Rankinston viaducts

Rankinston viaducts

In the 1870s, the Glasgow & South Western Railway developed a collection of strategically-useful links between the harbour facilities at Ayr and mineral-rich districts in east Ayrshire. The most important of these diverged westwards off the main Dumfries-Glasgow route at Mauchline, whilst a long loop was constructed from Annbank to Cronberry on the Muirkirk branch, which itself was extended to Douglas. There was also a six-mile connecting line between Belston and Holehouse junctions.

All of these projects posed considerable engineering challenges, with the latter requiring a pair of viaducts to the east of Rankinston Station, numbers HBE 14 & 15. Both are aligned on a curve of approximately 42 chains in radius.

Known as Ravenscroft Viaduct, the longer structure comprises nine 30-foot spans and extends for 115 yards over a stream and farm access road. It was built for a single track. The other, Water of Coyle Viaduct, has five spans and is 78 yards long. It carried two tracks – the main running line and a branch to Rankinston pit, the points for which were between the two structures; hence it is 26 feet wide.

The predominant building material was sandstone blocks – bull-nosed for the piers and spandrels, dressed for the arch barrels. A considerable number of patch repairs have been carried out in red brick, particularly to the parapet and upper part of the spandrels on the north-side of Ravenscroft Viaduct.

The line opened in 1872 but lost its passenger service on 3rd May 1950 when the western section was closed. The track here was subsequently used for wagon storage before being lifted in 1962. Around a mile of the line was relaid in 1997 to serve Broomhill opencast pit but it was closed again in 2002. The section over the viaduct continued to see coal traffic from Belston Junction until 1st January 1975 when Littlemill Colliery ceased operations.

In 2002, the Ravenscroft and Water of Coyle viaducts were the focus of refurbishment programmes by British Railways Board (Residuary), involving the installation of new drainage pipes and waterproofing for the deck. Both are now fenced off and redundant.

June 2018