Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Scottish - Largs review 1

22/8/08 - Kilwinning to Largs

Cost of ticket: £9.00 - Day Tripper

Dept Kilwinning: 14.18   Arrive Largs: 14.44

Distance: 16 miles   Weather: cloudy

Traction: Class 334 Juniper 4-car EMU

Train Operating Company: Strathclyde Partnership for Transport

Frequency of trains: hourly

Kilwinning is a V shape station, similar to Lewisham with four platforms, two serving the Ayr line and two serving the Largs and Ardrossan lines. There is a fairly modern station building in the middle with ticket office, newsagents and waiting area. As soon as the train leaves the station we pull into a cutting then emerge by a freight spur from the Ayr line. We are now in open fields - mainly rough pasture as we change from a southwesterly direction to a northern one. We start to slow down as we pass the remains of sidings from the once busy ICI explosive works on our left as we come into Stevenston station. It has a bus stop type shelter on the down platform, whilst on the up platform is a large red brick shelter. I also notice at least three CCTV cameras on a pole on the down platform, which seems to be a feature of all the stations on this line. On the left hand side of the station can be seen a large ICI factory and on the right we pass a caravan site indicating that the sea isn't far away. In fact it soon appears on our left with views across the Clyde Estuary to the island of Arran in the distance.  Houses appear on the right, whilst on the left we run parallel with a promenade. We then arrive at Saltcoats, a small seaside resort. The up platform has a large red brick station building which is still partly in use, whilst the down platform has a smaller red brick building as well as a small shelter. There is also the original cast iron footbridge here. We leave Saltcoats and pass housing on both sides of the track. The housing gives way to the sea on our left hand side as we come to a stop Ardrossan South Beach station. The station building has been rebuilt in recent years and there are shelters on both platforms. We move away and the single line to Ardrossan Harbour leaves us on our left. We then move into a low cutting passing several bungalows on our left and open countryside on our right. Although it is still double track, we are actually on a single electrified line all the way to Largs, whilst next to us is a single non-electric freight line which goes as far as Hunterston. There are great views of the mountains of Bute on the left as the track begins to climb upwards. The beach on our left is left far below us as we start to move into more hilly countryside, with sheep grazing in the fields on our right. We move into another cutting as a coal train passes us. We continue to move away from the sea and house come into view before we stop at West Kilbride. The main station building is a large cream and red coloured shelter on the down platform, which is in contrast to a small bus shelter on the up platform. The station is hidden from the village houses by newly constructed brick barriers topped with wooden fencing. We come out into the countryside again higher up than before and the hills on our right are covered in heather. There's both sheep and cattle grazing in the fields now as a colliery comes into view in the distance. A freight line joins us on the left; whilst on the right can be seen coal train sidings from the colliery. We then see the sea once more, though this time there are small hills of coal and a jetty where ships load/unload the coal. There is another freight line on the left as we go into another cutting, before stopping at Fairlie station. We are now on single track and Fairlie station has a single platform, with a red-framed Perspex shelter. I notice more CCTV cameras here. Straight away we go into a tunnel, over a mile long, then emerge into a cutting and see a large boat building yard on our left, followed by a marina full of yachts. The isle of Great Cumbrae can now be seem across the straits and a tall black tower on our left. Then houses start appearing on both sides of the track. We go into a wooded cutting and then the remains of a second track can be seen on the left. We then come into Largs station, which has two platforms, one long and one short, connected by the original cast iron footbridge. The station building is a new building with ticket office cafe and offices. Someone has taken the trouble to make a Largs sign in stone on waste ground next to one of the platforms, which adds some individuality to the station. Largs is a bustling seaside town and this is borne out by the fact that at least fifty people get off the train.

Summary: Although it's probably just too far for commuting to Glasgow, this line is sure to continue because of its day-tripper and tourist trade.      MC.