Railways of Irvine Harbour


In 1814, William Taylor, who had the lease of the pits at Bartonholm, acquired the Shewalton pits from Boyle and engaged James Beaumont Neilson (later inventor of the Hot Blast process which revolutionised the iron industry, mentioned on our page about Robert Wyllie) to lay a three-mile railroad from the Shewalton pits to the quayside. It reached the Quay through the ground occupied today by the Harbour Arts Centre. By 1820 this line was thrice daily carrying 28 wagons of a ton each to the harbour, 84 tons a day.

The main Glasgow to Ayr line reached Irvine in 1839, the company being the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway (GPK&AR) . Six years later, in 1845, there were two linked developments of interest at the harbour - the Harbour Branch line was laid to a new Coal Shipping Wharf downstream from the old Quay and two 'hurries' (chutes for loading coal) were erected suitable for shipping 4-ton wagons.


The harbour area in 1895, showing the 1845 Harbour Branch line of the Glasgow & South Western Railway and the lines and sidings serving quays and industrial works. Click to enlarge.
The line of the harbour branch from the main line is now the road named Harbour Road.

This map is a composite of two published by the Ordnance Survey as 25 inch maps in 1896 and are reproduced here by permission of the National Library of Scotland. The two sections shown are:
on left: the right half of map 82863111 (viewable on the NLS site) and
on right: the left half of map 82863198 (viewable on the NLS site).

Irvine benefited from the increased shipping engendered by the railway, and the Burgh revenues gained from the feu duties paid by the railway. The GPK&AR came under the 'Glasgow and South West Railway' after a merger in 1850.

Later in the 19th century (dates still to be ascertained) an extra two sidings were created at the New Quay, and an extra railway spur was laid from the harbour branch at the end of Gottries Road, swinging up to the Old Quay, and running along the wharf seawards to meet up with the New Quay.


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