There are a number of wonderful outposts of mechanical signalling along the East Coast Main Line north of Edinburgh, notably Arbroath and Stonehaven, but one I had not previously visited was Carnoustie, world-renowned host of golf’s Open Championship on no less than eight occasions.
Taking advantage of another ScotRail “Club 50” £17.00 flat fare offer while staying in the Scottish capital, a day trip to Carnoustie on Wednesday, 5 February 2020 also gave me the chance to take a pleasant walk alongside the golf links and railway to visit two of Britain’s least used stations, Golf Street and Barry Links.
This is a delightful place to visit, even for a non-golfer, with the chance of some bracing sea air and photography made simple by the number of footbridges over the railway at each station and a more modern one halfway between Carnoustie and Golf Street.
Unlike Golf Street and Barry Links, unstaffed Carnoustie station enjoys a decent train service, being served by hourly Edinburgh-Arbroath stopping services in off-peak hours, with a number of additional peak-time services towards Aberdeen in the morning and from Glasgow in the early evening.
Colas Rail 70802 passes Golf Street and approaches signal CA2 with a short trainload of cement tanks, working from Oxwellmains Lafarge near Dunbar to Aberdeen Craiginches
Its tall signal box is a Caledonian Railway design dating from 1898 and boasts a 20 lever frame. But it controls just two remaining semaphore signals, both in the down (northbound) direction, with home signal CA2 standing close to nearby Golf Street station (as seen above) and starting signal CA3 immediately north of the station.
Just half a mile south of Carnoustie stands one Scotland’s least used stations, Golf Street, a station serving the western side of Carnoustie and celebrating the 60th anniversary of its opening on 7 November 1960 (as Golf Street Halt) later this year, although I doubt the celebrations will amount to much.
The up platform indicator at Golf Street is already showing the next departure as being 06.15 on the following day (17 hours later!) as ScotRail I7C set powered by 43163/142 passes with the 11.32 Edinburgh Waverley-Aberdeen
In the latest ORR statistics Golf Street was ranked our 2543rd busiest station (equal with Culrain on the North Highland Line), attracting 280 passengers in 2018/9, or roughly one a day, given that there are no Sunday services. That was a slight improvement on the previous year’s tally of 268.
Despite its proximity to Carnoustie, Golf Street really ought to be capable of attracting a decent level of patronage. Like nearby Balmossie (3 passengers a day), which is also only served by two services each way daily, it is surrounded by housing (as shown above) and is actually closer to the main golf facilities than Carnoustie station.
This is no Stanlow or Sugar Loaf station, in the middle of nowhere and unlikely to produce a meaningful amount of passengers, and I have not the slightest doubt that if Golf Street and Balmossie had a proper rail service restored then the passenger traffic would be there.
LNER Azuma 800103 passes Barry Links on 5 February with the 07.08 Leeds-Aberdeen
So from one little used station to another, and continuing on from Golf Street, a pleasant one mile walk in a south-westerly direction, following the well-signed Angus Coastal Path between the railway and golf links brings you to Scotland’s (and one of Britain’s) least used station, Barry Links.
170410 speeds through Barry Links with the 10.46 Aberdeen-Glasgow Queen Street
The latest ORR station usage statistics put Barry Links in 2558th place, with a total of 122 passengers, or around two a week, which nevertheless represented a more than doubling of numbers from the 2017/8 total of just 52, that had ranked it as the UK’s second least-used station.
ScotRail I7C HST set, powered by 43134/176 passes Barry Links on 5 February with the 11.02 Aberdeen-Edinburgh Waverley (also seen in the top photo)
Like its neighbour and Balmossie, it is currently served by just two up (southbound) services on Mondays to Saturdays (06.18 to Dundee and 07.54 to Edinburgh Waverley) and two evening return services at 18.06 (16.09 from Glasgow Queen Street and 18.46 (17.02 from Edinburgh Waverley).
ScotRail I7C HST set, powered by 43132/179 pass Golf Street and approach Carnoustie on 5 February with the 09.28 Edinburgh Waverley-Aberdeen
That is a considerable improvement on the single return “Parliamentary” train, which these stations had endured for almost three decades, until a doubling of the service with the May 2019 timetable change.
Barry Links looks like a station that has seen better times, with the current usable platforms continuing largely intact for some distance to the north east end of the station and what looks like another platform face on the south side of up platform one.
A very unusual warning sign on a railway is this road-like triangle, warning that Carnoustie station is 1000 yards away, as seen from Golf Street station
Unlike Golf Street and Balmossie, it stands some distance from the sizeable village of Barry, but is a well signed point on the Angus Coastal Path and so should be capable of generating leisure travel, if it was ever to have a decent service restored.
ScotRail I7C HST set, powered by 43163/142 passes signal CA2 and approaches Carnoustie with the 11.32 Edinburgh Waverley-Aberdeen
Looking back in time, things were very different before the withdrawal of stopping services between Arbroath and Dundee/Perth in 1990. My British Rail timetable for the previous year (1989) shows nine trains each way on weekdays (ten on Saturdays) serving Golf Street and Barry Links.
From what I could see, there appears to be real potential to revive passenger usage at both stations, and it will be interesting to see if the recently- improved services lead to Golf Street or Barry Links rising up the station usage league table, and climbing out of the bottom 20 positions they have held for many years.