Garden Railway

Garden Railway

Scotland’s first miniature railway

The Ardkinglas Railway was a miniature railway which ran for approximately 500 yards along the shore of Loch Fyne. It was constructed in 1866 at the instigation of George F W Callander of Craigforth and Ardkinglas, at the time a seventeen year old pupil at Eton College.

No illustrations or detailed description of the tiny railway are known, but its location is shown on the 25” Ordnance Survey plan of 1870. The Oban Times of 9 October 1875 records a brief visit to Ardkinglas by Queen Victoria and comments on the “model railway nearly a mile in length along the shore of Loch Fyne. Over this miniature line a pygmy engine draws a handsome carriage capable of accommodating two persons. At intervals stations have been erected and the line is worked on the most approved principles, these being on a small scale all the requisites of a large railway system.”

The Dunoon Herald of 1st December 1916 – about 30 years after the railway was dismantled – describes it as a miniature railway “constructed on piles for about a mile along the shore of Loch Fyne. It had a gauge of 12”. There was a powerful little locomotive, with engine house, points, signals, railway station all complete.

The building of the railway in 1866 was carried out by local labour, mainly by William Wallace, joiner in Cairndow. He was probably responsible for the piling mentioned above. Wood for the railway was itemised in the estate accounts in January 1866 at a cost of £28.15s. In the course of the year William Wallace received £130 for his work on the railway. Adam Linton, mason in Cairndow, also worked intermittently on the tiny railway.

By the mid 1870s George F W Callander was showing signs of serious mental illness. The presumption must be that the little railway line fell into disrepair through neglect. Oral tradition held that the line and its structures were badly damaged in 1878 in the storm that brought about the Tay Bridge disaster. The Dunoon Herald report suggests that it was dismantled in the 1880s. It had certainly vanished by the time of the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey of 1897.