Although perhaps not the most important closure of that particular year — the same day also witnessed the closure of the ex-GWR branch line from Lampeter to Aberayron, for example — the withdrawal of services over the erstwhile Newburgh & North Fife Railway was one of the first where local residents too action to try and prevent closure. In the event, as the Dundee Courier of 26 January 1951 reported ‘Court no say in North Fife rail dispute: Judge decides Fife County Council, Cupar District Council, the town of Newburgh and eight residents of North Fife have failed in their Court of Session Action against the Railway Executive.’ The argument put forward by the opponents of closure was that the original act creating the railway had stipulated ‘operation in perpetuity’ when the line was transferred to the NBR but this was rejected by the court.
The Railway Executive had originally signalled its intention to close the line on 5 June 1950 but this had led to the plaintiffs taking out an interdict to prevent the closure. It was this interdict that the Court of Session withdrew in January 1951, arguing that a civil court had no jurisdiction over the matter. Although the report in The Railway Magazine of the time commented ‘There has thus ended, at least for the time being, a long legal battle that has continued since the Railway Executive intimated its intention to withdraw the services’ the line was condemned.
The opening of the ill-fated first Tay Bridge in 1879 and its successor in 1887 had stimulated the development of lines feeding into Dundee, most notably the line to Newport and Tayport. The first proposals for a line linking the North Fife coast with Dundee emerged in the 1880s but it was not until the incorporation of the Newburgh & North Fife Railway on 6 August 1897 that things seemed to be about to happen. However, little happened and powers for the line’s construction had to be renewed in acts passed in 1900, 1902, 1904 and 1906; it was only after the last that contracts were let on 11 June 1906 and work commenced. The 13¼-mile long line opened throughout to freight traffic on 22 January 1909 and to passenger traffic on the 25th of the same month. Between St Fort, where there was a triangular junction, and Newburgh, there were three intermediate stations — Kilmany, Luthrie and Lindores — with a freight only station — Rathillet — situated between Kilmany and Luthrie. Aside from the passenger traffic, much of the line’s business was agricultural, reflecting the agrarian nature of the area. Services were operated, under agreement, by the North British Railway.
In 1910 there were three return workings over the branch, each service starting or terminating at Dundee Tay Bridge station. Departures from Dundee were at 7.20am, 10.10am and 4.22pm. In the reverse direction, services departed from Newburgh at 8.15am, 11.25am and 6.35pm. Some 45 minutes were allowed between Dundee and Newburgh with the return journey taking 46. There was no service on Sundays.
Right from the start there were complaints about the quality of service and the connections. It was not only the passengers that complained; the still independent Newburgh & North Fife Railway was concerned about its income and took the North British to court — the first occasion on which the terms of the NBR’s agreement was subject to legal action. Despite the NBR demonstrating the considerable losses that the line incurred, the court found in favour of the smaller company and the NBR lost on appeal as well, although the financial burden was reduced (with the NBR now having to pay 4% on the capital of £137,965 rather than the previous £240,000). With the court’s judgment against it, the NBR sought to boost revenue along the line; one of these was to extend services through to Perth in direct competition with the Caledonian Railway, although the latter’s shorter route always put the NBR at a disadvantage.
During World War 1, the branch saw a temporary suspension of passenger services as a result of manpower shortages; they were resumed on 22 July 1916. The south to west curve at St Fort had been closed as early as 1912. The Newburgh & North Fife Railway remained notionally independent until the Grouping of the railways in 1923 at which stage it was incorporated into the LNER. At Nationalisation in 1948 it was to pass to British Railways (Scottish Region).
In 1939 the service pattern was more complicated, with most services now running through to Perth beyond Newburgh and with connections through to St Andrews. There remained two through service from Dundee Tay Bridge to Perth on Mondays to Fridays; these departed from Dundee at 9.17am and 4.58pm (5.14pm on Saturdays); there was an additional through service on Saturdays Only, departing Dundee at 9.45pm. In the reverse direction the only through service from Perth to Dundee departed at 7.54am. On Saturdays, the 3.40pm service was extended from St Fort to Dundee with the Saturdays Only 6.50pm also operating through from Perth to Dundee. In addition there was a 2pm service from Dundee that connected with the 2pm departure from St Andrews to permit travel westwards with the 1.15pm departure from Perth allowing passengers to change at St Fort for a connection through to Dundee. There was now a Sunday service as far as Newburgh, with departures at 10.40am and 8.40pm; return workings departed from Newburgh at 11.45am and 9.25pm. The Sunday service was for the summer only and ceased at the end of August.
By the summer of 1947 the service had reverted to two return workings per weekday, departing from Dundee at 9.7am and 5.4pm and at 7.52am and 3.40pm from Perth. There was an additional 1.53pm departure from Perth to Dundee. By this stage, there was also again no Sunday service.
The final passenger services on Saturday 10 February 1950 — as usual the official date of closure was the subsequent Monday (the 12th) — were operated by an ex-Caledonian Railway ‘Dunalastair IV’ class 4-4-0 No 14447 (BR No 54447) hauling a rake of four ex-NBR carriages. Although there were no great farewell scenes, the passing of the last passenger train was marked by a considerable number of detonators being set off. The railway service was replaced by a bus service that operated between St Fort and Newburgh.
Although this was the end of passenger services over the line, the North Fife line continued as a freight route through until the section between Glenburnie Junction, at Newburgh, and Lindores closed on 4 April 1960. The final closure came with the withdrawal of freight services over the section from St Fort to Lindores on 5 October 1964. Since closure much of the line has been reclaimed although it is still possible to identify certain sections and a two-mile stretch at Kilmany has been converted into a footpath.
