|2827 miles (4549.5 km)|
The Caledonian Railway was a major Scottish railway company. It was formed in the early 19th century with the objective of forming a link between English railways and Glasgow. It progressively extended its network soon reaching Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with a dense network of branch lines in the area surrounding Glasgow. It was absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923. Many of its principal routes continue active at the present day, and the original main line between Carlisle and Glasgow is in use as part of the West Coast Main Line railway (with a modified entry into Glasgow itself).
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Early history
- 3 Developing the network: to 1880
- 4 Glasgow Central station
- 5 Extending the network after 1880
- 6 Edinburgh and Lothians
- 7 Stirling, Perth, Callander and Crieff
- 8 North and east of Perth
- 9 Callander and Oban Railway
- 10 The Strathearn Lines
- 11 Notable accidents
- 12 Chief mechanical engineers
- 13 Armorial bearing
In the mid-1830s railways in England evolved from local concerns to longer routes that connected cities, and then became networks. In Scotland it was clear that this was the way forward, and there was a desire to connect the central belt to the incipient English network. There was controversy over the route that such a line might take, but the Caledonian Railway was formed on 31 July 1845 and it opened its main line between Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carlisle in 1848, making an alliance with the English London and North Western Railway.
Although the company was supported by Scottish investors, more than half of its shares were held in England.
Establishing itself as an inter-city railway, the Caledonian set about securing territory by leasing other authorised or newly built lines, and fierce competition developed with other, larger Scottish railways, particularly the North British Railway and the Glasgow and South Western Railway. The company established primacy in some areas, but remained less than successful in others; considerable sums were expended in the process, not always finding the approval of shareholders.
A considerable passenger traffic developed on the Firth of Clyde serving island resorts, and fast boat trains were run from Glasgow to steamer piers; the company was refused permission to operate its own steamers, and it formed a partnership with a nominally independent, but friendly, operator, the Caledonian Steam Packet Company.
In 1923 the railways of Great Britain were "grouped" under the Railways Act 1921 and the Caledonian Railway was a constituent of the newly formed London Midland and Scottish Railway; its capitalisation at that time was £57 million, and it had a single track mileage of 2827 miles.
It extended from Aberdeen to Portpatrick, and from Oban to Carlisle, running express passenger services and a heavy mineral traffic.
The Lanarkshire coal lines
In the closing years of the eighteenth century the pressing need to bring coal cheaply to Glasgow from the plentiful Monklands coalfield had been met by the construction of the Monkland Canal, opened throughout in 1794. This encouraged development of the coalfield but dissatisfaction at the monopoly prices said to be exacted by the canal led to the construction of the Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway (M&KR), Scotland's first public railway; it opened in 1826. Development of the use of blackband ironstone by David Mushet, and the invention of the hot blast process of iron smelting by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828 led to a huge and rapid increase in iron production and demand for the ore and for coal in the Coatbridge area.
The industrial development led to the construction of other railways contiguous with the M&KR, in particular the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway and the Wishaw and Coltness Railway. These two lines worked in harmony, merging to form the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway in 1841, and competing with the M&KR and its allies. All these lines used the local track gauge of 4ft 6in (1,372mm), and they were referred to as the coal lines; passenger traffic was not a dominant activity.
During this period, the first long-distance railways were opened in England; the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first inter-city line, opened in 1830 and was an immediate success. It was quickly followed by the London and Birmingham Railway in 1838 and the Grand Junction Railway in 1837, and the North Union Railway reaching Preston in 1838, so that London was linked with the Lancashire and West Midlands centres of industry.
Connecting Scotland and London
It was clearly desirable to connect central Scotland into the emerging network. At first it was assumed that only one route from Scotland to England would be feasible, and there was considerable controversy over the possible route. A major difficulty was the terrain of the Southern Uplands: a route running through the hilly lands would involve steep and lengthy gradients that were challenging for the engine power of the time; a route around them, either to the west or the east, involved much lengthier main lines, and made connection to both Edinburgh and Glasgow more problematic.
