Memories of railways around Lenzie 1938 to 1942

Alex Graham

The following are some recollections of Lenzie Station and its environs dating back some sixty years. The years concerned may be said to be 1938 - 1942.

Alex Graham, 22nd January 2003.


My friend and I were regular train spotters at Lenzie Station and it may be convenient to begin with a description of the station as it was. The north platform contained the Booking Office (shared with the Station Master) Waiting Rooms, the Porters' Bothy and a Gent's toilet. Backing directly on to this range of buildings was a terrace of houses commencing with that of the Station Master and three others occupied by railway staffs two being signalmen and the third a fireman.

Lenzie: Whisky tank pulled by 20102 heading west under the old footbridge. Brian Forbes //

The overbridge was just west of the Booking Office and again immediately west of the bridge was the signal cabin named until the outbreak of war Lenzie Junction (the nameplate was removed) as were all name plates giving a clue to an enemy of identification. On crossing the bridge one could get an excellent view of the signalman at work and we youngsters often stood and stared into the signal cabin sometimes I fear to the annoyance of the signalman. When the war came along the cabin windows were painted blue to preserve the black-out and were covered with netting in case of splintering upon bombs being dropped. The south platform contained a small newspaper shop, opened only in the early mornings owned by a family named Mercer who also had the general shop in nearby Queens Buildings. There was a large general waiting room with a large fireplace the fender of which was a bent rail highly polished and a ladies waiting room, with again a gents toilet. I have heard it said that when Lenzie Union Church was a-building, in about 1870, the small congregation held their services in the general waiting room until the completion of the Kirk. All the station lighting was by gas and the platforms had tall gas lamps on standards at either end which the porter lit or extinguished with a long hooked pole which fitted into circular lantern attachments.

The north yard had a siding in which invariably stood two or three 16 ton coal wagons, and also the offices of the Telegraphic Linesman and the Signal Fitter. There were two firms of coal merchants who were concerned with the wagons, Messrs Ross and John Graham who both had flat bed lorries, and Messrs Ross had also a horse and cart for coal deliveries. There was a long siding on the north side which could take a rake of 4 or 5 coaches the doors of which were often left unlocked, an invitation to boys who climbed on to the running board and then tried the seating in the slam door compartments.

There was also a short siding immediately west of the south platform but this was seldom, if ever used. A crossover was situated between the platforms, but like the siding was hardly used.

Bothlin Viaduct: A view of the Bothlin Viaduct east of Lenzie station. Just to the east of Lenzie station were two junction - one north to Lennoxtown and another south to join the Monkland and Kirkintilloch. This was later known as The Bulls Horns. In the foreground are E&G stone sleepers. In the foreground were the Garngaber Sidings. Ewan Crawford 07/04/1987

The Campsie Branch left the main Edinburgh to Glasgow line immediately east of the station. This was a double track junction with points controlled from the signal cabin. The facing points on the Up line had a locking bar which locked the blade of the points in position whether set for the main line or the branch. The locking bar therefore had to be operated with each movement of the points. Lenzie Junction signal cabin was brick-built with the upper part containing the lever frame and instruments being of wood generously glazed. There were thirty seven levers in the frame - those (for working red signals were painted in that colour those for distants were yellow, points were painted black and the lever for the locking bar was blue. Spare or dummy levers were white. Above the frame was placed a shelf on which stood the block instruments bell communication instruments with connections to Cadder East, Garngaber and Back o'Loch signal boxes. All the signals for the main line or the Campsie were of the upper quadrant type, with one exception - the down distant for the branch was a lower quadrant signal which was out of sight of the signalman but operated a model signal in a brass and glass case which exactly repeated the movements of the signal arm. On the Up side Lenzie's distant shared a post with Cadder East's starter, then Lenzie's signals were a home (with Garngaber's distant beneath) the junction signals on a very tall post so as to be visible over the bridge structure and an advanced starting signal. On the down side, Lenzie's distant was on the same post as Garngaber's home signal then the home protecting the junction and a starter and advanced starter west of the station. Cadder East's distant was under Lenzie's down starter. Two long loops on the down side were entered from Garngaber Junction, and were controlled by ground disc signals at the Lenzie end of the loops.

There were three signalmen at Lenzie who worked in eight hour shifts; 6am - 2pm, 2pm - 10 pm and 10 pm - 6 am. Two of the men worked twelve hour shifts on Sundays so as the duties could rotate. The signalmen were Bob Pollock (who lived in the house at Craigenbay Level Crossing his wife being crossing-keeper), Frank McCarville, who lived at Auchinloch, and John Irvine from Kirkintilloch but he was promoted to Glasgow Queen Street and his replacement was Willie Nish from the Cowlairs area. Pollock came to work on a motor cycle, McCarville on a bicycle and Nish on any train he could get!

