The history of Blackford station begins in the mid 19th century at a time when “Railway Fever” saw new railway schemes being proposed all over the country. Each railway company had to obtain an Act of Parliament before they could raise funds or receive authority to build their lines. By 1844 there were 66 separate railway companies in Great Britain.
The importance of a railway line from Falkirk to Perth was seen as critical to completing a trunk line from London to the North of Scotland and an early survey in 1841 had confirmed the practicality of such a route. Various influential members and landowners in the Strathearn area formed a provisional committee and surveyors from Inverness undertook to provide a survey in March 1844, initially at their own expense.
The first reference to what was to become the Scottish Central Railway Company was made on 9th April 1844. Such was the importance of the proposed line that shares in the company were quickly fully subscribed.
Two possible routes for the new railway were under consideration, both following a common line from Stirling, Bridge of Allan, Dunblane and on to Auchterarder. From here one followed a low lying route, involving a major tunnel through Moncrieffe Hill to reach Perth from the south while the other proposal turned north towards Crieff to reach Perth from the north. Following a detailed engineering assessment it was decided in October 1844 that the route through Moncrieffe Hill should be selected and plans and sections were deposited with the House of Commons for the 1844-45 session.
The plans confirmed that several roads to the north of Blackford would have to be diverted and that the proposed railway line would separate the village from its church to the north of the main turnpike crossed by the railway. Notably, much of the land in this area was owned by Major William Moray Stirling of Braco, one of the line’s promoters.
The Scottish Central Railways Bill eventually received Royal Assent on 1st July 1845 and Major William Moray Stirling was elected as chairman of the newly constituted company. Contracts to construct the line were let in late 1845 and agreement reached on establishing stations at Perth, Forteviot, Dunning, Auchterarder, Blackford, Greenloaning, Dunblane, Bridge of Allan, Stirling and Larbert Junction. By early 1846, most of the land had been acquired and excavations work involving c.1800 men and 200 horses was advancing. By early 1847 some 3,886 men and 378 horses were employed and over 2.5 million cubic yards of earth had been excavated.
It was originally hoped that the line could be opened by spring 1847 but a severe winter delayed progress and the initial opening date of spring 1847 was rescheduled to early 1848. An unsuccessful request was made to the Board in January 1847 that a bridge should be constructed where the line crossed the turnpike at Blackford as the road gave access to the church and burial ground and parishioners would be impeded by gates over the railway.
Physical connections between the Central and neighbouring companies were not fully resolved until autumn 1847. The official opening date was 22nd May 1848 and all passenger arrangements were operating by 1st June, with goods services starting on 15th June. Connecting services to Glasgow and Edinburgh were introduced from 1st July 1848. The initial consideration was that there would be four trains per day each way throughout and Blackford station, like Forteviot and Dunning, would require one booking clerk, one porter and one point or signalman, along with a policeman or gatekeeper at each level crossing.
Blackford station shared the same design as Forgandenny and Kinbuck - a two storey stone building including the station master’s accommodation. Each station was later extended - in Blackford’s case with a wooden extension.
One other notable station was that at Carsebreck, between Greenloaning and Blackford. This station existed as an intermittent halt – Lord Kinnair of the Dundee & Perth Company had asked the SCR Board in 1851 if land adjacent to the line could be found to create a curling pond. A site was identified at the lochan near Carsebreck house and a plan was submitted in 1852 showing two platforms with a siding and crossover. The halt was at first named the Caledonian Curling Society’s Platform, then renamed Curling Pond Halt in 1870 and later referred to as the Royal Curling Club Platform. The first match was played in 1853 – one bonspiel was held in the winter of 1882-83 and the final contest was held in 1935 when almost 5000 players and spectators arrived.
By 1849, a combination of factors, including changes to the Railways Bill and a depressed economic situation led to the plant and workings of the SCR being handed over to the Caledonian Railway and to two west coast companies, the London and North Western Railway and Lancaster & Carlisle Railway. Agreement was reached in 1862 that a joint purse arrangement should be established between the Caledonian Railway, SCR and the Edinburgh & Glasgow. In 1863 this was followed by a “Thirty Years Agreement” to formalise the arrangement. However, by 1865, the Caledonian and Scottish Central Railway Amalgamation Bill had received Royal Assent and on 1st August 1865 the SCR was formally dissolved.
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, traffic on the former SCR rapidly increased with the growth in traffic from England and with Perth, maintaining its strategic advantage as a hub for connecting services to/from the north of Scotland. However, with the steady growth in road network improvements, the general decline in rail services and associated closures began in earnest in the 1930s, with reductions in services progressively taking place up to the 1960s. Sadly, the last passenger train to leave Blackford station was in June 1956.
More recently, Highland Spring has been constructing a rail freight terminal to send bottled water by rail. Work started in 2018 and is still ongoing. At December 2020, contractors have moved off site, awaiting installation of the power supply. This will be followed by laying of the rail track and the arrival of a gantry crane. The story of the construction can be seen here. Highland Spring has provided updates as the work progressed:
This brief history of Blackford Railway Station was drawn from the book The Scottish Central Railway by Peter Marshall, published by Oakwood Press, 1998
Timon Rose of Perth for provision of photographs and information on the Highland Spring Terminal.