The March of Progress - Establishment of more Public Works - Introduction of the Railway
In the year 1851, the Shotts Iron Company secured a lease of the minerals of Colinshiel, on the estate of South Couston, and at the same time, as the result of boring experiments at Cappers, they successfully negotiated with Sir William Baillie, Bart. of Polkemmet, a lease of the minerals of that part of Polkemmet estate lying immediately south of Bathville and Barbauchlaw. Mr. John Watson, coalmaster, Glasgow, who had at colliery at Newarthill, leased Bathville from Mr. James M'Hardy in 1851, and in March, 1852, No. 1 Pit, Bathville Colliery, reached the ironstone. The Monkland Iron Company, better known as Buttries Company, desiring a share of the good things that were being discovered in the minerals of the district, soon negotiated a lease of the Barbauchlaw seams, and the Coltness Iron Company came into possession of Woodend minerals in 1856, so that all the principal iron companies of the time were soon making their presence felt. Pit-sinking engaged a large number of men for a considerable number of years, until the whole face of the countryside had been transformed. A seam of grey ironstone was reached at from 45 to 60 fathoms below the surface, to reach which several bands of coal were passed through, the most profitable of these being the ball coal and main coal. The Mill coal and Cocksroad coal seams, in some instances, proved workable, but they are too thin to warrant their being opened up at present, but parrot coal was in abundance in Bathville and the eastern part of Barbauchlaw.
The ironstone being the chief mineral which these iron companies were after, bings of it were soon run out at all the pitheads, after which men were engaged to break the large stones on the outside into small pieces in order that the bings might be burned to char. The poisonous fumes that came from these burning heaps of ironstone had a very deleterious effect upon the vegetable life of the district, with the result that between the ground that had to be cleared of timber in order to carry on the work, and the blighting effects of the smoke, the thick plantations that once formed the camping-ground for the travelling gipsies, as well as the cover for the wild boar, the wolf, and the deer, were soon transformed into a bleak and uninviting part of country.
These companies had the charred ironstone carted to their respective headquarters where their furnaces were situated, but this was a slow process, and would have retarded progress greatly had it not been that arrangements were soon made to bring a railway into the district. In the year 1853 the Monkland Railway Branch Act was passed, and on the 11th November, 1855, that company came to terms with the trustees of James M'Hardy, the late owner of Bathville, for putting a. railway branch through the estate. The Monkland branch line from Bathgate was at that time being pushed on towards the Monkland Iron Company's pits at Northrigg, and at Trees a branch was struck off and carried up to Armadale as far as the head of the hill in South Street, within a few yards from the turnpike road.
At this point, at a convenient cutting a few yards to the east of the level crossing in South Street, a loading bank was made for the services of Woodend and Buttries Collieries. All the char from these collieries had to be conveyed hither in carts, which would have been a difficult task with the existing roads at that time, as these roads were no better than rough tracks through fields. South Street was much steeper then than at present, a large slice having been taken off the top of the hill, and was of an uneven surface, with many large boulders in the roadway. A high ridge of hawthorn, with a close strip of wood, hedged each side. The road to Woodend from West Main Street was of a like character, so that to attempt to carry heavy loads of charred ironstone over them with horse and cart to the railway point was out of the question without making some improvement. To meet this difficulty, each of the companies laid down a track of broad plate rails, each rail being a yard long and eight inches wide, and fixed to heavy wooden sleepers. Even South Street was plate-railed, and by this means the horses were enabled to cope with their heavy task. Meantime the railway company was proceeding rapidly with the railway in a westerly direction, and by another year they had reached as far as the collieries at Northrigg and Cowdenhead. A short halt was made here for about a year, when the work was restarted and continued until a junction was made with the Glasgow and Airdrie line. At this time a branch line was run over to Woodend Colliery, and all the individual pits were being reached by the railway.
For a short time the railway was used exclusively for mineral and goods traffic; but railway accommodation for passenger transit having been established between Edinburgh and Bathgate on the east, and Glasgow and Bathgate, via Airdrie and Slamannan, on the west, a small station, for Armadale, was built at Cappers, and arrangements made for conveying passengers between these places. The station, which was an unpretending little building, with a waiting-room on the left side of the door capable of accommodating about a dozen passengers, and the booking-office on the other side, with little room for the stationmaster, who was also booking-clerk, to move about in, was erected on the south side of the single line of rails, a few yards west of the bridge, in the year 1858, and by the following year the railway began to be a serious menace to the stage coach. But it was not until 1861, when the Monkland line joined that of Glasgow and Airdrie, and the various companies immediately amalgamated and formed the North British Railway Company, that a through passenger service between Edinburgh and Glasgow was established, and the old stage coach was forced to retire into oblivion.