THE BEECHING REPORT
On Thursday 27th February 2003, BBC Radio 4 broadcast the first in a two part documentary regarding the Beeching Report and the effects it had on those whose local railway lines closed. The Waverley Route featured heavily in this documentary and links to the appropriate pages on the BBC website can be found below.
Please note that RealPlayer is required in order to listen to these BBC programmes.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WAVERLEY ROUTE
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THE GRAND PLAN
Following the Smith-Barlow Commission investigation of 1839, into the feasibility of trans-Border Anglo-Scottish trunk routes, the Government decision in 1841 stating that only one trans Border route was viable seriously underestimated the potential for long distance traffic.
The North British Railway were granted Parliamentary approval for the first trans-Border route between Edinburgh & Berwick, via the East coast, in 1844. This was a new company at the time, and the founder of the N.B.R., John Learmonth, already had plans in mind to serve the whole of the Borders region between Edinburgh, Carlisle & Berwick with a railway network. He knew, however, there would be very little traffic generated in parts of this region due to the fact it was largely agricultural.
Undeterred, he pressed on with his plan, if not somewhat slightly over-optimistic of the actual traffic potential. The following year, in 1845, the N.B.R. acquired the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway, constructed by James Jardine in 1831, for the princely sum of £120,000 and also absorbed the Marquis of Lothian’s Waggonway, of 1832, further south. As a point of interest, the Edinburgh & Dalkeith was surveyed as long ago as 1818, by one Robert Stevenson (who recently featured on the BBC series “Seven Wonders of the Industrial World”) and received Royal Assent on 26th May 1826.
The acquisition of these lines would provide another stepping stone to the south, without bringing too much attention to themselves, or so they thought. Their plan, soon to be unveiled, was to build the “Edinburgh & Hawick Railway”, by way of Galashiels & Melrose.
EDINBURGH & HAWICK RAILWAY
A year after acquisition, in 1846, the NBR doubled the width of the track from the original single track laid by the previous companies and upgraded the whole length to standard gauge from the 4’ 6″ it was originally. The massive viaduct over the River South Esk, at Newbattle was rebuilt, to an impressive twenty two spans, standing almost one third of a mile long.
The new route was ready as far as Dalhousie, from the Portobello East Junction, in 1847, and opened to here on June 21st. Gorebridge was reached just over three weeks later, on the 14th July.
Work continued still, through Fushiebridge, over Borthwick Bank to Tynehead. At a continuous gradient of 1 in 70 it coursed south, over the Lammermuir Hills, reaching Falahill Summit at the peak of the gradient, 880 feet above sea level, then dropping down the south slope, at 1 in 100 to Heriot & Fountainhall, then 1 in 150 through Stow, reaching Bowland Bridge on 4th May 1848.
Through all kinds of inhospitable weather, two wet summers and three harsh winters, the gangs of Navvies worked; over the bleak uplands, and down the valley of the Gala Water. In the space of 15 miles the railway crossed the Gala Water as many times. The route passed through the industrial Tweed towns of Galashiels and Melrose, after crossing the 278 feet long Redbridge Viaduct, otherwise known as Tweed Viaduct; winding south via Newstead, and reaching St. Boswells, known at that time as Newtown, on February 20th 1849. The route continued south, over the Ale Viaduct and through the hamlets of Belses & Hassendean until 1849, when Hawick was eventually reached. The line throughout was finally opened on the 1st November of the same year, with this terminus just west of the later construction. Indeed, this station site was later to become the goods yard, surviving until 1969.
From 1849 the rivalry between the different railway companies was soon to become extremely bitter, with opposing plans to extend further south.
Going back though, to 1845, a chap named John Miller, on behalf of the North British Railway, surveyed for a line from Hawick to Carlisle via Langholm and Teviotdale. The plans were put before parliament in 1846 but there was fierce opposition from the Caledonian Railway. They were rightly fearful of the North British reaching Carlisle.
The Caledonian won the day and Parliament rejected the scheme.
The principal route of the Caley ran from Glasgow to Carlisle, but less than a decade later they threw what can almost be seen as a joker on the table when they announced their own plans to connect Carlisle with Hawick.
The Caledonian route was to run north from Carlisle, via Langholm in Dumfriesshire which was the most populous town in the area. It was to be a single track line and there was no promise that it would become a Borders trunk route. Obviously, the Caley were plainly attempting to prevent the North British from entering Carlisle.
This plan was supported by the population of Langholm, although the North British would not forget Langholm as they were to provide a branch there, via Canonbie, in their new scheme.
They proposed taking a line from Hawick up the valley of the Slitrig Water, via Shankend, as far as Limekilnedge, then down Liddesdale through Newcastleton, Penton & Longtown. It was pointed out that the soon to be constructed Border Counties line, from Hexham, was well laid out for a possible junction with this line.
