Saturday, 13 June 2015

Remembering the Railway at Earlston

The Berwickshire Railway through Earlston in the Scottish Borders was one of the many lost lines in railway history, serving the village 1863-1965.  It provided the link between two major routes - on the east coast the North British Railway between  Edinburgh and London  and in the central Borders the historic Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Carlisle.  The cross country line was built in three stages - to Duns in 1849, westwards to Earlston in 1863 and the final stage two years later in 1865  with the completion of the Leaderfoot Viaduct across the River Tweed. 

 Earlston Station

"The Kelso Chronicle" of 20th November 1863 reported on the opening at Earlston with an  article which made the occasion seem rather prosaic and low key.  

In  contrast 14 years earlier in 1849, the nearby town of Dunse had  welcomed the railway with much celebration.  On the opening day the public were carried free of charge, the first train at 2.00 p.m. having no fewer than twenty carriages and it was reported "floral and evergreen arches bestrode the long serpentine row of carriage, a flag waving over the top of the little wooden hut which at present does the duty of a Station House and the Dunse Brass band played". [The Berwickshire Railway - Dunse History Society].

On December 4th 1863, "The Kelso Chronicle" noted   "The new railway [at Earlston] is in regular working order and appears to be giving great satisfaction.  The trains run smoothly and keep tolerably good time.  We are already feeling the benefit of railway communication". 
Station Road, Earlston, leading down to the railway. 
Copyright © A R Edwards and Son,  Selkirk.    (Cathy Chick Collection).   All Rights Reserved

Two trains in Earlston station
Copyright © A R Edwards and Son,  Selkirk.    (Cathy Chick Collection).   All Rights Reserved
The major engineering feat on the line was the crossing of the River Tweed and the building of the Leaderfoot Viaduct, which involved  a nineteen arch structure  907 feet long and 126 feet above the level of the river bed.   Interestingly it is referred to in a newspaper article of December 1864 as the Drygrange viaduct. 

                                       Leaderfoot Viaduct opened in 1865

 The Berwickshire Railway line was never a busy one, with roughly equal traffic of goods and passengers.  In Earlston, coal was brought in and stone from the local quarry taken out, with agricultural produce and livestock the mainstays of  business.   

Two prominent visitors through the station were Prime Minister Asquith in 1908, to make a speech in Earlston, and in 1944 General Eisenhower to inspect the Polish tank regiment stationed in the village.   [See earlier posts]

Prime Minister Asquith's party arriving at  Earlston Station in 1908

 General Eisenhower arriving at Earlston Station to inspect the 
Polish Tank Regiment stationed in the village in 1944.

Devastating floods across Berwickshire in August 1948 meant that passenger services were suspended,  due to parts of the trackbed being washed away.  Repairs were never fully carried out and only freight services continued on part of the line, which  was eventually closed without ceremony  on 16th July 1965 -  marking the end of the 102 year old line of the Berwickshire Railway through Earlston. 

 Goods Train at Earlston.  March 1965.
Copyright ©  Bruce McCartney at  

 All  Rights Reserved, 

Station staff at Earlston

            The last train through Earlston Station - July 1965. 
On the left is the train's fireman;  on the right the couple who  worked the level crossing;  with their young son in the arms of the stationmaster. 

Copyright ©  Bruce McCartney at  
 All  Rights Reserved, 

2015 and the site of the old railway line at Earlston
Copyright © N.F.Donaldson.  All  Rights Reserved.  

 Gates at the former Level Crossing Cottage.
Copyright © N.F.Donaldson.  All  Rights Reserved.  

 Berwickshire Rail Line, east of Earlston -
 now part of  Gordon Community Woodland
Copyright © N.F.Donaldson.  All  Rights Reserved.  

Postscript:  In 1969 amidst the notorious Beeching Cuts,  the Scottish Borders lost all its rail services, making it the only region in mainland Scotland without a  train station.  But this all  changes in September this year, when part of the Waverly Line re-opens for 35 miles south of Edinburgh into the central Borders at Tweedbank   

Do you have memories of Earlston Station?  We would love to hear from  you - either click on Comment below, or e-mail:  - Thank You.   

Photographs courtesy of  the Auld Earlston Collection, 
Cathy Chick, N.F. Donaldson and Bruce McCartney


  1. Fascinating photographs but sad to see the derelict lines today.

  2. Great vintage photographs and social history. Fergus.


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