10th September 1847

First section of the Caledonian Main Line opens

In the early days of the rail network, it wasn’t possible to catch a train between Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London. That changed in the late 1840s. In 1847, the first part of what would become the West Coast Main Line opened between Carlisle, on the English side of the border, and Beattock, in Dumfries and Galloway.

Official opening

The line between Carlisle and Beattock was officially opened at 11.30am on 10 September 1847, which had given the operators time to run a trial service along its full length to check there would be no embarrassing problems.

The first official train carried the directors of the railway company and their friends. Unfortunately, their views may have been somewhat disappointing, as the Westmorland Gazette of 18 September 1847 reported that “the morning was foggy, and slight showers of rain fell at intervals – increasing considerably in intensity as Scotland was approached, and completely obscuring the view of the beautiful scenery.”

Optimistic plans

The contractor responsible for laying the line, a Mr Stephenson, said upon the opening that he had no doubt the extensions to Glasgow and Edinburgh would be operational within the next two months, weather permitting.

However, passengers had to wait a good deal longer than that, with the line finally reaching Glasgow on 15 February 1848, and Edinburgh on 1 April 1848.

The line had been authorised by an Act of Parliament passed in 1845, which allowed for a 73-mile trunk line between Carlisle and Carnwarth, where it would divide. There, two further lines would carry trains 27.5 miles to Edinburgh, and 12 miles to a junction with the Wishaw and Coltness Railway, from which they would use existing tracks to reach Glasgow.

Whole-day journey to London

Although the opening of the new line significantly reduced journey times in both directions, they were certainly not short by modern standards. The Carlisle Patriot of 10 September asked readers “twenty years ago, who contemplated even the possibility of travelling from Carlisle to London in twelve hours?”

From London to the Scottish cities that would eventually be added to the network naturally took even longer.

Beattock railway station, which marked the northern extent of the original line, closed in 1972. The line was electrified two hours later, by which point journey times from Glasgow to London had been cut to five hours.



Other events that occured in September

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