The Craighead Viaduct

Pictured are the old stone pillars ruins that currently remain of the Craighead Viaduct.

The viaduct crossed the River Clyde near Craighead and carried the London, Northern and Eastern Railway (LNER) line between the stations of Burnbank and Bothwell. The railway ran under Whistleberry Road and past the Craighead pit bing to this viaduct which was over 120 feet tall.

The viaduct was one of the first of many bridges and major construction projects of William Arroll Ltd of Dalmarnock, Glasgow.

In the early 1900′s the viaduct was a busy thoroughfare, allowing not only rail, but pedestrian crossings too in an iron “catwalk” situated directly below the railway line, but still within the viaduct itself. It must have made a thunderous noise for nervous pedestrians as trains passed by overhead if you were crossing at that time. The wheels of prams and bikes would slip between the small gaps in the wooden planks and the river far below could be seen between gaps, adding to the apprehension. Located behind the current Whistleberry Estate, in an East – West direction, the pillars connected elevated railway tracks at Blantyre to Bothwell over the River Clyde.

This LNER line did not have a station in Blantyre Parish, but a connecting railway the London Midland Scottish Railway (LMS) had a large goods shed nearby at Whistleberry Road at the entrance to the where the present industrial estate is. (Sidenote: Racehorses were once disembarked at Whistleberry Goods Station and walked through Backmuir Plantation and on to Hamilton Racecourse.)

In 1952 the Railway created a terminus at Bothwell, due to the deteriorating condition of the Viaduct. For safety reasons trains were not permitted on the structure from that time with British Railways making that decision rather than spending considerable money repairing the viaduct. Trains did run however, but only freight for a couple more years with only the regular passenger service terminated.

In 1955 when the footpath closed and was blocked off, a few people decided to be adventurous and used the disused railway tracks as the shortcut footpath instead of going over Bothwell Bridge, although the tracks were removed for safety reasons in 1956.

There were once 5 pillars, but 3 were demolished in April 2008 on the Blantyre side, leaving only 2 on the Bothwell side, including the abutment. In March 2015, a catastrophic collapse of the central pier (of unknown reason), left just one abutment remaining today on the Bothwell side.

Contemporary photos are courtesy of Alex Rochead and Jim Brown.

Leave a Reply