Many competing schemes were put forward, not all of them well thought out, and two successive Government commissions examined them. However they did not have mandatory force, and after considerable rivalry, the Caledonian Railway obtained an authorising Act of Parliament on 31 July 1845, for lines from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Carlisle. The share capital was to be £1,800,000.
The Glasgow and Edinburgh lines combined at Carstairs, and the route ran through Annandale. The promoters had engaged in a frenzy of provisional acquisitions of other lines being put forward or already being constructed, as they considered it was vital to secure territory to their own control and to exclude competing concerns as far as possible. However if they hoped to operate the only Anglo-Scottish route, they were disappointed. The North British Railway opened between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed on 22 June 1846, forming part of what has become the East Coast Main Line. The Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway had opened in 1841 with the declared intention of reaching Carlisle by way of Dumfries; it did so in 1850, changing its name then to the Glasgow and South Western Railway.
The main line
The main line was opened from Carlisle to Beattock on 10 September 1847, and throughout between Glasgow and Carlisle on 15 February 1848. A continuous railway route between Glasgow and London existed for the first time. (It had been possible to travel via Edinburgh and Newcastle upon Tyne since 1846, but this involved crossing the River Tweed at Berwick by road, and the River Tyne at Newcastle by ferry.)
The Caledonian Railway's Edinburgh line from Carstairs opened on 1 April 1848. The terminal at Edinburgh was Lothian Road. Glasgow was reached over the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway (successor to the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway), and the Wishaw and Coltness Railway, which the Caledonian had leased from 1 January 1847 and 1 January 1846 respectively. The Glasgow station was the Townhead terminus of the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway.
During the process of seeking Parliamentary authorisation, the Caledonian observed that the Clydesdale Junction Railway was being promoted. The Caledonian acquired that line during its construction, and it opened in 1849. It gave an alternative, and shorter access to another Glasgow passenger terminal, named South Side, and to the Clyde Quays at General Terminus (over the connected General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway). The South Side station was already being used by the Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway, worked by the Caledonian. One day, they hoped, they might extend that line into Ayrshire. Meanwhile the line was leased (for 999 years) to the Caledonian in 1849.
The Caledonian recognised that the Townhead terminus was unsatisfactory and constructed a deviation from Milton Junction to a new Glasgow terminus at Buchanan Street. It opened on 1 November 1849. Trains to Edinburgh, Stirling and Carlisle used the new station; the Stirling trains had to reverse at Gartsherrie Junction. The Garnkirk's old Glebe Street (Townhead) station was reduced to goods and mineral duties. In 1853 or 1854 the Hayhill Fork, between Gartcosh and Garnqueen, was opened, enabling direct running from Buchanan Street towards Stirling.
Financial problems, and Greenock amalgamation
In the period between formation of the Caledonian Railway and the opening of the main line, a large number of leases and working arrangements had been concluded with other railways being promoted or built. This was mostly done by guaranteeing those shareholders an income on their capital, which meant no immediate cash was required. When the lines started working, suddenly a huge periodical payment was required, and the income was inadequate to satisfy it. There were also suggestions of improper share acquisitions, and in the period 1848 to 1850 a number of shareholder inquiries disclosed bad practices, and many board members had to resign in February 1850.
The Company had obtained Parliamentary powers to merge with the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway (GP&GR) in 1847, but even more alarming revelations of financial impropriety emerged regarding that company, and the Caledonian considered getting authorisation to cancel the amalgamation. However it was later decided to proceed, and the amalgamation took place by Act of Parliament of 7 August 1851. The GP&GR operated the line between Glasgow and Paisley jointly with the Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR), and the Paisley line used a terminus at Bridge Street, in Glasgow.
The Caledonian now worked trains at three termini in Glasgow: Buchanan Street, South Side (from the Clydesdale Junction line, mostly used for local trains to Motherwell and Hamilton), and Bridge Street (on the Paisley line).
Gradually the financial difficulties were got under control, by economy, and by the discovery that several of the lease agreements were illegal. Handsome dividends continued to be paid, but it was not until March 1853 that the dividend was paid wholly from revenue. The earlier practice of paying dividends from capital made some shareholders feel good, but gave a misleading indication that the company was profitable.