When the North British published their new proposals they were supported wholeheartedly by the Tweed towns. The chairman of the North British, one Richard Hodgson, was himself a Border man & a Member of Parliament for Northumberland. He embarked on a crusade of the Border towns, proclaiming the virtues of the North British proposal. He convinced the population of these towns that they had everything to gain from the North British scheme and in doing so became a most popular figure.
In the August of 1858 a public holiday was held in Hawick. The town was decorated with flags & bunting. A dinner was held in Richard Hodgson’s honour, both in the open air for a thousand guests and in the Tower Hotel. Belief was running high in the Borders that the North British proposal would win through with Parliament.
However, the celebrations now seem to have been a little premature. It appears that the Caledonian proposal had initially won through with Parliament, following their decision not to grant the North British their new Bills.
Needless to say, during 1858 Parliament was heavily petitioned by both the Tweed towns and the North British themselves, who were at a loss as to such a decision which would in effect hand over the district between Hawick & Carlisle to the control of a Company directly interested in preventing continuous trains or through traffic.
By the March of 1859, Proceedings were being heard before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, of the Border Railway Bills . Numerous people, engineers, surveyors, gave evidence as regards the two proposed routes, Langholm & Liddesdale. Curves, gradients, rock formations, breadths of the single & double track formations, minerals in the surrounding areas, weather conditions; all were discussed at great length, as witnesses representing the Companies were put under cross examination by the Select Committee.
Finally, on the 21st July 1859, having changed the name from the Hawick & Carlisle Junction Railway, the Border Union (North British) Railway Act received it’s Royal Assent. The North British Railway had won at last.
BORDER UNION RAILWAY
Barely six weeks later, on Wednesday 7th September 1859, the first sod was finally cut on the new route, opposite Lynnwood House at Hawick, by Mrs Hodgson, the wife of the NBR chairman. A silver plated spade was used, with a polished mahogany wheelbarrow, “carried shoulder high by four Navvies”. The day was again declared a public holiday, and special trains were provided from Innerwick, Millerhill and Dunbar.
As the railway was constructed the Hawick townsfolk would walk out to see the construction taking place. Eventually though, the railhead got too far away from the town for short walks and rather than numbers of visitors dwindling, they just made longer expeditions. One mill in Hawick actually provided the annual excursion for it’s employees by taking a sightseeing tour to the newly constructed Whitrope Tunnel, some twelve miles away.
The extensive engineering work carried out on this section of line south from Hawick was to enable the railway to pass through some of the most bleak & isolated countryside that any railway, anywhere in Britain, was to ever encounter. Even on the yet to be built Settle to Carlisle line of the Midland Railway, a road was never any further away from the railway than a couple of miles.
Immediately south from Hawick station, across the Teviot Viaduct, the line takes on a series of sweeping curves at another tough rising gradient of 1 in 75, and about a mile south from the station crosses the Slitrig Water on the now, sadly, demolished six-arch Lynwood viaduct. It was demolished in 1982 following local children throwing ballast from atop the structure, and thereby causing accidents.
The route wound it’s way round the western fells in the valley of the Slitrig Water, with varying gradients between 1 in 123 and 1 in 72, and reverse curves which were to make this route so difficult. It was to be a tough slog uphill, to Whitrope Summit almost 14 miles away, but there were also two stops to be made on the way.
The first station south of Hawick was to be made close by Stobs Castle. This was not on the original 1857 plan of the North British, but it was felt that due to the severe lack of originating traffic on this section, all possible remuneration attempts were to be made. This meant that a hamlet with only a handful of population, was to get it’s own main line railway station.
A viaduct, Barnes, or Stobs Viaduct carried the railway over a tributary of the Slitrig Water, then immediately south of this was the station, simply named Stobs.
Prior to the First World War, another station came into being, about half a mile north of Stobs. Here was a military camp, which during World War II became a Prisoner of War camp. Known as Stobs Camp station, this area, with it’s numerous sidings, is long since derelict, although the surrounding hills serve as a reminder of this sad place with many unmarked graves of the Prisoners of War.
As the line ventured further south, the first of the major engineering works on this line required constructing. With the railway having already crossed two small viaducts since leaving Hawick, at the base of Shankend Hill another Slitrig tributary had to be crossed. This was achieved by creating massive embankments on both ends of a fifteen arch viaduct, 597 feet in length. It’s construction was that of a combination using both locally quarried Sandstone and engineering brick.
Although many features of this line no longer exist, the now “Listed” Shankend Viaduct stands to this day, as a magnificent monument to all who helped in it’s construction.
Another station was built, barely two hundred yards south of the viaduct. Like Stobs, some 2 ½ miles to the north, Shankend station served only a small number of people.
This station was one originally planned by the North British and was intended to allow traffic to originate from the surrounding farms in the area to the various markets, both to the north & south.
