Canonbie Junction Background

History re-told : In 1845 the North British Railway put forward plans for a main line from Carlisle to Edinburgh through the Scottish borders towns of Langholm and Hawick.

John Miller surveyed the line for NBR and the proposals were debated in Parliament in 1846. Despite strong opposition from the Caledonian Railway the plans were approved and work began on the building of the line.

Crossing the Anglo-Scottish border near a small village called Riddings the line proceded North. At Canonbie, a short distance up the valley, a branch line left for Dumfries (the County town) and Gretna. Further north the line came to the town of Langholm and from there up the valley to Mosspaul summit before descending to Hawick.

In addition to the passenger traffic the line served a colliery at Rowanburn near Canonbie and the famous woollen trade of Hawick and the borders.

Back to Reality

If you have read this far and know anything about the Waverley Line you will realise that something is wrong.

In reality the Caledonian Railway successfully opposed the North British plans so that in 1846 Parliament rejected them. A decade passed and then the Caley themselves introduced plans for a single line railway from Carlisle to Hawick via Langholm, by far the most direct route. However, the North British stepped in with an alternative plan for a double track main line through Newcastleton, Liddesdale and Riccarton and it was this latter route that finally won approval and was built.

The Waverley line was one of the most picturesque and famous routes on the British railway network. The line ran from Edinburgh to Carlisle via Hawick with many branch lines. One such branch left the main line at Riddings Junction crossing the border on a viaduce before proceeding through Canonbie to the town of Langholm. Passengers from Langholm were compensated for the failure of earlier schemes by being able to travel south and then north at the same price as if there had been a direct line north.

Perhaps the most famous station was Riccarton Junction where the Borders Union Railway met the Waverley. For much of its life this station was accessible only by rail and the small community that grew up there was entirely dependent upon the trains.

The line went through Newcastleton, Liddesdale, Riccarton, over Whitrope Summit and down to Hawick.

Canonbie was served by a small station which was actually in the nearby village of Rowanburn.

Miller's original 1845 plans can be found in the Scottish Records Office (Reference RHP44774). The abortive line would have been called the Hawick & Carlisle Extension Railway.

The Waverley route shut to passenger traffic in 1969 and was fully dismantled in 1971.

Having decided a couple of years earlier to model the route through Canonbie and Langholm I had the curious experience of taking a service of burial in the graveyard of Canonbie Church. If my memory is correct the lady concerned had been the wife of the signalman at the real Canonbie station on the branch line to Langholm.

© David Phillips 1995-2021