South Lanarkshire: mainly mineral traffic
If the Caledonian Railway had been formed as an inter-city trunk line, its attention was early on 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, Murikirk and Darvel and many other places, with new lines built right up until 1905. 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. Only the passenger traffic to the Lanark and Larkhall branches remain in operation.
In North Lanarkshire the North British Railway was a keen competitor, having taken over the Monkland Railways. The area contained the rapidly growing iron production area surrounding Coatbridge, and servicing that industry with coal and iron ore, and transport to local and more distant metal processing locations, dominated the Caledonian's activity in the region. The Rutherglen and Coatbridge line, later linking Airdie, and the Carfin to Midcalder line were routes with significant passenger traffic. Many lines to coal and iron ore pits further east were built, but serving remote areas the liens closed when the mineral extraction ceased.
Developing the network: to 1880
Busby and East Kilbride
With the Barrhead line in full operation, interests in Busby wanted a railway connection. The wealthy middle class saw the town as an elegant location and the Busby Railway opened in 1866. Commuting was already in fashion. The line was extended to East Kilbride in 1868, although at that time (long before the New Town) the village did not generate much business for the railway.
Branches south of Carstairs
When the main line was built, no branches were provided in the thinly populated terrain. Four independent companies made branches themselves, and the Caledonian built two.
The Symington, Biggar and Broughton Railway was opened in 1860, having been taken over by the Caledonian during construction. It was extended to Peebles in 1864.
In 1863 an independent line, the Dumfries, Lochmaben and Lockerbie Railway was opened. The line was encouraged by the Caledonian Railway, giving westward access into Dumfriesshire, and worked by it; the Caledonian acquired the line in 1865. The Portpatrick Railway had opened between Castle Douglas and Portpatrick in 1861–1862 and the Caledonian Railway worked that railway; it obtained running powers over the G&SWR between Dumfries and Castle Douglas, and at a stroke the Caledonian had penetrated deep into the south-west, and to the ferry service to the north of Ireland, territory that the G&SWR had assumed was its own. The Portpatrick Railway later reformed with the Wigtownshire Railway as the Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Joint Railway; the Caledonian was a one-quarter owner.
The North British Railway opened the branch line to Dolphinton, east of Carstairs, and the Caledonian feared that the next step would be an incursion by the NBR into Caledonian territory, possibly seeking running powers on the main line. To head this off, the Caledonian built its own Dolphinton branch from Carstairs; it opened in 1867. Dolphinton had a population of 260 and two railways, and traffic was correspondingly meagre, and the line closed in 1945 (passengers) and 1950 (goods).
The independent Solway Junction Railway was opened in 1869, linking iron mines in Cumberland with the Caledonian Railway at Kirtlebridge, crossing the Solway Firth by a 1,940yd (1,791m) viaduct; the company worked the line itself. It considerably shortened the route to the Lanarkshire ironworks, and was heavily used at first, but the traffic was depleted by cheap imported iron ore within a decade. The Scottish part of the line was acquired by the Caledonian Railway in 1873, and the whole line in 1895. Serious ice damage and later heavy maintenance costs made the line seriously unprofitable and it was closed in 1921.
Glasgow Central station
When the Caledonian's first main line opened, it used the Townhead terminus of the Glasgow, Garnkirk and Coatbridge Railway, and almost simultaneously, it acquired access to the South Side station planned for the Clydesdale Junction Railway. It extended from Townhead to Buchanan Street, an "inadequate and very cramped station" in 1849, but the route from there to the southwards main line was very circuitous. The Caledonian also worked the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway with a terminus at Bridge Street, also inconveniently situated south of the Clyde: the Caledonian therefore had three unsatisfactory Glasgow termini.
As early as 1846 proposals to cross the Clyde from Gushetfaulds to a Dunlop Street terminal had been put forward; the idea was kileld by fierce opposition from the Clyde Bridges Trust (which would lose toll income) and the Admiralty (who insisted on a swing bridge).
