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PETERHEAD PRISON RAILWAY
The Peterhead Prison Railway was worked by prisoner under armed guard lay on the opposite side of the road at Stirling Hill and had an extensive layout, which ran from the quarry to the
south breakwater pier at Peterhead (Burnhaven). It was an isolated railway built to high standards with it's own fleet of locomotives, and coaches and wagons. The coach were specially-built
vehicles with small barred windows, with prisoners being shackled in transit. The track bed can be followed along the main road and there was a very pleasant pink-granite viaduct as
you entered Peterhead. The quarry is still in operation but produces mainly Flint products. Flint had been quarried here as far back as the Neolithic age. It was also the only State-Owned
Railway in the UK that carried passengers at the time. The quarry was buit and worked by prison labour.
Interesting see the actual station and the trains that worked the line. Also the type of
wagons that were used. The station was a completely bare, island platform.
Stirling Quarry at Boddam. Showing the prison railway station site
The road to Sandfordhill and Lendrum Terrace sign post, with the ex Boddam station site behind
The trackbed can still be made out as it ran from the Lendrum Terrace overbridge above Boddam towards Peterhead
The overbridge at the top of Lendrum Terrace. Looking south.
The overbridge demonstrates the high standard that the railway was built to. If it hadn't been a private railway for the prison
it could have easily been extended onto the Boddam branch for a direct Peterhead-Aberdeen train service. This may
have even saved the branch from total closure back in the latter 40's, and who knows, may still be open today!
Looking eastwards from the Lendrum Terrace overbridge the railway has been backfilled. From here the line ran straight
ahead into the quarry and station in a cutting, with a spur running off to the left.
Looking north from Lendrum Terrace overbridge, towards Peterhead
Lendrum Terrace overbridge. Looking north.
Prison Railway Fence Wire tentioning Post. Lendrum Terrace overbridge from the start of the infilled quarry line
There is little sign that the railway ran straight ahead into the quarry. This was as far as I dared go as I was on a private path and the quarry was in full operation. You could hear machinery working
and the crunching of stone in the distance. However, you would hae seen the station platform from here, straight up ahead.
Due to extremely wet weather settling in for the rest of the day my planned walk over the line between Boddam and Peterhead was rudely curtailed moments after these photos were taken. I enjyed
a rather wet walk around Boddam and an even more enjoyable visit to an old friend who's family we visted many times over the years since the late 40's and who made Boddam a place which has
remained a firm favourite, with many childhood memories with me.
Hopefully I will get back again next year and be able to complete my visit to the old prison railway. Until then I will add a number of photos that I was able to grab from Google Street Views that will
help to explain the remains of the line as they are today................
Looking south along the trackbed towards Lendrum Terrace overbridge. From the A90.
Remaining embuttment where the prison railway crossed the A90 and ran on an embankment towards the South Breakwater Peir.
Head on view looking in direction to the breakwater Pier
Looking towards Boddam, where the prison railway crossed the A90
The embnakment running towards the breakwater pier. The lost village of Burnhaven was just up ahead.
The embankment on the left. Looking south half way along the road from the breakwater
The embankment looking southwards back towards the A90 overbridge
A gap in the railway enmbankment
The railway embankment running towards the breakwater pier, with the Power Station at Boddam in the background.
This was the the area of Burnhaven village, which no longer exists.
Peterhead South Breakwater. Site of the Prison Railway terminal yard. The prisoners built much of the prison as well as the railway and the long breakwater peir.
A tour by car around the breakwater on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMxZIHrRyx4&NR=1&feature=fvwp
Also comment on the lost village of Burnhaven. N.B. this is spoken in the local dialect known as Doric.
Both by Youtube user known as Kintakintyea (Interesting that it reads, in English, "I knew I knew you". Weel done, loon.
