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The Paisley and Renfrew railway was established as a railway line from the town of Paisley to its neighbouring town Renfrew; and to the River Clyde at Renfrew wharf. The railway was built to the Scotch gauge of 4 ft 6 in. Its engineers were Thomas Grainger and John Miller
It was intended to both compete against and to complement the transportation of passengers and light-weight goods on the River Cart, between Paisley and boats on the River Clyde. The line was originally three miles (3 km) long and it was almost a level gradient throughout.
1835 The line was authorised and opened in April 1837, with locomotive working from the start. The company originally bought three locomotives: The Paisley and The Renfrew, made by Murdock, Aikin and Co of Glasgow; and the St. Rollox, originally made by Robert Stephenson and Co for the Glasgow and Garnkirk Railway and later sold to the Paisley and Renfrew Railway. The locomotives were used to give a speed advantage over the River Cart.
In 1842, to save money, it switched to horse haulage. The original railway company never made a profit and the line was leased out.
In 1846 it agreed to be taken over by the Paisley, Barrhead and Hurlet Railway. The Paisley, Barrhead and Hurlet Railway never managed to build their own railway and the Paisley and Renfrew Railway changed hands several times.
The Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway opened in 1840 between Glasgow Bridge Street railway station and Paisley Gilmour Street railway station and this line removed much of the trade from the Paisley and Renfrew railway.
In 1847 the Paisley and Renfrew Railway was bought by the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway. Horse-haulage was retained until 1866.
On 1 January 1866 passenger services were suspended and the line was doubled and regauged, by the Glasgow and South Western Railway, to standard gauge. It was also connected, as a branch line, to the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway at Arkleston Junction and it reopened on 1 May 1866 using locomotive haulage.
The original terminus station in Paisley was Hamilton Street, but for passengers it was replaced by Abercorn station when the line was regauged and became a branch line. The line then ran through three stations, to its terminus at Renfrew Wharf. A freight branch led off to the Cart Harbour in Paisley.
Freight branches were also built at Renfrew Wharf to serve the two shipbuilders W. Simons and Co and Lobnitz and Co based on the River Clyde, at Renfrew. They later merged to become Simons-Lobnitz and the ship yards closed in the early 1960s.
1967 The line was closed to passengers on the 5 June 1967 as part of the Beeching Axe, and was officially closed to freight traffic in 1981, with the line being lifted in 1986.
Much of the route of the line now is occupied by a cycle path, or by a private road utilised by the Doosan Babcock (formerly the Babcock and Wilcox) site in Renfrew. The site of the former Paisley Abercorn station goods yard was used to build a superstore in the late 1970s