Did you know that between 1943 and the end of the Second World War, 11.1 million jerrycans were manufactured in Dundee and left the city through the old West Station?
It’s just one snippet of Dundee’s railway heritage, which the Tele is looking back on this week after work got under way today on a new £28 million station for the city which, it’s hoped, will ferry millions of people into the city in the years to come.
Dundee West Station stood opposite where the Malmaison hotel is today, virtually sharing the site with Taybridge Station, which operated at the same time.
The very first station on that spot was made of wood and was built to serve the new Dundee to Arbroath line in 1840 — the first train was hauled by an engine named “The Queen”, which hit the heady speed of 45mph during the journey.
Seven years later — May 22, 1847 to be precise — the first train going west set off.
“All Dundee, Perth and the Carse of Gowrie turned out to watch”, said a news report at the time.
However, wealthy landowners didn’t like noisy, dangerous contraptions going anywhere near their property. Out by Kinfauns Castle Lord Gray only let the line come through his estate for a fee of £12,000.
In 1864, the station was totally revamped with the wooden structure demolished and replaced by a handsome building with a clock tower on South Union Street.
It served the city and railway companies well but as traffic increased and the fortunes of railway companies soared, an even more impressive central station was ordered.
Dundee West was operated by the Caledonian Railway at this time and it was their chief engineer, Thomas Burr, who came up with the initial design.
The building was constructed by Edinburgh firm Blyth & Cunningham, who were the go-to construction company for Scotland’s railways. They had a reputation for efficiency and thoroughness — highlighted by the fact that founder Benjamin Blyth had died from overwork 23 years previously.
This was going to be a showpiece; a cathedral celebrating steam, a magnificent, creation — and it was.
It was opened in 1889, Blyth & Cunningham delivered a superb addition to the civic landscape.
Built in the Scottish Baronial style it was made from red sandstone with a broad semi-circular booking office that gave access to four platforms.
And then in the 1960s it was destroyed to make way for a bypass.
It seems unbelievable now, a Gothic masterpiece with all the soaring grandeur of the Victorian age being erased like that, but perhaps attitudes were different back then.
Dr Richard Beeching, chairman of the British Railways Board, had been tasked with overhauling the UK rail network.
The rail union ASLEF campaigned for it to be retained and a local pressure group argued that it should be kept as a bus station.
But no one, it seems, wanted it kept just because it was simply splendid.
The last train left in 1965 — the 8pm to Glasgow — and 200 people gathered to see it off.
Shortly thereafter, Dundee firm Charles Brand began the demolition.
The destruction of Dundee West took 10 weeks and cost the city £1,150. The platforms down below ground level were kept, of course, incorporated into Taybridge Station.
But it was never quite the same, as the spectacular building disappeared from the city’s landscape forever.