Rediscovering Scotland’s Hidden Grouse Moor Railway Line

(Image: Gordon Dowie, cc-sa-3.0)

Abandoned railways are often associated with decaying urban areas, or scenic rural routes re-purposed as public trails. So if you’re hiking across the boggy moorland of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park in Scotland, you may be surprised to stumble across the old Duchal Moor Railway, a seven mile-long narrow gauge route built in 1922, better known as the Grouse Moor Line.

(Images: wfmillar; Gordon Dowie; cc-sa-3.0)

As the name suggests, the line was built to transport grouse hunters to various shooting butts dotted across the moor. Spearheaded by Scottish industrialist and shipbuilder Sir James Lithgow, 1st Baronet, construction was launched to help keep men employed when ship orders declined after the First World War.

(Image: wfmillar, cc-sa-3.0)

The two-foot gauge tracks were sourced from former wartime and colliery stock, while the wooden sleepers supporting them were recycled from dismantled warships. Two petrol-driven 20 hp locomotives were purchased to operate on the Grouse Moor Line, having allegedly served at an ordnance factory at Gretna.

(Image: wfmillar, cc-sa-3.0)

The engines and passenger carriages were stored at Hardridge Farm, where the line began. Three branches extended across Duchal Moor – one northwards to the Laverock Stone, another west to the Laird’s Seat and a third south to Smeath Hill.

(Images: wfmillar (left, right), cc-sa-3.0)

The now-derelict Grouse Moor Line survived until the late 1970s. The engine shed, platform remains and rails can still be seen, though largely covered in peat or swallowed-up by heather. While the tracks north of Hardridge Hill have been removed, much of the infrastructure – including point levers and a small viaduct constructed from two iron girders and wooden sleepers, remain intact.

Keep reading – if forgotten railways are your thing, why not dive underground and explore these ghost stations and abandoned subways, or check out these abandoned trolleys, streetcars and tramways.




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