I was fascinated by the photo of the man walking up the village street and what looks like
the Prison Railway running above on the embankment and a overhead bridge. It would be
interesting to pin-point this actual spot. It suggests that the village ran east to west rather
than northwards towards the sea. (See 'Nov.' comments below).
From another search of Google I have estimated that this spot on South Street looking towards Boddam may be close, if not the actual spot where the old photo above was taken. The narrow road
on the right could be the actual street. The school is on the left. The railway embankment would have been in the background. However, I am not sure how the 'bridge' would fit into this view. You
can just make out the embankment running across the end of the street. From the gradiant it would seem that the old photo was taken on the opposite side of the bridge and embankment, looking
towards the camera, in
the scene above.
My thanks to Steward McLellan, who lives in Ontario for sending these photos and comments after finding this web site. Stewart gives an excellent description of his younger days at Burnhaven,
when he lived in Peterhead.
Wow, did your e-Mail ever bring back memories for me. I left Peterhead just as they began construction of the power plant. In fact, my older brother worked as a labourer at the plant during the
first summer of construction while he was waiting to start his government job in London. My dad was a jail guard at the prison for many years and I am very familiar with the railroad. I spent the
first 17 years of my life in the prison quarters on Seaview Gardens.
I logged onto the web tonight, as I wanted to see if I could get some information on the old village of Burnhaven. It amazed me the last time I was back that the whole village just seemed to
disappear to make way for a new sewage treatment plant.
I’ve attached a modern day photo of Peterhead and have highlighted some points of interest on it including where I believe the man was standing. If you look at the photo you can see the
fishing cottages to his left and the old Prison Railway Bridge ahead of him. This is the bridge where we spent much time as kids. The glenugie distillery was beside the bridge and we used to
get the old broken whiskey barrels from the distiller and take the wood strips and make grass sleds out of them. There were steep embankments at either side of the old rail line behind the prison
and we would grass sled down the embankments during the summer.
I could not remember the name of the distillery and searched the Internet for it this morning and found another photo that brings back memories. This is a shot of the distillery looking across
their pond. We used to spend hours catching tadpoles in this pond. If you look just to the right of the tower, you will see another of the old prison railway bridges. I remember this one also. It
was slightly to the west of the one at the one I mentioned above that we used to play at. It looks suspiciously like the bridge in the mans photo. Could it be possible that he was walking up the
hill to the Distillery?. Anyway, I remember playing around this bridge as well but I do not recall any cottages beyond the bridge so I still believe he is walking up the road towards the South
Road at Burnhaven School (which is the School that I attended).
If you look at your Photo of South Street, you will see that it begins to curve at the end. Just beyond this curve is where the road would go under the bridge and into Burnhaven. The roadway
to the right of South Street was higher in elevation and it went up and joined the old railway bed. This is where we used to play with go carts that we would make as it was a fairly steep roadway
with a nice sharp turn onto the what was the old railway bed.
I remember the shock when I took my family back from Canada to Peterhead (I married a Canadian girl and my son was born in Canada). It was about 12 years ago and I was exited to take them
home and show them the village of Burnhaven. It was such a beautiful village. You can imagine my shock when we got there only to find the village gone and construction of the water treatment
plant underway. I was also quiteshocked to see how imposing the power plant stack was as you drove towards Peterhead.
You will notice on the old map that the railway splits into three lines at the entrance to the Peterhead Prison yards. The same buildings are on the old map as are on the modern photo. I have highlighted the outline of two large in ground
pits that have been filled in. If you go to the breakwaters at Peterhead, you will see that they are built out of grate as well as from concrete block. These pits were where the concrete blocks were formed. While I do not know for sure, I
would think that the rail lines were used for moving concrete blocks out of the prison yards and to the Breakwater.I just quickly looked at a YouTube video of the "Forgotten Village of Burnhaven" and noticed that the picture of the man
from your website is on there as well. He is standing close to where the white van is in the first Burnhaven picture in the video. I actually remember drinking from the water pump that is shown in the video. I remember as a boy we would
cut through the field at Burnhaven School and sit on the embankment just outside of the gate into the Peterhead prison yard. Quite often we would walk down the hill from the embankment into the village of Burnhaven and down to the
rocks. The hill on the way down to the water had a row of closely spaced cottages at the side just like the ones shown in the Photo. In fact, I remember as a boy the last one caught fire and the old man who lived in it perished in the blaze.
