Thursday, 2 May 2019

Now We Proceed to the Banks of the Tweed (2)

Part Way The Waverley Way
The Waverley Route was a railway line that ran south from Edinburgh, through Midlothian and the Scottish Borders, to Carlisle. The line was built by the North British Railway; the stretch from Edinburgh to Hawick opened in 1849 and the remainder to Carlisle opened in 1862. The line was nicknamed after the immensely popular Waverley Novels, written by Sir Walter Scott.

The line was closed in 1969, as a result of the Beeching Report.

The hope for renewal began with a "cross Edinburgh" service as far as Newcraighall which started in 2002; trains ran through to Fife. With the opening of the route as far as Tweedbank (Melrose) in 2015 these through trains became peak only.

In a backward sort of way, we will begin with the route south of the present terminus.
ere were plenty of stations but very few passengers at most of them. The notable stop for enthusiasts was, of course, Riccarton Junction (for the line to Hexham). It was in the middle of nowhere and very much a railway staff village.
It was (and its remains still are) accessible only via forest tracks.
Continuing southbound the line provided some workers' runs to and from Carlisle ...
... but the line was slow (wiggly), expensive to operate (hilly) and, for through trains, the route via Tebay and Carstairs (West Coast main line) was much quicker. Nevertheless, closure was hotly resisted with residents of the main borders towns protesting furiously at their total loss of rail links.

In 2015 the line re-opened.
There were fewer stations ...
... with Fushiebridge, Tynehead, Heriot, Fountainhall and Bowland not re-appearing. The line did not reach the old station at Melrose, but terminated at a sort of Melrose Parkway, called Tweedbank.

fbb joined the Abellio Scotrail 3-car class 170 DMU on Plaform 4 at Edinburgh Waverley station.
The train was modestly loaded but you would expect it to be quiet leaving the capital at 1225. Most passengers would at least stay for lunch! The stations at Brunstane and Newcraighall are suburban with a Park and Ride at the latter.
Brunstane had some pleasant floral additions ...
... and suburban locations are the order of the day as far as Gorebridge. Newtongrange ...
... has a link to the Scottish Mining Museum. Reports suggest that loadings at some of these stops has been less than expected; but Lothian Buses are cheap and generally more frequent than the train. 

But thereafter the scenery becomes more and more rural - not spectacularly mountainous but most enjoyable.
If you know where to look you might actually spot a train coming in the opposite direction.
fbb was also intrigued by the gradient signs. Traditionally these looked like this ...
... but the borders versions are simpler in design.
Are they needed for modern diesels OR were they installed for the steam specials that ran when the line was first opened?

Road based photographers have snapped a splendid view of an quarry north of Stow ...
... and the picturesque church in Stow village.
A good few alighted at Galashiels (of which more tomorrow) and ditto at Tweedbank where a similar gang was waiting for the return to Edinburgh.

The station is basic ...
... and toiletless! At 1330 on Saturday, the car park was pleasantly full ...
... and at least one local reporter is concerned that it becomes over full on Mondays to Fridays.
There have been reports of overcrowding on the trains and demands for four cars rather than a two car 158 have become vociferous. Whatever the prospects for growth (a more frequent service is not possible without expensive extra tracks/passing loops) there is no doubt that the line is very successful.

There is a growing campaign to extend through to Carlisle, but the costs may be prohibitive and the trackbed at Melrose has been re-used as a bypass road.
There might be room to squeeze a single track in, but whether the present owner/occupier of the station building ...
... would be pleased is not at all clear. Most of the magnificent building is a bar and restaurant.
But, from a public transport experience point of view, the most interest is back at Galashiels - so fbb hops back on the 170 and alights thereat.

All will be revealed tomorrow.

 Next Borders Railway blog : Friday 3rd May 

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