AN interest in railways has been shared by many people in Helensburgh since the Glasgow, Dumbarton and Helensburgh Railway Company arrived in 1858.
While only the occasional special steam train passes these days on the West Highland Line, the age of steam trains continues to hold a special fascination.
This is particularly true for Helensburgh Heritage Trust chairman Stewart Noble who has been a railway enthusiast more or less since his family moved to the burgh in 1951.
Now he has produced a new book entitled ‘The Vanished Railways of Old Western Dunbartonshire', which is being published by The History Press at £12.99 and will soon be available in the shops.
The book, lavishly illustrated with 200 photographs, depicts the rich scenery and history of the Western Dunbartonshire railway which stretched from the shipyards of Clydebank to the north end of Loch Lomond.
Stewart says: "I don't think that I have ever lived much more than 200 yards from a railway line, and when we came to Helensburgh the engines on the West Highland Line were a wonderful mix — and many of them had their own names!"
It is his third book, as he edited the Heritage Trust's ‘200 Years of Helensburgh' and then wrote ‘By the Banks of Loch Lomond' about the history and the attractions of the largest natural area of freshwater in the British Isles.
"It has been something that I have wanted to do for many years, perhaps as a way of recalling my childhood," he said.
"Old Western Dunbartonshire covered a very mixed area and this was reflected in the variety of railways that we had here, and so I felt that it merited publication.
"It actually took me about a year longer than I had intended because I did not have enough old photos; however fortunately I did manage to track down a couple of good sources which enabled me to complete the book."
He has dedicated the book to his three grandchildren, Harry, Guy and Grace, with the hope that they may savour part of his childhood in its 128 pages.
Stewart (right) says that the railways which served the area reflected its landscape. Some, including the West Highland line, are still in use, although parts have been lost and the nature of today's traffic has changed substantially.
"Other routes have disappeared completely — thus today's commuters on the busy electric train service from Helensburgh to Glasgow are frequently unaware that an alternative route existed for much of its length," he said.
A network of industrial railways, often running along cobbled roads, has vanished, as has the short but busy branch line from the West Highland Line to the military port at Faslane. A line which meandered eastwards from Balloch to Stirling was closed to passengers in the 1930s.
He added: "Like other vanished railway lines the length and breadth of Britain, they represented a lifestyle that is now largely only a memory. It is the very extent of what has vanished that is perhaps most remarkable."