IBM railway station (3 character code: IBM) is a railway station built to serve the IBM buildings in Inverkip, south of Glasgow. It is also referred to as IBM Halt by the passenger information screens, despite it not being called IBM Halt, and not being a request stop.
The station is on the Wemyss Bay branch of the Inverclyde Line, linking the Isle of Bute ferry to the railway to Glasgow with an integrated timetable that works to varying degrees of success. IBM itself is served by all but one train during the week, a level of service that has remained stable. Therefore, the patronage should also be stable, right? Wrong. Since 2013, patronage has declined from over 123,000 per year to 6,000, with drops of at least twenty thousand per year. This is something that warranted an investigation, so I popped down one day after lunch. I also wanted to travel on the soon-to-be-withdrawn class 314s (or maybe not so soon, given the current farce with the 385s).
With a level of frequency that I has never existed before on a least-used station trip before, I was spoilt for choice as to when to travel. I left Edinburgh after lunch, traversed the semi-newly electrified Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street route on an electric train, walked to Glasgow Central, and sat around for the next Wemyss Bay service to be given a platform. GOOD NEWS! A 314 pulled up, even in the old Strathclyde livery. Wonderful.
After a blast towards Port Glasgow, we turned off onto the single-track Wemyss Bay branch, stopping at all the minor stations. Despite the low patronage, IBM isn't a halt, meaning that every train actually stops there, although most do not pick up any passengers. We arrived into IBM without drama, and I got off.
The station is a fairly standard if sparse single-platform affair. There are 3 sets of 4 benches, a large-ish waiting room, and all the normal signs and notices. The only one of note is the one that informs people that the station is only for IBM Staff and Contractors, which I am not.
Ignoring the sign, I decided to go on an explore of the area around the station to see what the cause of the plummet in patronage is.
Leaving the platform, I immediately saw the problem. It is vacant, and in the process of being demolished. Just outside the station is a broken wire fence with a large notice telling people not to climb over it as the area behind it is unmaintained and dangerous. There were several of these notices up as I followed the open path from the station to civilisation. I arrived at a fairly modern looking car park, full of air. There was no sign of a road or path to the footbridge that was at the northern end of the platform. I walked through the car park and past a modern-looking building, complete with smoking area and pick-up/drop-off point, more notices telling me not to climb over fences and walked down the only open road, which, after a 5 minute walk, lead me to the A78.
At the entrance to the what is now known as Valley Park Business Park, there was a faded sign telling me that this is what is was, and larger less faded signs telling me that the entire thing was for sale. No signs anywhere gave a clue that there was a station up the private, unused road.
The other mystery is the bridge. I walked back towards the station, looking out for a path or road up in the direction of the bridge. None existed, except a slightly trodden area of grass by the car park that led into some fly-tipping by some trees. Using a sense of direction, I continued through the trees, coming up to more faded signs and the bridge.
I then walked back to the path and back to the station, where I took some more pictures and waited for a train to take me on to Wemyss Bay.
Bonus: Wemyss Bay
Wemyss Bay is a seriously beautiful station, with several nods to history, including the reminders to thousands of passengers about the cost of inflation. (Imagine being able to get to Glasgow for under £1....)
Because IBM has no ticket machines, and there was no guard on the train, I had to buy my IBM to Wemyss Bay return at the ticket office. “We don't get many going there any more” commented the bloke in the office as I paid my £2.05 and showed my railcard. I nodded, and attempted to sort out the confusion as I had “just missed the train”. I explained that I had just come from IBM, and needed a ticket for the journey I had done, as well as one back because I would be returning later. I was given my two tickets, and continued to admire the station until the train arrived me to take me back to Edinburgh.
The Journey Back
I say the train back to Edinburgh. There is a passing loop just south of IBM, where we waited for a train to pass. The first of the extra peak hour services from Glasgow were filtering through, and it was a 314. I decided to get off at IBM again and wait the half an hour for it to return there.
I returned to Edinburgh the same way, taking advantage of the declassified first class on the 170 from Glasgow Queen Street, feeling very proud of myself.
It is worth looking at a comparison between what the Valley Park area was like in 2012, and what it looks like now. Below are various screen-captures from Google Maps, and, where possible, my pictures from my trip.
The reason for this stations decline is purely external. The business park is now a demolition site, and the station is not advertised at all. And, why would it be? It was built precisely to serve the park, and, now that it has been taken away, it has no reason to exist. The nearby settlements are served by Branchton and Inverkip stations, both with healthy annual patronage levels. With about 12,900 trains per year, IBM should have 1 person per 2 trains. However, it didn't. The 6 trains I was able to observe at the station (bearing in mind this included a period across the evening rush hour) had nobody using it, or just me. The annual patronage next year will be even lower. By the time the statistics for my period come out (in December 2019), it may well be down in the hundreds. There is literally no reason to visit this station except to say that you have visited it. And, that was my reason. There are houses nearby, but one can gain access to the railway much more easily by using another station.
As for Wemyss Bay: what a gem of a station. Certainly worth a visit from anyone.
I should point out that at no point did I climb over or cross any fences at Valley Park. I obeyed all signs telling me to keep out of certain areas.
Author - Felix