Rail fans lead way in saving lost line
VOLUNTEERS are raising money and delivering heritage projects on the forgotten southern section of the former Waverley railway line while politicians and civil servants continue to debate the costs of restoring the northern section to Edinburgh.
Railway preservation societies based at Riccarton Junction, where a Victorian township was developed to accommodate the railway, and at Whitrope, two miles away, are maintaining or increasing their activities in a bid to conserve the abandoned route.
One enthusiast said: "While we’ve been prepared to get our hands dirty, the bureaucrats are still arguing about whether it’s worth spending 130 million to throw the northern Borders and Midlothian an economic lifeline. I think we are putting them to shame."
The latest achievements by Friends of Riccarton Junction [FoRJ] go on public display this weekend when the society holds two open days at the remote railway halt deep in the Wauchope Forest, near Newcastleton village.
A 30,000 grant from regeneration funds has allowed 320 yards of track to be laid and hundreds of tons of ash to be removed from platforms. The society was formed seven years ago, around the time plans to bring train services back to the Borders were first mooted.
Geoffrey Evison, chairman of FoRJ, said: "That’s the longest section of line to be put down on the Waverley route since the tracks were ripped up in the early Seventies.
"We need to carry out more work on the platforms and plan to bring in examples of rolling stock. Another major project on our wish list is the restoration of the stationmaster’s house, which was a real archaeological gem."
Meanwhile, the Waverley Railway Heritage Association [WRHA], based at Whitrope, has also embarked on a range of projects. The society’s declared aim is the preservation of the disused Edinburgh-Carlisle railway through the Borders.
WRHA has completed several environmental projects, is providing seating areas and notice boards and plans to lay tracks as part of the development of a railway heritage centre.
"Naturally, we would love to see the entire Waverley route reconstructed, with trains running all the way from Edinburgh to Carlisle," said Mr Evison.
"If that day ever comes then we will gladly stand aside to facilitate development of the line. But given the current political climate we have to adopt a realistic approach, and the best we can hope for at this stage is for benefits to emerge in terms of tourism as a result of our efforts."
Mr Evison said FoRJ had gone from strength to strength following last year’s well- publicised public row at the society’s annual meeting.
Claims were made then that the junction was in a worse state than when FoRJ was formed, and the integrity of the society’s accounts was also challenged.
Mr Evison said: "Our committee met following that unfortunate event and it was decided to expel eight members and deny entry to ten others who had applied. The issue has been resolved and now our priority is to make sure projects are carried out."
The Riccarton Junction open days are tomorrow, from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday, from 10am to 5pm.
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