Find out everything you need to know for a wonderful day out for all the family on this offical Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway website. Soak up the atmosphere of this heritage railway and explore Scotland’s largest railway museum situated on the Firth of Forth close to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway and Museum of Scottish Railways are operated by volunteers of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS). The society is also the operator of SRPS Railtours, running a programme of relaxing day excursions allowing visitors to view the scenic splendour of Scotland or enjoy a trip to historic towns and cities south of the border from the comfort of their reserved seat. More information can be found here on the SRPS Railtours website.
In 2011 SRPS have been awarded the highly prestigious Heritage Railway Association’s Peter Manisty Award in recognition of its continuous developments in the presentation of Scottish railway history. Previous recipients of the award have been the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust for its work on the building of the steam locomotive Tornado and London and Continental Railways for its rebuilding of St Pancras Station in London.
The Society was formed in 1961 and now has about 1250 members. Its aim was to establish a preserved railway in central Scotland on which to display its collection. It has wide experience of preserving Scotland’s railway heritage with members carrying out restoration work on its large collection of railway equipment. Stock includes locomotives from the Caledonian and North British Railway companies, the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), British Railways (BR) and many industrial railways, as well as a wide selection of coaches and wagons.
The Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway has been developed since 1979 on a reclaimed site on the south shore of the Firth of Forth and now welcomes over 60,000 visitors aboard nostalgic steam and heritage diesel trains and through the doors of Scotland’s largest railway museum every year.
Several historic buildings have been obtained and re-erected to provide a traditional railway setting. Bo’ness station opened in 1981. The line was extended to Kinneil in 1984 and to Birkhill in 1989, where the Fireclay Mine was open to the public (closed permanently in 2013). From 2010 the passenger service operates over the extension to Manuel where a new platform was opened in mid 2013.
The railway is a popular film location; recent filming includes Case Histories for the BBC in 2011, Ken Loach’s The Angels’ Share, Cloud Atlas and The Railway Man.
The Museum of Scottish Railways at Bo’ness is three large buildings full of historic locomotives, carriages and wagons, as well as models, displays and photographs telling the history of building, operating and using railways in Scotland. The Museum is recognised by Museums Galleries Scotland as being of national importance to Scotland. Further details of the exhibits can be found on the Scottish Railway Preservation Society Collections Website.
THE LINE FROM BO'NESS TO MANUEL
Bo’ness station has been built since 1979 on a landscaped site which had previously been occupied by railway sidings, timber yards and coal mines. Buildings have been designed to reflect a traditional railway style, or moved from other locations. The station building was originally at Wormit, the train shed is from Haymarket, the signal box from Garnqueen South Junction and the footbridge from Murthly. The ‘new’ station opened in 1981, and trains operated over a short distance to Lows Crossing. The signal box and signals were awarded the prestigious Westinghouse Signalling Award.
Bo'ness to Kinneil
The first part of the journey is along the foreshore. Landscaped in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was previously an area of railway sidings and industrial buildings, remnants of days when Bo’ness was an important port. The site of the original Bo’ness station (closed in 1956) is occupied by the roundabout. The curves along this stretch are necessary to cross an oil pipeline. Longannet Power Station and Culross in Fife can be seen across the Forth, and beyond are the Ochil Hills.
Kinneil to Birkhill
The train now starts to climb through the woods. This is the line of the original branch; the rest of the line from Bo’ness to Kinneil was built from scratch by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society. The road overbridge at the start of the climb was built in 1990 to replace a narrow underbridge at Crawyetts, a short distance beyond, which restricted lorry access to the town. Kinneil House is high on the left. James Watt carried out many of his steam experiments here. Watch out for the waterfall on the left. The woodlands are a pleasant contrast to the open foreshore and many wild animals have been seen, including squirrels and deer. These woods are also full of wild garlic. As the train leaves the woods and turns inland it crosses the route of the Roman Antonine Wall at a location marked by a very high road overbridge.
A further half mile through fields brings the train to Birkhill Station where much excavation was necessary to provide space to build a new platform. The station building was moved from Monifieth (near Dundee) and may be recognised by visitors to the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival where it formed Central Regional Council’s ‘Heart of Scotland’ exhibit. Birkhill station opened in 1989 and passengers enjoyed the opportunity to tour the caverns of Birkhill Fireclay Mine which was unfortunately closed permanently in 2013. There is a woodland walk behind the site of the former mine outbuildings and also a stone footbridge which allows a great view of the station and its environs.
Birkhill to Manuel
The remainder of the line to Manuel opened for passenger services in 2010. The line south from Birkhill is in a wooded cutting, and after passing under Tod’s Mill bridge crosses the impressive viaduct over the wooded Avon Gorge. To the left, Linlithgow can be seen in the distance. The route continues on an embankment then passes under the M9 motorway and the A803. The approach to Manuel is through open countryside.
Passengers can now alight at Manuel to watch the loco runs-round the train to return to Bo’ness. A link line from the run-round loop at Manuel connects the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway to the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line at Bo’ness Junction.
“This hidden gem is only 40 minutes drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh. The staff are really friendly and looked after us as we boarded a beautiful steam train, we saw heritage diesels too. The sights, smells and sounds really took us back in time. After a browse around the excellent Museum of Scottish Railways and a bite to eat in the Station Buffet we all agreed we would recommend it to everyone and we would definitely be back.”
Mr P Gray, Falkirk
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