The prettiest station in Britain

Wemyss Bay Station has been a vital part of Scottish transport links since its inception in 1865 when it was built to connect to Clyde steamer services to Rothesay, Largs and Millport. This halved the journey time for people travelling from Glasgow. This film from our Moving Image Archive’s collection shows the popularity of this journey, and in one of its captions describes Wemyss Bay Station as “the prettiest station in Britain”.

The existing station and pier were built just over a century ago in 1903 which doubled the platform and steamer berth numbers for such outings. It was the first Clyde railway pier to be built and is the last remaining one, and has a Class A architectural listing. It was famed for its beautiful floral displays as shown in the main image above.

Over time the station fell into disrepair, with no floral displays, a leaking roof and several derelict rooms. However ScotRail operates an ‘Adopt a station’ programme in which members of a local community are encouraged to help with the appearance of their local station. A group of concerned Wemyss Bay and Skelmorlie residents decided to partake in this programme and united to become the Friends of Wemyss Bay Station.

This started small with some tubs of plants but over the past few years flower towers have been installed to recall the floral displays of the past. A small garden, where plants and vegetables are grown, has been created on an old railways siding and in the old empty First Class waiting rooms a second-hand bookshop and gallery have been opened. These are staffed by volunteers and proceeds go towards continued restoration.

The Friends of Wemyss Bay Station produced a book which is held by the National Library of Scotland. This details the history of the station and includes numerous historic photographs.

Other items the Library holds include old train and steamer timetables for the coastal service for people that want to get an idea of the journey times and prices. They also contain such curiosities as food and wine options for the first class journey.

If your ancestors worked in the railways the Library has a good guide which may help you in your search for information. Meanwhile, the Railway Ancestors Family History Society once published a journal.

If you are interested in further information about Clyde Coast Steamers we have a nice pictorial history, and also a history of the piers of the area.

Should you have any further queries about this or any other subject, please contact us at Ask a Librarian or simply speak to staff at our Enquiry Desk.