WEMYSS Bay Station this week celebrates the 150th anniversary of the opening of the railway line from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay.

It came into being as a branch line from Port Glasgow on 15 May 1865. The Greenock and Wemyss Bay Railway Company built the line, but from the start it was operated by the Caledonian Railway Company.

The original station terminal was designed in the style of a handsome villa in order not to detract from the spacious second homes which wealthy businessmen and industrialists from Glasgow were building in the area.

Until the coming of the railway the steamer journey from Glasgow to Largs took five hours. Now the new Wemyss Bay Railway reduced the journey to an hour and a half, a third of the time being spent on the steamer from Wemyss Bay to Largs.

The cheaper fares on the trains made public transport affordable for most and led to more people being able to enjoy a sail on the Clyde.

A day ‘Doon the watter’, or better still, a fortnight on the Clyde coast, became a real possibility. Formerly quiet coastal towns developed into holiday resorts, with esplanades, golf courses, theatres and hotels.

Wemyss Bay Pier has long served as the crossing point from the Isle of Bute and Rothesay. The development of the Clyde coast resorts and the rail service connection brought steamer services between Wemyss Bay and Largs, Cumbrae, Innellan and Toward, as well as Rothesay.

Traffic increased and it was not long before the 1865 terminus became inadequate.

The present station and pier were designed by Caledonian Railway engineering staff under Donald Mathieson, assisted by James Miller, Scotland’s leading railway architect.

It was greatly enlarged, doubling the number of platforms and steamer berths, and most significantly, by means of its glorious glass canopies over platforms, concourse and walkway to the pier, provided protection from the worst of the Scottish weather for the travelling passenger.

When the work was completed in 1903, Wemyss Bay was recognised as the finest railway pier in Britain, and is now classified as a Grade A architectural structure.

Today traffic is much reduced, and the extensive accommodation for staff and public services not required.

Wemyss Bay station is fortunate to still have a cafe, bar, toilets and a manned ticket office for rail travel. The ferry service has its own offices on the pier.

The Friends of Wemyss Bay Station, a group of volunteers formed to support the station, operate a second hand bookshop and a gallery in the former first class waiting rooms. As part of ScotRail’s Adopt a Station scheme, they also care for containers of plants, a continuation of a long-standing tradition at Wemyss Bay.

Currently the station is undergoing a major renovation to its glass canopies and is not at its most elegant. Nonetheless, this is a year to celebrate.

On Saturday, departing from Wemyss Bay at 11am, CalMac will have one of its ferries dressed overall for the day. On board there will be a special display of photographs and models of paddle steamers, supplied by members of the Clyde River Steamer Club, the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, the Scottish Maritime Association and others. In the Station Gallery there will be an exhibition of railway paintings by Dugald Cameron, including new work showing the original station and pier in operation. During the morning only, from 10-12.00, also on display will be models of Caledonian Railway locomotives.

During the afternoon the annual general meeting of the Friends will be held in Skelmorlie & Wemyss Bay Parish Church Hall at 2pm, when all will be welcome.

The speaker will be Richard Kinsella, of Network Rail, who will talk about the current programme of renovations at the station.

The accompanying picture shows Wemyss Bay station and pier in 1976.