I cannot recollect the name of the signal fitter whose main duty was to keep the oil lamps in the signals burning. The telegraphic linesman was Willie Young who lived in the cottage still adjoining the station next to the shops. There was therefore quite a little coterie of railwaymen employed at Lenzie, but I would be most remiss were I to neglect to mention Bob Henderson, who drove the railway-owned horse and cart, which was used for parcels deliveries. The horse had a stall in the north yard. To complete the Staff, the Station Master was Mr Shaw succeeded by David McMurray promoted from Kilsyth, and who had two sons and a daughter.

As for communications these were sufficiently primitive. There was a telephone in the booking office and in the signal cabin railway owned and on a restricted circuit from Bishopbriggs or Cowlairs in the West, to Greenhill Junction Eastwards. Each telephone installation had its own code and for example Lenzie's was a long and two short buzzes for the signal cabin. However anyone else on the circuit could lift his earpiece and listen in to any conversation which might be proceeding. Signalmen in adjacent boxes could circumvent using the codes by pressing the signal bell for a long stroke, which alerted his mate to lift his phone. This however did not stop others eavesdropping I should say however that all this was well intentioned. All communications were by wires on telegraph poles, and beside the telephones were circuits for block and bell instruments, single line working arrangements, and more.

To turn to the trains themselves the service provided by the LNER was more than ample, at least as far as Lenzie was concerned both for the main line and the Campsie Branch. Trains were very frequent and were of course steam hauled. Most of the passenger trains on the main line were hauled by Gresley Pacifics A1s A3s and A4s, Shire Class D.49 4-4-0s, or ex Great Central Director Class D.11s. There were also the numerous Scott and Glen classes - 4-4-0s often to be seen on trains for Kinross Junction and for Fife via the Forth Bridge. Trains on the Campsie Branch were almost exclusively hauled by class C.l6s - 4-4-2 tank engines. The North British Railway, which had owned some of these engines, did not go to the expense of providing proper metal name plates but painted the names of the engines on the splashers in gold. I have often wondered what the English passenger, sitting comfortably in his steam-heated compartment would think of engines with names such as Bailie McWheeble or Luckie Mucklebackit! Goods trains were hauled mostly by J.36 or 37 0-6-0s and were almost exclusively loose coupled, so that in the event of a rather sudden stop one could hear each and every wagon bumping the buffers of its predecessor as the driver and guard strove to bring the train to a halt. Only on a few goods trains were continuous brakes evident as on fish trains coming from Oban via the West Highland line and Cowlairs East. The only Pullman train between Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Waverley was the Queen of Scots - leaving Glasgow at 11 am with the down train arriving Glasgow around 9 pm for it had a conditional stop at Falkirk High. Most of the trains for Queen Street uncoupled their engines at Cowlairs Station and there an old 0-6-2 tank engine was attached to take the train down to Queen Street and then would be at the rear to help push the train up the steep incline.


Cadder Yard: Cadder signalbox. This was located at the east end of the yard and had lines on both sides, although the loop behind the box was removed in 1990 when the loop was shortened. Ewan Crawford //1990

Leaving Lenzie and going towards Glasgow, after about a mile there is a road overbridge to the west of which stretched out the vast Cadder Yard. This yard was used to marshal trains for both east and west directions and the entrances and exits were controlled by Cadder East and Cadder West signal boxes. Points from the main lines led to long loops which in turn gave way to innumerable sidings, and the shunting of trains was on the Hump system, whereby wagons were hauled up a short incline then allowed to run back down and were separated to form appropriate trains. The uncoupling of these wagons and vans was a very dangerous job, especially at night.

Cadder Yard: Cadder east view. Glasgow bound 101 passes under Crosshill Bridge. The two up goods loops are recently disconnected which makes the left gantry obsolete. The up passenger loop still in operation. Brian Forbes //1985

Of Cadder West box I can recall nothing, but Cadder East was manned by Arthur Bryce, Tom Smith and Malcolm Nicholson. This was rather a featureless signal box as regards unusual instruments but the signalmen had, upon accepting a goods train for the yard from Lenzie to be certain that the train would be safely inside the yard, clear of the points and not fouling the main line. This required good eyesight and judgement. The box had the usual distant home and starting signals with miniature homes on a bracket for trains for the yard.


