From Mine to Lamp, by Rail and Road

The arrival of the railway in Scotland in the 1830s was an important step forward in the movement of people, a driver for the advance of democracy, and an essential ingredient in country’s industrialisation. For West Lothian, sitting between Glasgow and Edinburgh, it was to prove critical in the explosion and success of the soon-to-be-formed shale oil industry.

The shale oil industry, still in its infancy, began to use the new rail system to move crude oil from mines to refineries, where it would be processed for wider use. It would then be transported to depots where it would be distributed across Scotland.

Young's rail wagon
Possibly the first rail wagon used by Young’s Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Co. (R10-00192)


Young's rail wagon
A 10 ton tank wagon. built around 1903, and used by Young’s Paraffin Light & Mineral Oil Co. (R11-00017)
A 40 ton bogie tank wagon built around 1903, and used by the Oakbank Oil Co. Ltd (R11-00013)


Once the ever-expanding rail network had transported the oil to stations across the country the industry took to the roads, using horse-drawn and, later, motorised transport to distribute it throughout the cities, towns, and villages of Scotland. By the time the industry reached its end in the 1960s the preferred mode of transport to refineries and depots was still rail, but further distribution was now achieved through large tankers.

Horse drawn lamp oil tanker
Horse drawn lamp oil tanker at Culross village, Fife, 1910 (LVSAV1998.023.005)
Believed to be the first Pumpherston Oil Company tanker, c.1916 (LVSAV1998.047)
Scottish Oil and Shell Mex tanker
Scottish Oil and Shell Mex tanker, after 1918, probably converted from an old army truck (R15-00005)
BP Road Tanker
BP Road Tanker (BP Archive 217411-009)
BP Oil Tanker
BP Oil Tanker no.58189 (LVSAV1998.023.002)