Lockdown Walks: The Dundee-Newtyle Railway (Part 1)

8.4 kilometres (total)
130 metres of ascent (total)

4.6 kilometres (this part)
95 metres of ascent (this part)

Dundee-Newtyle railway route (Dundee)
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Confined to a small and largely urban Local Authority Area by the current lockdown rules, your correspondent is having to get a little creative in his choice of walking routes, to keep interest alive.

This one follows the route of the old Dundee-Newtyle railway, as it weaves around town. The track bed is long gone (I can only just remember the occasional goods train plying this route in the early 1960s), and subsequent demolition and building work has left little of even industrial-archaeological interest —but it’s a pleasant route to follow, and wide enough to allow two-metre distancing throughout, with a little care (and occasional willingness to step off the path). I’ve superimposed the line of the old railway in red on my usual map, above, and have also marked the various vanished stations along its route.

The original Dundee-Newtyle railway was the first railway north of the Tay, opened in 1831, connecting the farmland of the Vale of Strathmore, north of the Sidlaw Hills, with Dundee’s then-bustling port. It took a pretty steep and direct line out of town, passing through the tunnel I mentioned in my post about the Dundee Law. Problems with runaway wagons on the steep inclines led to injury or death on more than one occasion. The whole steep section through town was eventually bypassed by a long loop, the Lochee deviation, which opened in 1861. It branched off the main Dundee-Perth railway and took a long loop westwards around Menzies Hill (a low and gently rounded extension of Balgay Hill). This loop was so long it was later said that, if had you just missed the train departing from Dundee West Station, you had time to hop on a tram to Lochee Station and catch the train as it reached the end of its long deviation.

There’s very little left of the original direct Dundee-Newtyle line, so my plan was to walk the loop of the Lochee deviation. As with my previous waterfront excursion, this is a one-way walk report—the return journey is left as an exercise for the interested reader. I’ve split the walk into two sections, both for ease of description and to introduce a logical break for anyone who wants to do it in two halves.

So I loaded a geo-referenced Victorian map into my phone*, and set off. I picked up the line of the old railway where it crossed the Perth Road at NO 355302. South of this point, its route has been entirely overbuilt by a row of newer houses along the south side of the road. Below, I’ve superimposed the track as shown by the Ordnance Survey map of 1903 on to the modern street layout.

Route of Dundee-Newtyle Railway near Perth Road
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

There’s no evidence of the embankments on either side of the road, or the bridge that linked them. Here’s the view looking north:

W.L. Gore building, Dundee Technology Park
Click to enlarge

My line took me towards the left side of this panorama, aiming for the sign (just visible above) at the little car-park on Mariner Drive. Then after a short walk down Mariner Drive, I forked right on to the track of the Dundee Green Circular Route. The line of the railway passes through the trees to the left of this route initially, but then the Green Circular path picks up the line of the old track-bed, and follows its loop right around Menzies Hill. The hill itself is now covered by the suburb of Menzieshill, and the Green Circular threads a pleasant line between the houses on the right, and a strip of woodland to the left.

Green Circular Route, Dundee Technology Park
Click to enlarge

As the curve of the path turns north (in the distance in my photograph above), it briefly rises above the surround terrain, following the old railway embankment.

Once it has made its loop and turned eastwards, the path falls in beside South Road (which, counter-intuitively, runs east-west). A short length of wall between the path and the road marks the original approach to Liff Railway Station. On the north side of the road at this point my 1903 Ordnance Survey map enticingly marks a “Druidical Temple (remains of)”. It’s still there, but now referred to more prosaically as the Balgarthno Stone Circle. The Canmore database records some more satisfying alternate names: “The Nine Stanes of Invergowrie” and (predictably enough) “The Devil’s Stones”.

Balgarthno stone circle, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The old Liff Station buildings and platforms are long-gone, the site covered by the car park of the Lynch Sports Centre. Here’s the 1903 layout superimposed on the modern map, again.

Location of Liff Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

And here’s what the site looks like, now:

Site of old Liff Railway Station, Dundee
Click to enlarge

Gowrie Villa, shown on my 1903 map, is still standing, however.

The path now weaves along between South Road and South Road Park, still following the old line of the railway, though no trace remains. These were all open fields when the railway was built, and there was a little farm community on the north side of the road called Charleston (“Charles’s toun”), which gave its name to the suburb that now borders the north side of South Road.

Green Circular Route, South Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

At Elmwood Road I passed the little patch of grass that marks the site of the old Lochee West Station—it was a little rural wooden building, now long gone.

Lochee West Station
Location of Lochee West Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903
Site of old Lochee West Railway Station, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The Green Circular Route now moves away from South Road, and (still following the absent railway line) threads its way through an area of parkland behind a row of modern flat blocks. We’re now in the district of Lochee, which at the time the railway was built was a village on the edge of town.

At this point, we finally encounter the first honest-to-god relic of the old railway infrastructure—a bridge carrying the truncated remnant of Sharp’s Lane. It’s freakishly low, with an arch of no more than three metres—I suspect the old railway cutting has been filled in somewhat, raising the level of the path.

Sharp's Lane bridge, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The bicycle route curves around on to the bridge and heads south at this point, but the path continues straight ahead through a narrow strip of parkland.

Green Circular Route, Lochee, Dundee
Click to enlarge

On, then, until the path finally jogs rightwards and up a set of steps to Peel Street, which lies just to the right of the old railway line. Peel Street connects to Old Muirton Road, which at this point is a newish extension of the original street thus named, lying right on top of the old line of the track. And up ahead, in the fork between Old Muirton Road and Muirton Road, lies an odd little blind-ending ramp with an ugly square building perched on it.

Site of Lochee Railway Station, Dundee
Click to enlarge

This is the site of the old Lochee Station.

Location of Lochee Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

Just to the left of the ugly square building, and attached to it, is a much older and more appealing structure, patterned with unusually mosaicked red stone. It’s visible behind the bushes, above. This is the old Lochee Station building itself.

Lochee Station

The ugly extension has been added where the old wooden platform canopy used to be. The combined buildings host the Lochee Burns Club. The original part is difficult to photograph, these days, because of the overgrowth of trees and bushes around it. Here’s my best attempt, taken from Old Muirton Road:

Old Lochee Railway Station building, Dundee
Click to enlarge

For better views, taken when the surrounding area was more manicured, go to the Canmore website.

Why is the station so far above the road? Because it was built directly on to the ramp that took the railway line on to the bridge over the south end of Lochee High Street. The bridge is now gone, but its western support remains, with Muirton Road visible at left:

Remnant of Dundee-Newtyle railway bridge, Lochee, Dundee
Click to enlarge

And here is a convenient place to pause. In my next post, I’ll continue the journey as the route turns northwards.


* Which is a story in itself. More on that in this post..

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