Another scheme failed to get finance in 1866 and again in 1873, but in 1875 an Act was obtained to build a bridge crossing the Clyde and bringing the South Side route into the city centre. A four track railway bridge crossing the river was designed by Blyth and Cunningham and built by Sir William Arrol & Co.; the Caledonian Railway Bridge was complete on 1 October 1878. The new Glasgow Central Station on Gordon Street opened in December 1879. It had eight platforms, but was considered to be unsatisfactory, having narrow platforms; the circulating area was "riodiculously small"; there was no good cab stance and inadequate siding accommodation.
The Bridge Street terminus was jointly operated with the Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR); it had to be reconstructed as a through station, and the Greenock line trains (operated by the Caledonian) continued to use it.
A ninth platform was added to Central station in 1889, but a major expansion took place in the years 1901 - 1906, when the platforms were lengthened and four platforms added on the west side; a second river crossing was provided. In 1904 Bridge Street station was substantially changed to provide carriage washing and stabling facilities; it closed as a passenger station on 1 March 1905. Central station was operated by a single signal box, staffed with ten men. It was commissioned on 3 May 1908; it had 374 miniature levers, the largest of its type in the world, operating points and signals by electro-pneumatic and electro-magnetic equipment.
Extending the network after 1880
The Moffat Railway was opened from Beattock on 2 April 1883. It was just over one and a half miles (2km) long. It was worked by the Caledonian and absorbed on 11 November 1889. The Caledonian Railway sought to develop both Moffat and Peebles as watering places, and ran The Tinto Express from both places, combining at Symington, to Edinburgh and Glasgow for several years.
With the intention of revitalising the lead mining industry, the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Branch was opened as a light railway from Elvanfoot in 1901 - 1902. With challenging gradients to reach Scotland's highest village in otherwise remote territory, the line scraped a bare living and closed in 1938.
From Greenock to the Firth of Clyde
In the mid 1850s the steamer connections on the River Clyde assumed ever increasing importance, and journey transit times from settlements in Argyll and the islands to Glasgow became critical. The inconvenient situation of the Greenock station and pier encouraged thoughts of more convenient routes, and in 1862 the Greenock and Wemyss Bay Railway was authorised. It was an independent company intending to provide a fast connection from Rothesay, Bute; it opened on 13 May 1865 and in August 1893 it amalgamated with the Caledonian Railway, having been operated by the Caledonian Railway since its opening.
In 1889 the Caledonian itself opened an extension line from Greenock to Gourock, more conveniently situated than Greenock; this involved the expensive construction of Newton Street Tunnel, the longest in Scotland.
In competing with rival rail and steamer connections, the Caledonian became frustrated with its reliance on independent steamer operators, and tried to obtain powers to operate the vessels directly; this was refused by Parliament on competition grounds, and in reaction the company founded the nominally independent Caledonian Steam Packet Company in 1889. The CSPC expanded its routes and services considerably; following nationalisation of the railways in 1948 it became owned by British Railways, but was divested in 1968 and later became a constituent of Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd, which is (2015) state owned.
Glasgow and Paisley suburban lines
In the final decades of the nineteenth century, as the cities spread into conurbations, the company's attention turned to increasing traffic in areas now thought of as "suburban". Street running tramways were already responding to the demand for passenger travel in these areas, but as yet they used horse traction.
The Cathcart District Railway was promoted as an independent concern, but heavily supported by the Caledonian. It opened in 1886 from Pollokshields to Mount Florida and Cathcart (the eastern arm of the present-day Cathcart Circle Line) in 1886, and was extended via Shawlands to form a loop in 1894. It was worked by the Caledonian, although the company retained its independence until 1923.
The Glasgow Central Railway was authorised as an independent company to build a surface line from Rutherglen to Maryhill. It encountered fierce opposition, and the scheme was taken over by the Caledonian and converted into a route mainly in tunnel. It opened in 1896, further encouraging suburban passenger travel. It closed in 1959 but re-opened (as the Argyle Line) in 1979.