Proceeding East from Lenzie Junction, we came to Garngaber Junction which in association with its eastern neighbour, Waterside Junction, and with its branch to Bridgend gave a track lay-out sufficiently odd. A single track railway left Garngaber and immediately after a steep incline to Craigenbay Level Crossing at which point it came alongside, but formed no part of, the Monkland and Kirkintilloch Railway. This was one of the earliest railways in Scotland having been laid in 1826 and ran from the Forth and Clyde Canal at Kirkintilloch to the rich coalfields around Airdrie. Both railways then ran southwards to Bridgend Junction but to the casual observer they appeared as a double track layout but were both single and entirely separate. These railways became one as it were at Bridgend and went on to Chryston, Bedlay, etc. To complete this track layout the branch from Waterside to Bridgend was normal double track.

Garngaber Low Junction: A DMU crosses the E&G viaduct over the M&K trackbed at Garngaber. Ewan Crawford //

Garngaber Junction signal cabin had 52 levers, and besides controlling the entrance to the single line branch to Bridgend, also accepted goods trains for the two loops to Lenzie already described. To reach the box from the road below the signalmen had to scramble up a steep bank and the box was of the same construction as that at Lenzie. The signalmen were Sandy MacMillan, John Pickering and Norman Marr. MacMillan was a member of a church in Kirkintilloch which was at this time celebrated for the Kirkintilloch Junior Choir run by the Minister's wife. Mrs MacPherson. Sandy, if he was off duty in the evenings would go with the Choir and undertook to shift pianos, etc. and do any oddjobs which might be required. John Pickering was Church Officer of a church at Chryston. Sandy had a son Eddie who was called up to the Army; Norman Marr had a daughter, Iris who went to Lenzie Academy.

Garngaber Box had short sidings on both the Up and Down lines. Coming from Lenzie, Garngaber's Up home had a signal on a bracket for the single line branch and the signalman had to hand the enginemen a Token, or Tablet, to establish their sole right to be on the line to Bridgend. This entailed the signalman walking out over the main Up and Down lines to reach the moving engine as it swung towards the branch, and although all the main line signals were at danger this required some smeddum, especially at night … of course the tablet from engines coming in the opposite direction had to be collected in the same unpleasant manner. The machine which issued these tablets resembled a large gas meter, and was made by Sykes & Co. It had three slots in front in which rested the tablets, and to obtain a tablet you lifted it to the top of the slot and inserted it in a keyhole at the top of the slots, The bell push to Bridgend was rung once for call attention then the code for the class of train was rung, say, 4 pause one for a class C goods train. The Bridgend man upon replying to this last signal held in the last bell stoke, which enabled the Garngaber man to turn and release the token. It was then placed in a kind of saddlebag on a strong hoop and delivered to the engineman in the manner aforesaid.

It follows that if, say, fifteen trains went from Garngaber to Bridgend in a given period and only five trains in the opposite direction Bridgend would end up with a surplus of tokens, and were this to continue Garngaber would run out of tokens and the line would have to shut down! To obviate this, Willie Young, the telegraphic linesman, would be called out and he rode his cycle to Bridgend released the surplus tokens and replaced them in Garngaber's machine. Willie was not amused when this kind of thing happened on a Saturday or Sunday.


Woodilee Hospital: Eastbound 477 passing Woodilee. Ewan Crawford //1990

The next signal box to the east of Garngaber was Waterside but before this there was an unusual feature on the Up line. About three quarters of a mile from Garngaber was a siding leading into the grounds of Woodilee Asylum. This was a large institution owned by Glasgow Corporation and at its inception in the 1870s was called The Barony Lunatic Asylum (it no longer exists as such). The siding mentioned could be worked from a ground frame in a hut, which had a main line stop signal and also a distant on Garngaber's advanced starter - these were permanently set at clear. I do not recollect this siding ever being used, but in any case permission would have had to be obtained from Garngaber to do so.


Waterside Junction: A triple set rumbles past Waterside bing
The formation of the Bedlay Branch can be seen, middle right.
Three coaches and three cows! Brian Forbes /03/1977

We come now to Waterside box from which as already stated there ran a double line branch to Bridgend. Waterside controlled a siding into the coal pit of the same name. The signalmen at Waterside were: Bobby Littlejohn George Dougan and Sandy Chisholm. Mr Littlejohn lived in Kirkintilloch and cycled to work. He had two sons, also on the railway. His hobby was racing pigeons which interest he shared with a signalman at Gartshore and they spent long times on the telephone discussing the merits of their birds. George Dougan lived in one of the houses at Lenzie Station and cycled to work. I remember nothing of Mr Chisholm. Waterside was an easily worked box and had no unusual features. The next box east was Baird's Sidings and it was opened only from 8 am until 5 pm to work coal trains from Baird's pit.


