Duchal Moor Grouse Railway
The Grouse Railway, as it was referred to by locals, was located on Duchal Moor, an area of upland moorland in Inverclyde which is ringed by hills within the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, and its purpose was to transport shooting parties onto the moor and into the hills after game-birds.
Completed around 1922, it was built by the Lithgow family to employ men from their shipbuilding yards when the end of World War I signalled a drop in their order-book. The line is believed to have survived until the 1970s, but is now abandoned. Some sections of track, points, and buffers remain in place, while others are lost or lifted. Construction is credited to both Sir James Lithgow (1883 – 1952) and Henry Lithgow (1886 – 1948), sons of Lithgow shipyard founder and sole owner, William Todd Lithgow (1854 – 1908). The family still own the shooting rights, although these may be due to expire some time after 2000.
Two 20 HP 2-foot gauge 4 wheeled petrol locomotives were ordered new from the Motor Rail & Tramcar Company Ltd of Bedford in 1922 - Works Nos 2097 and 2171 - a company which had already equipped a 'grouse railway' in 1920 for Sir Archie Birkmyre at Dalmunzie House near the Spittal of Glenshee. This information was transcribed in late 1970s from the Motor Rail & Tramcar Co records (now in Bedfordshire Record Office). In September 1969, a further locomotove was purchased. This time it was second hand one bought from Joseph Arnold & Co Ltd sand quarries in Leighton Buzzard. It had been built by Motor Rail Ltd of Bedford, successors to the MR & T Co Ltd - their Works No 8700 built in 1941.
Other rolling stock such as carriages and compartment wagons for carrying birds were similar to those supplied by the MR & T Co for the Dalmunzie Railway.
By the late 1970s the railway was disused but still intact (visit to site by Ian Jolly).
The sleepers are said to have come from dismantled warships, and the track from former World War I and colliery light gauge railways.
The railway is narrow gauge. There was a station (parts of the platform still exist) and locomotive shed (still standing) by the reservoir. The route to the north of Hardridge Hill is lifted, the rest of the route appears to be intact. Much of the track is obscured by moor and can only be detected as a depression in the peat. The eastern triangular junction is largely complete and crossed by a recent dirt road. The points remain at all three corners, complete with weighted point level. The line to the south crosses a small viaduct (built from two 'I' beams and a sleepers), possibly the largest such structure on the railway. The western triangular junction is more overgrown than the eastern one. The western points here are overgrown completely, but the western and southern points can be found. The southern points still work. There is a siding at Lairds Seat.
The line was about 5 miles long and crossed hundreds of acres of boggy moorland in the hills between Lochwinnoch and Kilmacolm. Supported on wooden sleepers, the line had three branches - one northwards to the Laverock Stone, another westwards to the Laird's Seat and the third southwards to Smeath Hill. The line started at Hardridge Farm, where the engines and passenger-wagons were stored in a corrugated-iron shed. The 24-inch gauge tracks were a combination of ex-First World War and former colliery light railway lines. The sleepers were from dismantled warships while the two petrol-driven engines had been in use at an ordnance factory at Gretna. Among the many visitors said to have ridden on the Grouse Railway was King Edward VIII during a shooting excursion to Scotland. The line remained in use until the 1970s. The engines and wagons remain preserved, and sections of track, points and buffers remain in place.
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