I believe that the old man iswalking up this hill.
Glenrugie Distillery, Peterhead. This no longer exists. You can just make out the railway embankment and an overbridge to the left of the chimney stack.
I was not aware that Glenugie had closed down. That is quite sad to hear as I spent many days playing there as a kid.
As for the bridge directly behind the distillery, this was a back road into Burnhaven. We used to take
the road under the bridge to go to at the beach at Sandford bay. The road would go from the South Road and under the bridge where there was a little used pathway over Sandford bay. Sandford bay had a really nice sandy
beach, which was much different from Burnhaven, which just had a rock shore. It was hard to reach Sandford Bay so it was always very quite.Interestingly, I do not recall ever walking the rail bed between the bridge behind
the Distillery and the Bridge at the prison work yards even though they could not have been more than a few hundred meters apart. I would have to think that there was a reason for this because as boys we were quite
adventurous. We always went down South Road to the distillery and took the back road into Burnhaven if we wanted to go to Sandford Beach
or we would walk along the shore from Burnhaven.
If you look at the bridge in the Photo with the old man, you will notice that there is quite a long wall at either side of the bridge. This is why I am quite sure that the bridge in the picture is the one by the Prison work yards.
Update October 2016
PRESERVED PRISONER'S COACH (Maud Jctn Site)
On the 17th of September 2016 I enjoyed a visit to Maud Junction Station Site (Waling from Mintlaw to Maud and back).
The reason for the visit was to see the preserved Peterhead Prisoner's Coach that has recently been put on display on a
section of track by the old Up Fraserburgh-Aberdeen platform. It is accompanied by a Tool or Explosives Van that had been
on display at the Prison, which is now a Prison Museum.
They have done an excellent job of the preservation of the Prisoner's Coach which ran on the Stirling Quarry railway and
which ran between the quarry, at Boddam, to the breakwater pier at Peterhead. It was a standard gauge branch and fully
signalled. The quarry and trains were worked by prisoners, under armed gaurd. The work on the two breakwater piers began
in the 1890's and was expected to take 25 years. However, due to delays by the two World Wars it was not completed until 1958.
The branch was closed and dismantled immediatly after completion of the work.
The coach & wagon are displayed on the Up Fraserburgh platform.
The small four-wheeled wagon was probably used for carry tools and utilities and/or expolsives. This was was on display at Peterhead Prison for some years.
Left: As seen from the Island platform. Right: Seen from the Up Peterhead platform. This is roughly where the footbridge stood between the two platforms.
The coach consisted of a single doorway and a line of barred windows along the top edge of the coach.
Update April 2017
During a further visit to the Maud Station Site I was dissapointed to find that the Gunpowder/Tools wagon had been damaged.I did wonder about displaying
these items out in the open and where anyone can get onto the site at any time. It doesn't take long for some minless individual or group to damage things that
they have no understanding of the historical importance of things and the work ad expense that went into preserving things for the betterment of society.
They have obviously climbed on top of the wagon sand broken the roof and also tried to force open the doors. Thank goodness they were unable to get into the
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Web sites with reference to Cruden Bay, the raliway, Slain's Castle and the Bullar's.
(Updated Oct. 2008)
Cruden Bay Trams
Cruden Bay Historical Notes
Cruden Bay (Gazzateer)
Ellon to Boddam Branch
Focus On Aberdeenshire (Cruden bay)
Buchan RAF (Former Rotar Radar station)
The Crann Tarra (Cultural History) web site