Gartshore: Eastbound DMU at Gartshore. The bing at Waterside can be seen in the background. Ewan Crawford //1990

Next to the east came Gartshore box beside Gartshore pit where worked Stuart ---- (the other racing pigeon man) and "wee Johnny Malcolm'' who was short in stature and had a wooden block fixed to the lever next to the Up distant on which he would place his foot when pulling the signal off: I cannot remember the name of the third signalman at Gartshore. After this box came that at Croy and Dullatur East and West but of them I can write nothing never having visited them.


Bridgend Junction: Monkland & Kirkintilloch Railway bridge under Muckcroft Road N of Bridgend Junction c. 1980. Alistair MacKenzie //1980

Having dealt with all the main line boxes with which I was very familiar, we now come to Bridgend. This box was on a high point of land formed by the junctions of the lines from Waterside and those from Garngaber and the M & K. It was reached by long wooden stairs at the foot of which was a wooden platform for giving or receiving tokens from M & K trains, Bridgend controlled the entrance to sidings at Auchengeich Mine in which occurred a mining tragedy in the 1950s. I know not what arrangements pertained to the working of wagons in the mine sidings for they were out of sight of the signal box but certain it is that trains of wagons laden with coal were propelled on to the main line at the end of the working day. The brakes were then fixed hard down and the engine ran round the train of wagons by going light to Chryston through the crossover there back to Bridgend and finally through the crossover at the latter place to take its position at the head of its train. The signal bells for this operation were (from Chryston) 2 - 1 - 3 for engine running round its train; 2 - 3 for light engine; and 2 for engine entering section. Talk about Hi tech!

Of course at Bridgend was the opposite number Token instrument to that at Garngaber and which was worked in exactly the same manner, but the most interesting feature in this box should have been on display in the Museum and Art Galleries in Glasgow! This was the machine for single line working on the Monkland and Kirkintilloch line and was in the form of a large wooden oblong box, with dials on a screen facing the signalman. There was a drawer in the front bottom of the box in which the metal tokens were delivered and they were round about the size of a cheese plate, and were inscribed "Woodley's Lye to Bridgend". Woodley's Lye signal box (off which more anon) was situated on the M & K line near the foot of Garngaber Avenue, Lenzie. These tokens then given to or received from the engineman as before described. The signalmen at Bridgend were Andrew Mackie, who occupied a railway house at Lenzie Station, and who cycled to work; Peter Taggart who arrived on a motor cycle via Chryston, and Bob Miller. This signal box was graced by the presence from time to time by a harmless patient from Woodilee Asylum called Willie who was content to warm himself at the fire or stare out of the windows. I have already mentioned Craigenbay Level Crossing, but there was another nearer Bridgend called Muckcroft which was manned by a person who sheltered in a hut and was the picture of ennui.

Woodley's Lye

Woodley Junction: Woodley Junction looking north. Left; line to Kirkintilloch Basin. Right; line to Middlemuir Junction on the Campsie Branch. Ewan Crawford //1987

The M & K line after Craigenbay, ran below the main Edinburgh to Glasgow line, and came to the level crossing at Woodley's Lye. The system of accepting trains at this point almost beggars belief; but here it is: There was only one train a day, known locally as the Kirkintilloch Pug, which was usually made of a saddle tank engine, two or three wagons and a guards van. This train stopped at Woodley's home signal which was set at danger. Upon seeing the train there the signalman would descend from his box, walk to and open the two white painted gates, walk back to the box, pull off the home signal whereupon the little train sailed through the gates, often to the chagrin of passengers in the double decked Lawsons bus which may have had to wait for the railway operation. Of course, the token was handed over and inserted in the ancient machine at Woodley's Lye. The train then went on to shunt in sidings in Kirkintilloch Gas Works, or iron Foundry before going back in the opposite direction around 5 pm. The signalman at Woodley's Lye was Bob Rettie then in his 60s who lived in Bishopbriggs and who walked more or less on his heels.

It should be mentioned that the men at Bridgend used to annoy old Rettie by not placing the tablet in the instrument, and by so doing keep Rettie waiting till this was done; this was known as clearing back, and once the train was cleared back and the tablet replaced, Rettie was out of his signal box like a shot for the walk to Lenzie station, and the train home to Bishopbriggs. Rettie used to ring one bell, to jerk the Bridgend man into action.

These, then, are some, indeed the most, of the memories which l have of this very local railway scene, but l am sure that it would obtain on long sections of the LNER.

If it gives the casual reader some amusement to peruse these matters of "sixty years'' since, I shall be more than rewarded.