to receive grain deliveries in bogie hopper wagons, and even acquired the ex-BR Class 08 locomotive 08443 to shunt them over the unloading pit, making it the first locomotive based in the 'Wee County' since the 1960s. Admittedly the CO2 tank traffic at Cambus eventually ceased, but it was still an improvement. 

A view from the footbridge at Cambus LC taken in early 1988 showing the newly installed loop there and also two bogie grain hoppers waiting in the sidings at Cambus distillery.

By the late 1980s Alloa New yard had not been used for anything more than running round for several years and the next blow fell early in 1988 when a loop was put in at Cambus and everything east of there was abandoned. Cambus and Manor Powis signal boxes were closed and the loop at Manor Powis reduced to a single plain track, albeit with a bit of a wiggle at the Stirling end where the point had been! The end had come for Alloa New Yard after more than three decades as the track was all lifted and scrapped.

The decline in the fortunes of BR freight traffic continued steadily and the Cambus grain traffic, which had promised to halt the local decline in the mid-1980s, was soon one of the casualties. 08443 stayed at Cambus however, sitting out of use tucked out of sight at the inner end of the sidings. Worse still the demise of the BR Speedlink network in 1990 nearly killed off the molasses traffic to Menstrie as well, which just survived as a weekly block train. I don't know whether this annoyed a customer long used to receiving a daily delivery of convenient size, but by 1993 the molasses was going by road.

 

The western half of Alloa New Yard in 1988 shortly after closure. Left to right are an overgrown siding that saw occasional van traffic in the early 1980s, three through loops with blackened ballast most traversed by the locomotives when running round, a further loop that wasn't used much, and two sidings facing Alloa that had rotten sleepers that I never saw used in the 1980s.

The 'northern' east throat of Alloa New yard shortly after closure in 1988. This throat was seldom used in the 1980s as it only accessed two of the four loops and two disused sidings.

 

The 'southern' east throat of Alloa New yard shortly after closure in 1988. This was the throat usually used for running round and shunting of brake-vans as it accessed three loops and a siding half the length of the yard on the south side that had road access and saw (very) occasional van traffic in the early 1980s.

So as the Twentieth century drew to a close there was no rail activity left in the 'Wee County' at all , with the track being abandoned to trespassers, wildlife, and unwanted vegetation. Surely it would just be a matter of time before all the remaining track was removed...

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These pages are owned and maintained by Jeffray Wotherspoon. The storage space for these pages is provided by the University Of Stirling, but it is in no way responsible for the contents of these pages. Please email me at jeff.wotherspoon@stir.ac.uk if you have any questions, comments, problems etc.