The Paisley and Barrhead District Railway was incorporated in 1897 and transferred to the Caledonian in 1902; it was to link Paisley and Barrhead and enable a circular service from Glasgow. The line was substantially ready in 1902 but by now street tramways were electrically operated and eminently successful. It was plain that a passenger service would not be viable against tram competition and the intended passenger service was never started.
The area of the north bank of the river Clyde became increasingly important for industry, and therefore became heavily populated. The North British Railway and its satellites had gained an early monopoly of this traffic, but its importance encouraged the Caledonian to enter the area.
The Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway was nominally independent, running from near Maryhill to Dumbarton, opening progressively between 1894 and 1896. In 1896 the Caledonian gained access to Loch Lomond with the opening of the Dumbarton and Balloch Joint Railway, (oriiginally built by the Caledonian and Dumbartonshire Junction Railway), built jointly with the NBR.
The Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
In 1888 the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway opened a 6.5 miles (10km) line from Giffen on the Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway to Ardrossan. Its purpose was to shorten the route for Caledonian mineral traffic, and it was worked by the Caledonian. In 1903 - 1904 it was extended eastwards to Cathcart and Newton, enabling the heavy mineral trains to avoid the Joint Line and the congested area around Gushetfaulds from the Lanarkshire coalfields to Ardrossan Harbour.
Edinburgh and Lothians
The Caledonian Railway entered Edinburgh from Carstairs on 15 February 1848; its terminus was a one-platform station named Lothian Road. This was the first line to offer travel without change of carriage between Edinburgh and England: passengers on the rival North British Railway needed to cross the River Tweed on foot to continue their rail journey.
The unsatisfactory Edinburgh terminus needed improvement but funds were limited, and the Caledonian built a short spur to Haymarket; talks had taken place about using the E&GR and NBR station, later named Waverley; but the NBR rejected the idea. Eventually in 1870 the Lothian Road station was much improved and extended, and the new terminus was named Princes Street.
The owner of Granton Harbour encouraged, and half-funded, the construction of a branch from near Lothian Road, and this opened in 1861. A branch from the Granton line to Leith Docks was made in 1864. This line was opened to passengers from 1879: the Leith terminal was later renamed Leith North. After 1900 the port authorities built new modern docks to the east of the former Leith docks, and the Caledonian further extended its Leith line to reach the new facilities: the Leith New Lines opened in 1903. It had been planned to open a passenger service on the line, and passenger stations had been built, but street tramcar competition made it clear that an inner suburban passenger railway was unviable and the passenger service was never inaugurated.
The Edinburgh main line passed close to numerous mineral workings, and several short branches and connections were made to collieries, iron workings and shale oil plants. The Wilsontown branch from Auchengray, opened in 1860 was the most significant, and carried a passenger service.
The original Wishaw and Coltness Railway, now leased by the Caledonian, had long since reached Cleland ironworks from the west, and in 1869 the line was extended from near there to Midcalder Junction on the Edinburgh main line, passing through Shotts, Fauldhouse and Midcalder. This line connected in many further mines and industrial sites, and gave the Caledonian a passenger route between Glasgow and Edinburgh that competed with the North British Railway's route through Falkirk.
The first main line had by-passed a considerable centre of industry located on the Water of Leith south west of the city, and a branch line to Balerno opened on 1 August 1874. The line was successful in encouraging residential building, especially at Colinton, and also leisure excursions: for a time it was known as the picnic line, but it too succumbed to more convenient transport facilities by road, and it closed to passengers in 1943.
Speculative residential development encouraged the construction of a line to Barnton, west of Edinburgh. The branch line opened on 1 March 1894; the terminus was named Cramond Brig at first. The Caledonian intended to make the line into a loop, returning to the city by way of Corstorphine, but this idea was shelved.
Stirling, Perth, Callander and Crieff
The Caledonian Railway had intended to lease, or absorb, the Scottish Central Railway (SCR), which obtained its Act of Parliament on the same day as the Caledonian. The SCR needed a partner railway to get access to Glasgow and Edinburgh, but the rival Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway (E&GR) would provide that. The SCR opened from Greenhill Junction with the E&GR to Perth on 22 May 1848, and the Caledonian opened its branch to reach Greenhill Junction on 7 August 1848. The SCR remained independent for some time, mainly because of Parliamentary opposition to proposed mergers. The SCR built Perth General station, which became the focus of several railways at that traffic centre, and a Joint Committee managed the station.
