Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Scottish - Larkhall review 1

24/8/08 Newton to Larkhall

Details from SPRS "Routes & Branches" Excursion  

Journey time: 19 minutes (single track from Hamilton Central)

Distance: 10½ miles  Weather: cloudy

Train type: Class 334 EMU 4-sar EMU

Railway company: Strathclyde Partnership for Transport

Frequency of trains: one every half hour

Newton station is in the middle of two different lines crossing here, plus there is an avoiding line on the north side of the station for the WCML. It has a long red brick station building on the up platform and a brick wall on the other platform. Soon after the West Coast Main Line and the line to Edinburgh go off on the left, whilst the line to Larkhall goes right. There is a lot of trees and foliage on both sides of the track as the train speeds up. There are some new houses on the right, and then more houses appear on both sides as we pass through Blantyre station. You can alight here for the David Livingstone Memorial according to the station sign. It's an unusual station building with a bright orange band around its top and has tall glass panels round its sides. After leaving Blantyre we see an industrial estate on the right, with new housing estate on the left.  An overgrown line on the right leads to some sidings that look like they haven't been used for a while. On the other side is Hamilton Academical FC's football ground. Then we come into Hamilton West station which has a large glass fronted building on the up platform and a blue-framed shelter on the down platform. We now start going downhill quite sharply as the track turns to the left. Here are modern office blocks on the right but lots of bushes on the left. We arrive at Hamilton Central station, which has a high white blocked wall with giant advertising hoardings and a grey shelter on the up platform. The other platform has the main station building, which is of the same design as several others on this line. We wait for the outward train from Larkhall to come into the station before we move onto the single track, which curves sharply to the right. We pass detached houses on both sides with their gardens coming up to the track. We then slow as we go over the river Avon on a viaduct and then go into Barncluth Tunnel, the train leaning heavily over to the left. We pass through a short cutting and then the line to Motherwell leaves us on the left. The track curves sharply to the right now and climbs steadily as we pass through Charterhault station which was newly built in 2004 and has the usual bus stop, but still looks pretty new. After the station, in the distance on the left, you can see a row of six tower blocks standing tall, whilst there is a slope on the right. The line is double here for a while as a passing loop. Then we enter a cutting and slow as we pass through Merryton station, which is noticeable for the amount of ramps it has, so that it can pass the disabled access laws. We go into a short cutting and the pass a park on the right. Then we pass modern housing on the left and older housing on the right. We soon arrive at Larkhall. It is a two-platform station, still looking brand new with large red buffer stops and beyond that a footway into the car park.  There's a large open glass shelter on the left platform but the station is deserted until scores of railway enthusiasts pour out of our train and start taking photographs from every possible angle.  We are there for not more than five minutes before the train pulls away, never again to disturb the peace and quiet of Larkhall. 

Summary: A new branch line, which has a great future thanks to the vision of the people in Scotland who see the potential of rail transport.   MC