A Tunnel Under Tayfield

The Intricacies of Railway Mania

Map showing path of Rendel’s floating bridge

Following on from the previous blog Big Plans about the Edinburgh and Northern (the E & N) Railway’s plans for a line from Cupar via Leuchars to Tayport and then possibly on to Newport, other companies were desperate to run the line through Fife to Dundee.

In September 1845 the Glasgow & Dundee Junction Railway (the G & D J) proposed to go from Glasgow via Stirling and Kinross, Strathmiglo, Auchtermuchty and Cupar to Newport. In its journey through Fife it would meet the E & N, presumably at Cupar, ‘from whence it will proceed directly to Newport … where there is a short and commodious ferry.’ ‘No tunnelling will be necessary. The gradients and curves are unexceptionable, and the work throughout will be light.’ The prospectus said that the whole line ‘is supported by a majority of landowners through whose properties it is intended to pass’ 1 . The wording in the prospectus is unclear – did it mean that the railway would stop at Cupar and use the E & N rails to carry the traffic; or did it mean it would connect with the E & N and then itself go directly to Newport (but without tunnels)?

Also in September 1845 the Glasgow & Dundee Direct Railway (the G & D D) put out their prospectus 2 . Despite their name, they took as their starting point Dundee harbour and from the outset intended to use Mr Rendel’s floating bridge across the river to Craighead* (shown as a purple dashed line). The floating bridge idea had been approved by Parliament in 1843 3 and originally was intended to (1) provide a replacement or additional ferry terminal at Craighead and (2) operate it as a chain ferry (or floating bridge) by converting one of the existing steamers 4 . But the G & D D prospectus went further – ‘railway carriages and wagons were to pass without change from … Glasgow to Dundee and Arbroath’ – in other words the wagons were to roll on to the floating bridge and roll off at the other side – just like that!

Once on Fife ground, the G & D D line was to take ‘the most direct line’ from Craighead (Newport) to Kinross and then on to Stirling. It was also intended to form a short branch to Cupar.

But ambition doesn’t guarantee success. The G & D D’s grandiose plans lasted only a week before the company was amalgamated with the G & D J 5.

While all this is going on, surveyors and engineers must have been on the ground. Two months later, in November 1845, the plans are issued for public consultation prior to presentation to Parliament 6 . And what a dog’s breakfast they are.

The plans, now nominally G & D J plans, are for a line – shown in blue, tunnels in dashed blue -from Craighead, with no mention of connection to the floating bridge, then west along the coast to Newport Pier. From there, 2 alternatives were given:

  1. a line continuing along the shore past Woodhaven and Scroggieside, round a bend to pass Wormit Farm, then through the Wormit Gap in the hills and round the hill at Sandford. The main line would run from there west through open countryside past Kilmany, Luthrie and Letham to Auchtermuchty, then on to Kinross and eventually Stirling and Glasgow. (4.6 miles from Newport Pier to Easter Kinnear Farm). Yes, you read correctly – the main line would run past Kilmany, Luthrie and Letham to Auchtermuchty.
  2. a line heading south past Tayfield and Friarton, then turning southwest to join up with option (1) at Easter Kinnear Farm. (3.5 miles from Newport Pier to Easter Kinnear Farm).

Both options would connect to a branch to Cupar and St Andrews. [Interestingly, there was no proposed link for traffic approaching from the west to get to the Cupar & St Andrews branch. Cupar was to be reached by a minor branch much further west, while St Andrews would have been unreachable from the west. All the attention seems to have been on the Dundee to Kinross line.]

I have a whole page showing the planned line in Newport and Woodhaven on here.

The direct route, option 2, (and railway promoters were always pushing for the ‘direct’ route) is thus over a mile shorter than option 1. However, and there is a big ‘however’, route 2 passes through hilly ground. The usual answer to this is to make cuttings and maybe a tunnel – but these are expensive. Tunnelling is very expensive. Having climbed from Newport pier there would have to be a tunnel under the eastern part of St Fort Hill (between the Old Kirk Road just south of Newport and Friarton), and another under Knockhill (between West Friarton and South Friarton). But the plans show tunnel all the way from Tayfield North Lodge to West Friarton. Would it have to be tunnelled all this way? I doubt it. The ground rises steadily but not excessively as it goes from the lodge, through what is now St Serfs grounds, to Kirk Road. Tunnelling here is not an engineering necessity.

If it was a case of being hidden from sight from the grounds of Tayfield, then there was also the issue of smoke, fumes and noise as a north-bound train exits the tunnel at Newport – and that would quite easily be seen from Tayfield House. South-bound trains would create more noise and smoke but this would mostly be cleared by the wind before entering the tunnel.

What did option 2 have in its favour to justify the additional expense? Why was that route even considered? Was it a legacy of its original G & D D ‘direct line’?

Was its expense simply there to make the Wormit route more attractive?

What about the support of the landowners? Was Mr Berry in favour? He had been unsuccessful in arguing against the floating bridge at Craighead in 1843 7 . Was this another obstacle to the G & D J line to help make it economically unviable?

[Added after original post: Another newspaper extract 12 has come to light commenting about the engineers surveying for a direct line and a tunnel to run from Forgan Smithy under Forgan Hill to Tayfield Den or Maryton [sic]. It gives the advantages of this route as ‘avoiding the interference with the amenity of St Fort & Tayfield, and with the valuable fishings in Wormit Bay’. It goes on to say that the landowners gave the engineers utmost freedom in their survey. If it isn’t the best route, don’t blame the landowners. It finishes with a wish that the tunnel should be liberally lit by gas. – So this is the ‘direct line’ option.]