The SCR itself managed to absorb some local railways; the Crieff Junction Railway had opened from Crieff to what later became Gleneagles station in 1856, and it was worked by the SCR and absorbed in 1865.
In 1858 the Dunblane, Doune and Callander Railway was opened in 1858. It achieved considerable significance as the starting point for the Callander and Oban Railway, described below. It was absorbed by the SCR in 1865 immediately before the SCR amalgamated with the Caledonian Railway on 1 August 1865, finally having gained Parliamentary approval to do so.
The Scottish Central Railway was absorbed by the Caledonian Railway in 1865.
North and east of Perth
Several railways obtained their Acts of Parliament on the same day as the Caledonian, on 31 July 1845. There was a frenzy of railway promotion in that year, and it seemed as if every locality must have its own line. The Scottish Central Railway had been described above; the Scottish Midland Junction Railway (SMJR), the Aberdeen Railway and the Dundee and Perth Railway also got their Acts on the same day.
The SMJR built a line from Perth to Forfar; at Perth it used the Scottish Central Railway joint station. The main line ran through the fertile area of Strathmore and the SMJR adopted two existing short lines that were on a suitable alignment. They were the Newtyle and Coupar Angus Railway and the Newtyle and Glammiss Railway. (Glammiss is spelt Glamis nowadays.) Both were unsuccessful adjuncts to the Dundee and Newtyle Railway, built using stone block sleepers and a track gauge of 4ft 6.5in (1,384mm). The two short lines were modernised and altered to double track using standard gauge. At Forfar the SMJR joined the Arbroath and Forfar Railway, another earlier stone block railway, in this case using the track gauge of 5ft 6in (1,384mm). The SMJR opened in 1848.
The Aberdeen Railway was to run north from Guthrie, a few miles north west of Arbroath. Joining the Arbroath and Forfar Railway there, it obtained access to both termini of that line. It was authorised to lease the A&FR. The Aberdeen Railway may have underestimated the cost of upgrading the A&FR's stone block track, and it ran out of money building its own main line; its construction was delayed and it encountered political difficulty in Aberdeen itself. It opened in 1850 to Ferryhill, on the southern margin of the city, extending to Guild Street station in 1854. There were branches to Brechin and Montrose.
At this early stage the Caledonian Railway saw itself as the future creator of an extensive network in Scotland, and it set about gaining control of as many other railways as possible. It did so not by purchasing them, but by leasing them. This had the advantage that no payment was required at first, only a periodical payment much later. The Caledonian negotiated with the SCR, the SMJR and the Aberdeen Railway and believed it had captured them, but the SCR had other ideas. Much later the Caledonian found that the periodical lease payments were unaffordable, and it was rescued by the legal opinion that the lease agreements had been ultra vires.
The Dundee and Perth Railway opened in 1847; it was taken over by the Scottish Central Railway, and its network came to the Caledonian with the SCR when that company was taken over by the Caledonian in 1865.
The Scottish Midland Junction Railway opened in 1848 from Perth to Forfar, giving onward access to Aberdeen. The SMJR and the Aberdeen Railway amalgamated in 1856 to form the Scottish North Eastern Railway in 1856. The SNER did not remain independent for long: it was absorbed by the Caledonian in 1866. At the time of the absorption the SNER and the Great North of Scotland Railway were engaged in building a through line at Aberdeen, with a new Joint station; it opened in 1867.
The Caledonian had now got what it had wanted from the outset: control of an extensive network of lines covering a considerable territorial area. This came at a cost: Parliament became increasingly uncomfortable with monopolies of this kind, and when the North British Railway protested, it was given running powers over much of the Caledonian's northern system. There was worse to come: as the North British approached Dundee (with the building of the Tay Bridge, which opened in 1878, the NBR sought and was given joint ownership of the Dundee and Arbroath Railway, which became jointly owned in 1881. The NBR had already built an independent line from Arbroath to Kinnaber Junction, north of Montrose, and so, with the opening in 1890 of the Forth Bridge immediately north of Edinburgh, now had a rival route to Aberdeen. Competition between the companies on the east and west coast routes from London to Aberdeen led in 1895 to what the press called the Race to the North.
