Balmossie Viaduct

Balmossie Viaduct

Prior to 1870, rail services between Dundee and Forfar could travel one of two ways: via Nethermill Junction to the west or Arbroath to the east. However, in the 1860s, the Caledonian Railway promoted plans for a new cross-country route heading north from Broughty Ferry. Appropriately this was known as the Dundee & Forfar (Direct) Railway.

Extending for 17 miles, construction got underway in 1866 and was split into two sections. Work on the northernmost eight miles – which was relatively light – started first under the auspices of Wood & Lynch, but the firm soon went bankrupt at a considerable cost in delay. The remainder was pushed forward by W Leslie Esq, Lord Provost of Aberdeen, who fulfilled his obligations using sub-contractors. Civil engineer John Willet prepared the plans for the railway whilst George Mackay managed the works.

In all, 870,000 cubic yards of material had to be excavated from three miles of cuttings, the deepest being 41 feet. The line’s embankments stretched for five miles whilst 50 bridges had to be erected. The construction costs amounted to £90,000, on top of which was about £50,000 in land purchases.

The greatest engineering work – near the line’s southern end – was a 152-yard crossing of Dighty Water, conveying the single track towards Broughty Junction on a falling gradient of 1:62. Balmossie Viaduct comprises seven brick arches, each 50 feet in span; the two over the river rise 75 feet.

The piers, spandrels and parapets use coursed bull-faced pink sandstone, whilst the voussoirs are margined and stugged on their underside. Each pier has a row of five corbels on either side – used to carry the arch centring – and is topped with a moulded impost block. A projecting cornice supports the parapets. Both abutments feature large pilasters.

Material for the large approach embankment at the north-east end came from cuttings at Wellbank and South Grange Farm.

A single daily goods train first traversed the line on 12th August 1870, but the provision of passenger services relied on a positive verdict from Captain Tyler, the Board of Trade inspector, who visited on 19th and 20th October. He was provided with two heavy freight engines with which to test the viaduct.

Introduced on 14th November, the new timetable saw three trains ply the route each way, although the inaugural trips were affected by six inches of lying snow. Journeys via the ‘direct’ line took one hour and five minutes.

Closure of the northernmost two miles came in December 1958, severing the track at Kingsmuir; the remainder continued to welcome traffic until 9th October 1967. Forfar was fully disconnected from the rail network in 1982.

Balmossie Viaduct, known unofficially as the Seven Arches, achieved a Grade A listing in 1985 and was adopted by locals as a means of crossing the valley. More formal arrangements – which saw the installation of a tarmac path and modern railings – are thought to have been instigated in the mid-Noughties.

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December 2016