The Scottish Railway Preservation Society operates the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway, which has been developed since 1979 on a green-field site by the south shore of the Firth of Forth. Several historic buildings have been obtained and re-erected to provide a traditional railway setting. Bo'ness station opened in 1981. The line was extended to Kinneil in 1987 and to Birkhill in 1989, where the fireclay mine was open to the public until 2010. Since 2010 the passenger service has continued to Manuel, where it is intended that a new station will be constructed.
Falkirk Council has been working with the SRPS to set up the Museum of Scottish Railways. The first part of the museum was opened in 1995 as the Scottish Railway Exhibition and a large extension was opened in 2002. The large new station building at Bo'ness, opened in 1998, includes the refreshment room and gift shop. This provides improved facilities for coach parties. The passenger service was extended to Manuel in 2010. A proposal to extend the line to an interchange with the Union Canal is being investigated. About seven miles along the canal is The Falkirk Wheel, the World's first and only rotating boatlift.
The line from Bo'ness to ManuelBo'ness station has been built since 1979 on a landscaped site which had previously been occupied by railway sidings, timber yards and coal mines. Buildings have been designed to reflect a traditional railway style, or moved from other locations. The station building was originally at Wormit, the train shed is from Haymarket, the signal box from Garnqueen South Junction and the footbridge from Murthly. The 'new' station opened in 1981, and trains operated over a short distance to Lows Crossing. The signal box and signals were awarded the prestigious Westinghouse Signalling Award.
The first part of the journey is along the foreshore. Landscaped in the late 1970's and early 1980's, it was previously an area of railway sidings and industrial buildings, remnants of days when Bo'ness was an important port. The site of the original Bo'ness station (closed in 1956) is occupied by the roundabout. The curves along this stretch are necessary to cross an oil pipeline. Longannet Power Station and Culross in Fife can be seen across the Forth, and beyond are the Ochil Hills. Kinneil platform was the terminus of the line for three seasons (1986-88). Kinneil colliery which closed in 1981 has been demolished.
The train now starts to climb through the woods. This is the line of the original branch; the rest of the line from Bo'ness to Kinneil was built from scratch by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society. The road overbridge at the start of the climb was built in 1990 to replace a narrow underbridge at Crawyetts, a short distance beyond, which restricted lorry access to the town. Kinneil House is high on the left. James Watt carried out many of his steam experiments here. Watch out for the waterfall on the left. The woodlands are a pleasant contrast to the open foreshore and many wild animals have been seen, including squirrels and deer. These woods are also full of wild garlic. As the train leaves the woods and turns inland it crosses the route of the Roman Antonine Wall at a location marked by a very high road overbridge.
A further half mile through fields brings the train to Birkhill Station where much excavation was necessary to provide space to build a new platform. The station building was moved from Monifieth (near Dundee) and may be recognised by visitors to the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival where it formed Central Regional Council's 'Heart of Scotland' exhibit. Birkhill station opened in 1989.
The remainder of the line to Manuel opened for passenger services in 2010. The line south from Birkhill is in a wooded cutting, and after passing under Todd's Mill bridge crosses the impressive viaduct over the wooded Avon Gorge. To the left, Linlithgow can be seen in the distance. The route continues on an embankment then passes under the M9 motorway and the A803. The approach to Manuel is through open countryside. The line curves to the right before the site of Manuel Lower station. Straight ahead the former line to Slammanan and Airdrie continued through a bridge under the main line. The new station platform at Manuel provides the opportunity to watch the locomotive running-round the train while other trains pass on the adjacent main-line. The train then returns to Birkhill and Bo'ness. A link line from the Manuel station connects the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway to the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line at Bo'ness Junction.
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Bo'ness Station, Union Street, Bo'ness, West Lothian EH51 9AQ
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