Whatever the reasons, the G & D J went ahead and sought Parliamentary approval. But all did not go well. While passing through parliamentary scrutiny in April 1846, it had numerous objectors and the drawn plans in particular were criticised and found to be wanting. The bill was therefore thrown out for failing to comply with standing orders 8 .

The G & D J was short-lived. Only 9 months after being proposed, the company was wound up 9 , leaving the E& N line to Tayport as the only railway crossing to Dundee – until the next proposals appeared .

*Craighead is the point of land immediately west of the Fife end of the Tay Road Bridge. Craighead Cottage and, later, Craighead Farm and eventually Craighead housing scheme all take their names from their proximity to this point of land. On 17th century maps it is called ‘Scarness’, but by 1703 Adair’s map of the River Tay names it as ‘Craig head’ 10 , and there is a baptism recorded at Craighead in 1726 11 .


  1. Dundee Perth & Cupar Advertiser, 26 Sep 1845, p3 (all newspapers available at British Newspaper Archive)
  2. Dundee Perth & Cupar Advertiser, 23 Sep 1845, p3
  3. Tay Crossings Act, 1843, 6 & 7 Vic. c. lxxxiv
  4. Fife Herald, 6 Apr 1843, p3 ; and Fifeshire Journal, 3 Aug 1843, p2
  5. Dundee Courier, 30 Sep 1845, p3
  6. Bound plans and sections of Glasgow and Dundee Junction Railway from Stirling to Newport and Dundee via Kinross… at the National Records of Scotland, ref. RHP85254.
  7. Fife Herald, 18 May 1843, p5
  8. Dundee Perth & Cupar Advertiser, 7 Apr 1846, p1
  9. Dundee Perth & Cupar Advertiser, 5 Jun 1846, p2
  10. Fifae Pars Orientalis, Blaeu, 1654 ; and The Frith of the River Tay …, Adair, 1703 at the National Library of Scotland
  11. Old Parish Records, Forgan parish 431/1, baptism of James Gilcrest 8 May 1726 , ScotlandsPeople
  12. Fifeshire Journal, 30 Oct 1845, p6

Additional reading:

  • The Railways of Fife, William Scott Bruce, 1980
  • Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, vol 15 North of Scotland, John Thomas & David Turnock, 1993

The United Presbyterians – Wormit’s Forgotten Congregation

There was a United Presbyterian congregation in Wormit from the early 1890s to 1898. They had their own minister, Rev. Hugh Carmichael, and appear to have been similar in strength to, if not bigger than, the Free Church congregation at the time; but they have been largely forgotten. This is despite the strongly-held views and not a few arguments provoked by the proposed union of the two denominations.

A timeline may be of help here:

1889: the Forgan Church (of Scotland) opened a meeting hall at Wormit in a converted house at Railway Cottages. Status later raised to a Mission.

1893: Free Church congregation are meeting in the Railway Cottages on 2 Sundays a month.

1894: Wormit U.P. congregation members strongly in favour of a Union Church in association with the Free Church. Rev. Rae (Newport Free Church) is against it. At this point, neither congregation had a building to call their own or a permanent minister. Discussions continue.

1895: The Established Church congregation moved to the newly-built Hall in Bay Road (now West Hall).

1895: Free Church opened their Preaching Station, later to become a Mission Station (now the East Hall) – cost about £400. Rev. Livingston is minister. [As a general aside, I am struck by the way the non-Established ministers locally preach in each other’s pulpits.]

October 1895: Rev. Hugh Carmichael selected as U.P. minister for Wormit. The U.P. congregation meets in the Public Hall (above the Wormit Post Office).

November 1897: U.P. minister Rev. Hugh Carmichael moves to Glasgow, replaced for 2 months by Rev. Macleroy.

1898: Established Church raised to a Chapel of Ease.

February 1898: Free Church & U.P. Church locally agree to union. The choice of denomination (Free Church or U.P.) would be decided by the choice of new minister, to be selected from a leet of 4.

June 1898: Plans for a new U.P. church submitted to Dundee U.P. Presbytery, estimated cost £2700.

July 1898: At a meeting of the Union Church, Wormit [sic], 5 names were submitted for the position of minister. Rev. Tweedie elected by a majority. The church will now be under the constitution of the Free Church.

July 1898: Rev. Livingston, having voluntarily retired from his candidature in connection with the recent union, in order to promote the harmony of the settlement, leaves the Free Church charge.

August 1898: Union ratified: the congregations become the Wormit United Free Church. The congregations had selected as minister Rev. John Tweedie – a Free Church probationer. The denomination of the church would therefore be Free Church. Donation of £500 received from the Home Mission Board of the U.P. Church towards the costs of construction of a new church.

October 1898: Rev. John Tweedie inducted to the united charge. ‘The congregation were urged to use consideration and forebearance towards each other and to give their minister a kindly welcome.’

1899 – 1901: Construction of new United Free Church – cost £3000.

A piece in the Evening Telegraph in 1908 declares that ‘Wormit set the example of Union for the rest of Scotland to follow, with the election of Mr Tweedie’.


Dundee Advertiser: 7 November 1894, 12 October 1895, 2 September 1898;
Dundee Courier: 7 & 15 November 1894, 28 December 1895, 21 March, 1896, 30 November 1897, 9 June 1898, 21 July 1898, 11 August 1898;
Dundee Evening Telegraph: 25 September 1908;
Newspapers can be found on the British Newspaper Archive or Find My Past sites.
The History of Wormit Church

Jottings seems to have had quite a few posts about the local churches – this was not the intention, it just ‘happened’.