8.4 kilometres (total)
130 metres of ascent (total)
3.8 kilometres (this part)
35 metres of ascent (this part)
At the end of my previous post, I left you gazing at the blind end of the old railway bridge over Lochee High Street.
Back in the ’70s, there used to be several of these bricked-off gaps along the line of the old Dundee-Newtyle railway, But this is the last one left—it doesn’t even have a partner on the other side of the road. Peering over that wall in the picture above, here’s what you see:
The steps on the left take you up into a little area of waste land, which is being gradually domesticated with benches and a community garden.
But it used to contain a large goods yard connected to Lochee Railway Station. Here’s my map of the area again, with the railway as it existed in 1903 overlaid on a modern street map:
As well as the sidings of the goods yard, you can see there was also a branch line, which headed north, while the main track carried on to the northeast. This was called the Hemp Works Branch, and it served the Cox family’s Camperdown Works, once the largest jute works in the world. At the time the Lochee diversion was being built, Camperdown Works was under development, eventually expanding to cover 35 acres and employ thousands of people. The existence of this huge employment opportunity drove the expansion of the then-village of Lochee, and explains how a small rural settlement ended up with two railway stations, a goods yard and a branch line to its name. The existence of the old Hemp Works Branch is still evidenced by the disused railway bridge over Wellbank Lane:
It ends blindly above a modern car park, just at the point it disappears behind foliage in the picture above.
The jute works has been closed for 40 years now. Some of its buildings stand derelict (including the huge one cross-hatched in red in my map above); some have been remodelled into flats; some have been replaced with modern housing. And the bonkers Italianate factory chimney, known locally as Cox’s Stack, still stands above it all. I find it pleasing that the gable ends of the new houses echo the old brick decorations of Cox’s Stack:
The line of the main Dundee-Newtyle railway crosses the area of waste ground accessible by the steps seen in my earlier picture, runs more or less directly in front of the houses in the picture above, and then disappears into another patch of waste ground. There’s no direct way of following it for this short stretch. Instead, I walked along Loons Road for a short distance, before turning up the distinctly unpromising-looking muddy track of Old King’s Cross Road. This soon leads to a little pair of black gates, each of which bears the silhouette of an old-fashioned railway locomotive:
Here (as you might just have guessed) we rejoin the line of the railway. This is The Miley, a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve—more of a wildlife corridor, really, just a few metres wide and reputedly a mile long (though by my measure barely over a kilometre), which follows the line of the original railway cutting .
It has to be said that The Miley is not particularly inspiring at the end of winter—the path can be muddy after rain, and the leafless trees and undergrowth are a little stark. But it turns into a pleasant green corridor in the summer.
It is crossed by two bridges—the southern one no longer has a function, but the northern carries Harefield Road. The original arch has been filled in with new brickwork and a little cylindrical tunnel, presumably because the bridge required strengthening at some point.
Finally, The Miley pops out at Clepington Road, behind the Kingsway West Retail Park. Just on the other side of Clepington Road, a branch used to split off the Dundee-Newtyle line, serving goods yards at Fairmuir and Maryfield, which were then on the extreme northern edge of town. You can see that branch on my map below:
Also visible is the dismantled railway—the line of the original direct route via the Law Tunnel, which was replaced by the longer, but safer, Lochee deviation.
I wove my way through the Retail Park and then rounded the corner of the Tesco supermarket to pick up the line of the railway again. The busy Kingsway ring road didn’t exist when the railway was built, but now it necessitates another diversion, to a safe crossing point, before we can pick up the line again. The Kingsway, when it opened in 1919, ran around the edge of town. The railway crossed its two carriageways on a long bridge, which must have been constructed while the railway was in operation—I have no information about how that was done, but it would have been interesting to watch.
(Notice the man walking along the nearly deserted carriageway, above. My father recalled roller-skating on the roadway at night, and only occasionally having to get out of the way of traffic. Changed days now.)
The Kingsway bridge was demolished in 1965, soon after the trains stopped running. As a child growing up in this area, I can recall the two bricked-off ends of the embankments on either side of the Kingsway, but these have gone now, too. Looking back from the north side of the Kingsway, we can now only imagine the line of the old railways.
The railway bridge would have come straight out of the side of the Tesco supermarket, behind the road sign. The line of the original railway ran beneath the orange cherry-picker.
On the north side of the Kingsway, an open strip of grass and trees runs between the houses. This is the line of the old railway embankment, on which I used to play as a child, after the trains stopped running and the rails had been lifted. The open space is triangular in shape at its southern end, indicating how the line of the old and new railways merged at this point. At the time the railway was built, this was a rural setting, with the railway running parallel to Strathmartine Road, which passed through the outlying village of Downfield a short distance to the east.
It’s an odd sensation for me, walking north through this space. The houses to the right are the same houses I looked down on from the embankment as a child; to my left, what used to be a row of lock-ups and an area of waste ground (affectionately known as “The Fieldy” by local kids) has been replaced by new housing. At the top end, the grassy space debouches into a little car park, between East School Road and West School Road. I used to walk this way to school, passing under the little railway bridge that originally spanned School Road, before it was divided into east and west sections. Here’s the bridge as it was in later years:
From the bollards and the warning sign, I suspect this picture was taken after the bridge was hit by a double-decker bus in the late ’60s, shortly before it was demolished.
Here’s the same area today, from a vantage point closer to the location of the bridge—the buildings visible beyond the bridge above are easily identifiable, and the line of the railway runs through the car park at right and in front of the tenement at left.
At this point, the line of the track is still evident, but becomes impossible to follow. I had to deviate to Strathmartine Road, and then walk back up a succession of cross-streets to visit the old line. Between School Road and Camperdown Road, the line of the embankment is marked by a wide area of open grassland, dotted with trees, but fenced off and accessible only through padlocked gates.
From Camperdown Road to Americanmuir Road, there’s another strip of open grassland, accessible from the south but inexplicably blocked by a fence and padlocked gate at the north end.
The location of the old footbridge over the railway at Americanmuir Road is evidenced by a narrowing and a row of bollards.
North of Americanmuir Road, new housing has been built in the space originally occupied by the railway—the cul-de-sacs of Cloan Grove and Caledonian Gardens align with the old track-bed. Beyond that, the line reached Baldovan Station, the platforms of which extended behind the old Downfield Tavern, which still exists as the oldest part of the modern Downfield Hotel.
The station itself is long gone, built over by the modern flats of Strathmartine Court.
I’ll stop here, for now, because the trail goes cold for a while. We’re moving into a part of Dundee that was largely rural until after the railway was decommissioned and the track lifted, so the route is for the most part obscured by modern buildings until we get to the present edge of town. That’ll be a project for a later date.