(All photos © K-Burn)
To better serve communities bypassed by the Aberdeen main line, 3rd July 1860 brought approval for the Montrose & Bervie Railway, extending for 12 miles up the North Sea coast to reach untapped agricultural and fish markets. Capital of £70,000 in shares and a further £23,000 in loans was authorised. Plans to drive the route further north to reconnect with the inland route at Stonehaven never came to fruition.
Construction got underway in February 1864, delayed by a lack of funds, with Messrs Ireland & Co of Montrose successful in tendering for the contract; B & E Blyth took charge of the engineering. The alignment was not particularly challenging, the most notable feat being the 12-span North Water Viaduct.
Four miles further north, the single track encountered a deep gorge, a “beautifully romantic spot” owned by Mr Porteous of Lauriston who chaired the railway’s Board. This was overcome by a viaduct of three 40-foot arches and a smaller span on the east side. Comprising stone from local quarries, it carried the line at a height of 130 feet, offering fabulous views over the gorge, Den Finella, and its waterfall. The piers were founded on rock shelves either side of the stream; these, in turn, were supported by brickwork. The side span was provided to accommodate a path.
Worked by the Scottish North Eastern Railway, an inaugural train crossed the structure on 1st November 1865. Approval for opening had been granted six days earlier by Captain Rich of the Board of Trade, having objected to the condition of a bridge on his previous visit.
The route was absorbed into the North British Railway in 1881. Financially it never set the world alight as farmers and fishermen still chose to cart their goods inland to meet trains on the main line. With road transport becoming ever more established, the last scheduled passenger train travelled the branch on 1st October 1951. Freight services ended in May 1966.
Both the trackbed’s northern and southern sections today form part of the National Cycle Network.
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