Acquisition of the SNER and other lines brought a number of branch lines to communities off the main line. A number of infill lines were added towards the end of the nineteenth century. The Dundee and Forfar direct line was opened by the Caledonian in 1870 between Broughty Ferry and Forfar, developing residential travel (to Dundee) but otherwise only a rural line. The Forfar and Brechin Railway was promoted as a potential alternative main line; it opened in 1895 but remained simply a rural branch.
Callander and Oban Railway
The Callander and Oban Railway was an independent company intended to connect the Western Seas to the railway network, but it had been promised financial support by the Scottish Central Railway (SCR). The Caledonian absorbed the SCR in 1865 and the directors were dismayed at the level of commitment to a difficult construction scheme barely started. Construction took many years, reaching a "Killin" station in 1870 and competing in 1880, and money was always desperately tight.
The line was never profitable although it contributed greatly to the development of the town of Oban. A branch was built to Ballachulish, opened in 1903.
The western part of the line from Crianlarich is open today, connected to the West Highland Line but the remainder has closed.
The Strathearn Lines
Crieff now had two railway connections, using the same station. The upsurge in tourism in Strathearn encouraged many visitors, who used Crieff as a railhead and continued by road. In 1893 the Crieff and Comrie Railway made a short extension into Strathearn, and this encouraged ideas of completing a link right through to the Callander and Oban line. There were wild dreams of Irish cattle imports coming to Perth markets over the route. This became the Lochearnhead, St Fillans and Comrie Railway; due to serious problems raising capital, it took from 1901 to 1905 to open fully. The through traffic never developed and passenger connections at Balquhidder were poor, discouraging through travel.
- On 2 October 1872, an express passenger train was in collision with a freight train that was being shunted at Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire due to errors by the station master and signalman, compounded by a lack of interlocking and absolute block working. Twelve people were killed.
- On 23 October 1899, an express passenger train was in collision with a cattle train at Coupar Angus, Forfarshire. One person was killed.
- On 6 April 1906, an express freight train was derailed 2 miles south of Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire due to the failure of a wheel on the third wagon of the train. The derailed wagons fouled the opposite line; an express passenger train ran into them and was derailed. One person was killed and several were injured.
- On 2 April 1909, a passenger train became divided and was derailed at Crawford, Lanarkshire when the crank axle of the locomotive hauling it failed. A few passengers suffered minor injuries.
- On 22 May 1915, a troop train was in a head-on collision at Quintinshill, Dumfriesshire due to a signalman's error. An express passenger train then ran into the wreckage. A fire then broke out which killed 226 people and injured 246 in what remains the deadliest railway accident in the United Kingdom as of 2014. Two signalmen were later jailed for culpable homicide.
Chief mechanical engineers
- Robert Sinclair 1847–1856
- Benjamin Connor 1856–1876
- George Brittain 1876–1882
- Dugald Drummond 1882–1890
- Hugh Smellie 1890
- John Lambie 1891–1895
- John F. McIntosh 1895–1914
- William Pickersgill 1914–1923
From July 1865, the Caledonian Railway adopted "a version of the Scottish arms, without, so far as is known, getting the blessing of the Lord Lyon King of Arms". This was a lion rampant with a riband bearing the motto of the Order of the Thistle, Nemo me impune lacessit. Above there was a crest showing helmet surmounted by a crown; the supporters were unicorns. This was slightly modified in August 1866 and from September 1888 a further riband was added below the motto; this bore the words Caledonian Railway Company. From the base of the shield hung a medallion of St Andrew. A lion séjant affronté was superimposed on the crest above which was the inscription In Defence. The motto was now worded Nemo me impune lacesset but this was corrected to Nemo me impune lacessit in 1899.