The original plans for a railway connecting Dunblane to Callander via Doune were published in 1846. The promoters dreamed of being connected to other parts of the Scottish Networks, such as Oban and Dalwhinnie, which were being set up by the new Scottish Central Railway and the Caledonian Railway. However, the published prospectus only covered Dunblane to Callander.
The scheme was approved by Act of Parliament with authorised capital of £80,000. Not enough money was raised despite local backing, and the scheme was shelved.
It was revived in 1846, this time with capital of £60,000, and was successful with help from the Scottish Central Railway. The line opened to traffic on 1 July 1858, initially as a single-track line, the station entrance being roughly where the entry to Pistolmakers Row is now.
It would have been a huge engineering feat, with vast amounts of digging, track laid, bridges built and stations constructed. In those days the work was of course all done by manual labour, with no modern machinery or transport. Doune being roughly in the middle of the line, saw a huge influx of navvies (labourers), and a corresponding increase in both welcome trade and less welcome evening over-exuberance.
The line was initially owned by the Scottish Central Railway, then the Caledonian Railway, later part of the London Midland and Scottish Railways (LMS) and finally part of British Railways in 1948.
Once open, the railway connection produced great benefits for the area. These included greatly reduced cost of commodities like coal and lime (for agriculture), easier delivery of manufactured goods, and of course very much faster transport of passengers. The significance of tourism in the area is shown by the fact that the train service was five trains a day in summer and two a day in winter.
In the early 1900’s a second line was opened from Dunblane to Doune, around the time of the opening of a remodelled Doune Station. For the size of town, the station seemed rather grand, allegedly due to the fact that Sir James Thompson, who was eventually to become chairman of the Caledonian Railway, resided locally at Inverardoch! Photographs from 1906 show that the station had broad covered platforms with a Station Master’s office and a substantial covered bridge to the opposite platform. Beyond is another bridge, presumably to allow the general public to cross. There would probably also have been waiting rooms for ladies and gentlemen (with coal fires in winter), a ticket office and a luggage room/goods storage. Staffing would have included Station Master, Ticket Office Clerk, Signalmen (two signal “boxes” after track doubling), and porter(s). How different from equivalent modern stations!
The End of the Line
During the 1960s a report was produced on rationalisation of loss-making railways, leading to the “Beeching cuts”. Doune’s line, along with many others was closed, and at some point the tracks were lifted. However, some of the metal bridges over the railway track south of Doune are still in use.
The station building at Doune was demolished in 1968, although the former station master’s house survives (see left). For many years the site of the station was used by a timber yard, and it is now occupied by housing. Parts of the trackbed south of Doune and another south of Callander, have been converted into a much used footpath and cycle path. It is hoped that these may be joined up in future.