Welcome to the official website of the Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group.
The Group was founded in 1974 with a view to preserving Scottish industrial railway heritage. This website chronicles the history of the Group and of industrial railways in Scotland, with particular reference to the former NCB system at Waterside, part of which the Group has preserved. It also contains up-to-the-minute information about all of the Group’s current activities and an extensive photo gallery.
If you enjoy visiting this website, we hope you will come and visit us in reality! Please use the Contact Us page to get in touch, especially if you’d like to come along and help. We are always on the lookout for new volunteers!
History of the ARPG
The Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group was founded in 1974, at a time when it was clear that private industrial railways were closing and an era was coming to an end. It has always been the Group’s special aim to preserve some of Scotland’s industrial railway heritage, especially that of Ayrshire and south-west Scotland.
The NCB railway system at Waterside in the Doon Valley was one of the largest private systems in Scotland, and was also one of the last places where steam could be seen at work. As such it became something of a Mecca for steam enthusiasts after the end of steam on BR. When it also closed down in 1978, the ARPG was determined to preserve at least a part of it.
In 1976, coal production ceased at Minnivey. Pennyvenie, the last deep mine in the area, closed in 1978, when the railway also closed. The Dunaskin to Minnivey line was lifted in 1980, although interestingly, the section between Minnivey and Pennyvenie was left in situ. Dunaskin continued to take opencast coal from the area until 1986. In 1988 Chalmerston, close to Minnivey, was opened for opencast working, and the line was re-laid.
The ARPG took over the lease of the derelict site at Minnivey in 1980, by which time little of the original infrastructure remained. The Group laid track, built a small engine shed and converted the few remaining buildings to workshops, a museum and a shop. Exhibits were also obtained from various sources. An extensive 2’6″ gauge demonstration line was also built. The site was reconnected to the “main” line at Chalmerston, and a platform with its own loop was built. Brakevan rides were given on summer Sundays, using a small section of the Pennyvenie line. A further platform was built at Dunaskin with the intention of running trains between the two sites, using the Scottish Coal line. Unfortunately, this never came to pass.
Problems with the lease (including a failed attempt to buy the site) meant that in 2002 the Group had to decide where to build its future. At a special general meeting of the membership it was agreed that Minnivey should be closed and the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre relocated to Dunaskin, where the Group already had a lease of the four-road locoshed and other railway infrastructure.
A new running line has been constructed southwards from the already existing platform (supported by grant funding from the Cumnock and Doon Valley Minerals Trust.) Steam-hauled brakevan rides began at Dunaskin in July 2005. Most of the Group’s belongings have now been moved to Dunaskin, although a few items are still stored at Minnivey. Unfortunately Minnivey became a target for large scale scrap metal theft during the period when the Group’s attention was focussed on Dunaskin. Much material, including locomotive parts, rail and track materials, has been lost.
Unfortunately the Group’s landlords at Dunaskin, the Dalmellington and District Conservation Trust, went into liquidation at the end of June 2005. Since then the Group has been negotiating with both the liquidator and Scottish Coal (who have a right of reversion) with a view to acquiring the railway part of the site in our own name.
The repair to Number 10′s boiler took longer than expected (see “Locomotive News”) and in 2006 the Group was unable to source a locomotive for loan or hire. There was therefore no steam at Dunaskin that summer. Eventually Number 10 was ready to steam in June 2008, and regular summer open days have been held each year since then.
The “new” Scottish Industrial Railway Centre at Dunaskin is very much a work in progress; visitor facilities are less than we would like them to be, but progress is always dictated by the small number of volunteers who do all the work. If you would like to see the site developed further and faster, why not join us and become a volunteer?