The class, designed by R. A. Riddles but derived from the earlier 2-6-2Ts designed by H. G. Ivatt for the LMS, was an attempt to produce a modern steam locomotive primarily for branch-line service. Detailed design work was undertaken at Derby works with work on specific parts undertaken at Brighton, Doncaster and Swindon. The original Ivatt design was slightly modified; this included a reduced cab to reduce the loading gauge.
Although it was originally planned that all of the class were to have been built at Darlington, the initial batch of 20, Nos 84000-19, were built at Crewe Works. The first was completed in July 1953 and all 20 were outshopped by the end of October the same year. The initial batch of 20 were all allocated to the London Midland Region, with the type split between seven sheds — Bedford, Burton-on-Trent, Fleetwood, Lees (Oldham), Low Moor, Royston and Wrexham Rhosddu — at December 1954. Two years later, the type was allocated to 10 sheds — Bank Hall, Bedford, Birkenhead, Bletchley, Burton-on-Trent, Chester Northgate, Fleetwood, Lees, Rose Grove and Royston.
The final 10 locomotives, Nos 84020-29, were all built at Darlington, emerging between March and June 1957. No 84029 was the last steam locomotive to be constructed at Darlington. The last 10 locomotives were all allocated to the Southern Region with the result that, at the end of 1958, the 30 locomotives were allocated to Ashford and Ramsgate on the Southern as well as to Bedford, Bletchley, Bolton, Birkenhead, Chester Northgate, Fleetwood, Lees, Lower Darwen, Royston and Skipton on the LMR.
On the LMR, the locomotives appeared on a wide range of branch services. These included Bedford to either Hitchin or Northampton, Hooton-Ellesmere Port-Helsby push-pull, Wolverton-Newport Pagnell, Banbury Merton Street-Buckingham-Bletchley and the Worth Valley branch to Oxenhope. As lines closed or were dieselised the type got transferred from shed to shed and line to line.
On the Southern Region, the locomotives were operated on non-push-pull services as the type’s vacuum operated push-pull equipment was not compatible with the compressed air system used on the Southern. As a result the type found itself on secondary passenger duties — such as Ashford to Rye and Ashford to Margate — as well as train shunting duties at Canterbury West. With the electrification of the Kent Coast routes, the locomotives were transferred away from Ashford and Ramsgate, being found in London and Eastleigh before all 10 eventually migrated to the London Midland Region. In the latter days on the Southern, regular duties included the shuttle service between Clapham Junction and Kensington Olympia. At the end of 1962 all were allocated to LMR sheds, being at Annesley, Bletchley, Bolton, Crewe Works, Fleetwood, Kentish Town, Leicester, Llandudno Junction, Rhyl, Skipton and Warrington.
Prior to the transfer, however, consideration in March 1960 was given to converting three of the class for operation on the Isle of Wight in replacement of the existing ‘O2’ 0-4-4Ts then in use. In order to fit the smaller loading gauge on the island the trio would have required modification. This was to have included the fitting of a shorter chimney, the reduction in the height of the dome and the reduction in height of the cab roof. In addition, the push-pull equipment was to be converted from vacuum to air operation. One of the class, No 84026, was transferred to Eastleigh Works in July 196o for the modifications to be undertaken; in the event, however, the project was never progressed and No 84026 was released back into traffic unmodified.
This was not, however, to be the end of plans for the use of the type on the Isle of Wight; by 1965, with withdrawals occurring, 10 of the class — Nos 84010/13-17/19/26/26/28 — were notionally transferred from the London Midland to Southern with a view to conversion for use on the island. By this date, however, the lines on the island were under threat; all had been listed for closure in the Beeching report of March 1963. The section of line from Smallbrook Junction to Cowes lost its passenger services on 21 February 1966, roughly contemporaneously with the scrapping of the last of the ‘84XXXs’, whilst the decision had been taken to convert the Ryde to Shanklin service to third-rail using ex-London Underground tube stock. As a result, once again there was no progress with the conversion.
Withdrawal of the class commenced on 12 October 1963 when No 84012, then just over 10 years old, succumbed. A further nine locomotives — Nos 84001/7/20-24/27/29 — were withdrawn during 1964. This left 20 in service at the start of 1965; of these 10 were to survive through to 11 December 1965, when they were all withdrawn; the 10 were Nos 84010/13-17/19/25/26/28. The end result was that the final 10 locomotives built had operational lives of around seven years; the shortest lived being No 84027, which lasted from 16 May 1957 until 2 May 1964.
Following withdrawal, the locomotives all made their final, one-way, journey to the scrapyard, sometimes after a brief period in store. The last three extant were Nos 84005/6/8, which were still complete in the yard of J. Buttigieg of Newport, South Wales, in August 1966. None, unfortunately, found their way to another of the Welsh scrapyards — that of Woodham Bros of Barry — where examples of other BR standard types were sent for scrap.
Thus, by late-1966 all of the class had been withdrawn and scrapped. However, work is in progress in converting one of the surviving Class 2 2-6-0s, No 78059, which was rescued from Barry without a tender, into a 2-6-2T on the Bluebell Railway. The new locomotive will be numbered 84030, the next in the number sequence. The decision to convert No 78059 was made partly because the 2-6-2T class had been allocated to the Southern Region during its operational career and so would be an appropriate locomotive for use on the Bluebell line.
Hundreds of thousands of passengers and freight users are set to benefit from one of the biggest Christmas and New Year investment programmes ever carried out on Britain’s rail network.