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A Short History of Moffat
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Most of Moffat's economic prosperity has been based either around agriculture or the provision of accommodation and souvenirs for visitors, but there are some notable exceptions to this. The town had a water-mill, does still have a weaving-mill for local wool, did have a station and has had a fair number of trades relating to the needs of visitors and townsfolk. Industrially, the main businesses are quarrying and fish-farming, but publishing and other semi-service industries are present.
The Romans and later folk have quarried gravel, sand and stone from the Beattock Gravels for roadbuilding and construction. A quarry near Moffat once provided roofing-slate from the Moffat Measures, whilst at Newton Farm near Ericstane there are the ruins of quarrymens' bothies next to sandstone quarries. A less-successful 1760s copper-mining venture at Auchencat Burn not far from the Hartfell Well, still has two rock-cut drift mine passages visible, but 1812 indications were that the trial workings had failed.
Barnhill Quarry provided gravel and sand for the A74 enlargem,ents in 1959/1960, but even this was dwarfed by the massive and extensive upgrading of the road to the six-lane M74 motorway in 1994/1998. The only quarrying currently going on in the Moffat area is the Dykefarm gravel quarry whose entrance is signposted between Dyke Farm and the old railway bridge abutments before the southern approach to Moffat.
The Well or Mill Burn at Burnside in Moffat still preserves the mill leat of the mill that once ground flour and fodder meal for this area. It is probable that this was once a simple undershot corn mill which was later improved to give more power. A joiner Mr. Williamson ran it as a sawmill for a time, but the firm of Taylor & Smith finally ran the works as a sawmill until it closed in the 1970s and was demolished. The site was occupied by a garage used by Economic Forestry but it is now housing.
The 1860s railway up to Glasgow was built with a station at Beattock, where four Class 4 pilot engines waited to help the northbound trains up the 1:75 Beattock Incline and the Harthope Viaduct. Railway work was to provide jobs in both Beattock and Moffat; train staff, station and yard staff, all lived and worked beside the line.The names of five local men who stood on the footplate are still known, - Phil Kerr, Willie Hunter, Bert Saunders, Dod Smith and Willie Kennedy. Engine 42192 has also been recorded here.
A short spur-line was built between Moffat and Beattock in 1883, ceased carrying passengers in 1954 and finally closed for freight in 1964; all that survives is an embankment and the demolished abutments of a bridge at the southern entry to the town. At first, the spa visitors needed a service of twelve to fifteen small trains per day, a Drummond 0-4-4T (No.CR194) being used with three carriages. By the 1930s this was replaced by the so-called 'Moffat Bus' or 'Puffer', a steam railcar that can be considered as the ancestor of the diesel railcars used on local routes through Dumfries. The fare in the 1940s was 2d. one way, 3d. return, the journey took five minutes and was considered a real treat by local children.
The writer would be interested in other railway information about Beattock and Moffat stations.
This is a survival of the period when there were many water-powered spinning and weaving mills in south-west Scotland. The mills at Moffat and Langholm still survive, although their main output is demonstration materials.
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All text and images © 1999 Richard Edkins of Dalbeattie Internet.
Moffat Town Website started 8th December 1999.
Last updated 16th February 2000.