Andrew Barclay Works No 2017   Braeriach No 17 0-6-0T

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This locomotive was one of five built in the late 1930s by Andrew Barclay for hauling 700-ton coal trains from the Michael Colliery at East Wemyss and other pits in the area, over the Wemyss Private Railway to Denbeath Sidings at Methil. This locomotive was built in 1935.

The Wemyss Private Railway was a network of lines, sometimes known as the Wemyss Estate Railway. The lines were a group of mineral and other railways in Fife, Scotland, mainly on the land of the Wemyss family. They were built to connect coal pits to harbours and the railway network, for the use of tenants of the Estate. The Wemyss and Buckhaven Railway was built at the expense of the Wemyss Estate and carried passengers; it was later sold to the North British Railway.

When numerous collieries needed a railway connection the Wemyss Estate built a connecting line to Methil Harbour and improved the harbour itself.

Until that time Wemyss had been financing his businesses in a personal capacity, but in 1894 the Wemyss Coal Company Ltd (WCC) was formed. Wemyss transferred much of his business interest to the Company; other shareholders were chiefly local owners of coal mines.

The company was formed to enable considerable further development of the pits to take place, The major element of the expansion was the creation of the Michael Colliery on the foreshore west of East Wemyss town which was intended to access coal under the sea. A new railway was planned, climbing from the new pit to form a triangular junction with a new line running between West Wemyss and Wemyss Castle, and broadly parallel to the existing Buckhaven line. The new railway was over a mile long, with a zigzag to gain height and gradients of 1 in 69 against loaded trains to reach the high level line. Construction of the line was undertaken in 1895.

The contentious new railway between Muiredge Den and Methil was started in October 1899; it was completed and opened in January 1901.  The line had cost £17,186 to build. It was six miles in length, and single track, starting in the west at Duncan siding, linking Lochhead and Hugo pits, with a new east-facing connection to Michael. It then crossed the Wemyss and Buckhaven line and turned north up Wemyss Den, running close to the 1887 Wellsgreen line, then crossing it by a diamond crossing; the earlier restrictive agreements required Wellsgreen traffic to be worked to Wemyss Castle. It then ran north and east, joining the Bowman branch to Isabella pit, and then crossing the route of the NBR Muiredge branch. Running north-south this had become dormant when more direct routes for Muiredge coal had been built, and the NBR had agreed that it might be severed to allow the new line to pass through west to east. Spur connections north and south were made to the stubs of that line; the junction area was known as Muiredge Plunks. The line continued east through Starkey’s Wood, turning tightly to the south-west and crossing over the Methil extension railway, to terminate at Denbeath pit on the shore.

After its industrial use the locomotive was sold for scrap to the Muir scrapyard near Thornton but was rescued from there to work on the Strathspey Railway. It has operated there and on the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway under a hire agreement.

The locomotive has been given the name Braeriach by the Strathspey Railway. Braeriach is one of the mountains in the Cairngorm range which overlooks the Spey Valley and at 1,296 m is the third-highest mountain in the British Isles, surpassed only by Ben Nevis and Ben Macdui.

The locomotive is currently stored out of use.

2017 at Muir’s scrapyard at Thornton – June 1970
Wemyss Private Railway No 17 in the scrapyard south of Thornton - June 1973.jpg
2017 – Wemyss Private Railway No 17 in the scrapyard south of Thornton – June 1973
2017 passing Granish Moor near the summit on the Strathspey Railway – May 2007
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2017 at Aviemore on the Strathspey Railway – August 2007
2017 at Aviemore on the Strathspey Railway – August 2013
2017 inside the depot at Aviemore on the Strathspey Railway – August 2018

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