Devon Valley Railway Company - A Difficult Birth

Craig Seath

The first meeting of the Devon Valley Railway Promoters took place on 13th September 1855 in the Rumbling Bridge Inn. At that meeting a Mr Charles Jopp of Edinburgh produced a survey of the proposed route of the line. The estimated cost at that time was £85,000. (around £50m at today's prices).

Auchenbaird Level Crossing: Eastfield K2 61764 Loch Arkaig on the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway's Tillcoultry Branch. Craig Seath //

The company then elected a committee with Mr. John Horn as the first chairman.

Two of the elected members were then appointed to sit on the board of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway as the E&G were lessees to the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway, with whom the DVR would attempt to form a mutually acceptable business partnership.

In the original survey two lines at Devonshaw were proposed, the high line was recommended as it was shorter and less expensive to build than the low line although it did have a much less favourable gradient.

A second meeting of the promoters was held a week later when it was reported that two members of the elected committee had since withdrawn from their commitment. The minutes do not indicate the reasons for these withdrawals.

Reports were also received at this second meeting from District Canvassers and from the Edinburgh and Glasgow committee representatives. Both of these reports were favourable with the result that the DVR committee agreed to move forward and form a company. It was also decided that meetings should be arranged with the landowners likely to be affected by the proposed scheme, thus allowing Charles Jopp to go over details of the proposed route with them and agree on levels of compensation.

The next meeting of the Promoters was not until March 1856 by which time a company had still not been formed. In a circular to members of the committee, the secretary, James Chrystal, admitted that this had been a blunder and undertook to ensure that everything would be ready in good time of the next session of Parliament.

Minutes of the meeting of 24th March 1856 optimistically note that support was to be expected from the local landowners, namely, Sir Graham Montgomerie, Mr Wardlaw Ramsey of Tillicoultry and Mr Millar of Devon Ironworks. In today's climate it is hard to believe that so few people needed to be consulted with regard to a line that was proposed to stretch from Tillicoultry to Kinross.

Meantime Kinross County itself was showing "an anxious desire for the line to be put through" and undertook to try and raise its own level of subscription to the scheme. One problem the promoters had was that no site had yet been agreed for the Fife and Kinross Railway terminus at or near Kinross. Without this the DVR would not be able to finalise plans for a junction with this railway.

In 1858 the Scottish Central Railway and the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway put forward a joint proposal offering to take £28,333 6s 8d of DVR stock on the proviso that they could work the line at actual cost and that they assume control of all traffic. The members of the DVR Committee were initially split on these matters but eventually decided that they would only agree on the basis that any disputes between the parties be referred to an independent arbitrator.

Another proviso laid down by the SCR and E&G was that, prior to proceeding with the stock acquisition, they would require some alterations to the proposed Bill. The committee were not for moving on this issue. After the debacle of missing the previous session of Parliament, they decided that delaying the Bill further for more alterations to be made was not an option.

The "big two" were obviously not going to roll over to this upstart of a new railway and, three days after the refusal by the DVR to consider the proposed alterations, the committee of the DVR received a letter from the London solicitors of both the SCR and the E&G, demanding the incorporation of amendments into the proposed Bill.
The members of the DVR committee were incensed but eventually decided to concede to the joint companies on the strict understanding that they in turn would comply with further amended proposals put forward by the DVR regarding levels of stock acquisition and profit sharing from working the new line.

The next move was a petition by the SCR to the House of Lords opposing the Bill. Not the response the DVR had hoped for. The reasons stated were that the SCR's primary concern was over proper management of the proposed railway. It also pointed out that the proposal to hold meetings of the DVR at the Rumbling Bridge Inn was both inconvenient and prejudicial to the interests of the SCR and put forward a counter proposal to hold them in Stirling, which would be "the most convenient place for the petitioners". This last phrase was underlined twice in the minutes as if to indicate a certain amount of indignation at the suggestion. To add insult to injury, the SCR also suggested that Stirling be adopted as the legal domicile of the DVR Company.

The committee of the DVR reasoned that, since the SCR had not yet acquired shares in the company and that major questions still remained over their intention to do so, then they should have nothing to do with the management or running of the DVR. Neither was there any support for a move to Stirling, which the Chairman pointed out to members was eleven miles form the nearest point on the proposed railway ?merely for the convenience of the SCR!? The proposers subsequently instructed their solicitors to set up their domicile in Kinross - even further from Stirling!

All remaining arguments regarding the proposed Bill appear to have centred around clause 15, which covered the domicile and meeting place of the Company.
Not until 15th August 1858, almost three years after that first optimistic meeting of the Proposers, was a final copy of the Act laid before the committee. This Act had received Royal Assent on the 23rd of July. The grandiose title was "An Act for Making a Railway from the Tillicoultry Station of the Stirling and Dunfermline Railway to the Fife and Kinross Railway at Hopefield, to be Called, 'The Devon Valley Railway' and for Other Purposes Thereto". A small company had fought through and won.
Ironically, the first meeting of the DVR shareholders took place at the Royal Hotel in Stirling!

Craig J Seath
May 2007
From the original minutes of the Proposers of the Devon Valley Railway.