Sidings were provided on the up line, with cattle trucks and horse boxes being the mainstay of the freight stock.
Also on the side of the up line, about ¼ of a mile south of the station, a signal box controlled the sidings, and sections north to Stobs, and south through Shankendshiel. This section was a most desolate stretch, and during construction would have been a terrible place to work.
The small shanty towns moved south as the new line travelled with it. When the hillside of Sandy Edge was approached it was necessary to negotiate the second of the major engineering feats on this line.
A tunnel, to be known in future as Whitrope Tunnel, 1208 yards long was constructed underneath Sandy Edge. Men are reported to have worked in coats, then skins, then coats again, in the space of only a few minutes, as the temperatures varied so much.
Over 400 gallons of water every minute is said to have poured from the tunnel during construction, such was the nature of the surrounding environment. A complex drainage system channelled the water through the roof of the tunnel and down pipes fixed to the tunnel walls. From here the water would flow to the central drainage channel, below ballast level. At the southern end of the tunnel, the portal required massive retaining abutments to be provided, due to unstable, soft rock caused by the presence of a stream directly above the mouth of the tunnel. Numerous casualties occurred during the tunnelling, and it is believed that two graves exist above the south portal, following the deaths of these Navvies.
Approximately 300 yards south of this portal a commemorative stone plaque was placed following the opening of the line, to mark the struggle with which the Navvies faced whilst constructing this mammoth feat of engineering. Sadly this has long since disappeared.
Still at a continuous gradient of 1 in 96, which ran through the tunnel, it was only until a further quarter mile had been travelled south of the tunnel that Whitrope Summit itself was reached, 1006 feet above sea level.
A siding, signal box and surfacemens cottages were the only railway buildings close by the summit, where the line veered south-eastwards, although the surfacemens cottages now stand alone. The signal box having been razed in the early 1970s.
Unfortunately, prior to dropping down the gradient, a further problem was encountered. Another stream posed a threat, where the route was due to cross the minor road to Hermitage.
The only way around this was to divert and bridge the stream, then build an embankment directly over the top. The pier of the bridge could then be safely constructed. Due to the enormous cost for this extra engineering work, partly caused by the Navvies excessive drinking habits at Whitrope Bar a mile and a half south, the bridge is still known locally as the “Golden Bridge” and stands to this day as Bridge 200.
As the route commenced the descent down the south Whitrope slope for a mile of 1 in 90/80, just south of Whitrope Culvert an enormous cutting was carved into the south face of Kiln Knowe. A stone retaining wall held back the earth mounds, and the massive amounts of cutting material were used to infill both Whitrope Culvert and further south, at Laidlehope Culvert. Three huge mounds, which are still recognisable, were also built up at the south eastern end of the cutting. During the excavation of this cutting, in March 1860, three men were buried alive by a massive earth slippage. Two of the men were dug out alive, but the third perished.
The line wound around the lower slopes of White Knowe, Stitchell Hill & Bell Hill. More reverse curves for which this line would become famous.
Having travelled only 2 miles south of Whitrope, now with a steady descending gradient of 1 in 75, another station was planned.
In what can only be described as “the middle of nowhere” the North British Railway Company were to construct, what is now, probably their most famous ever railway junction.
The site of this junction was only approximately described in the Parliamentary Bills of 1858 & 1859, as Rough Leas, or Lees Bog near Phaupknowe, which was an isolated shepherd’s house.
Sitting at around 850 feet above sea level, it lay in a narrow pass between Saughtree Fell & Arnton Fell, both of which rise to over 1400 feet. The area on which the junction was to be built, it is said, produced the finest corn in the whole district.
Prior to the railway there was no existing settlement, so by taking the name from the ruined defensive tower, one mile to the south, and a Burn which ran close by, the North British derived the station name Riccarton, a name that would become synonymous with isolation.
Here they created the junction for the Border Counties line extension, which ran through Kielder, Reedsmouth & Bellingham to join the Tyne Valley line at Hexham.
The facilities at Riccarton could at one time rival any other major junction. There was a three road engine shed, 100 feet long, capable of accommodating 6 locomotives, and an adjoining two road carriage shed. Two brick signal boxes were constructed, one at the north end and the famous grim, grey, rendered one at the south end of the junction. This was perhaps to protect the ‘box from the south easterly gales blowing across the Cheviots, the northern ‘box being partially protected by the other buildings. A gas plant, two weighing machines, a turntable, a large smithy and a coaling facility were also provided.
The line had actually opened to passengers prior to completion of the facilities at Riccarton, and in 1863 the engine shed site was still receiving infill and ballast, obtained from nearby rock cuttings on the Border Counties line, and ash brought to Riccarton by the train load.
A small village was created at Riccarton, with terraced housing provided for the drivers, firemen, signalmen, cleaners, porters, fitters, gangers, booking clerks, shunters and everyone else who worked for the railway. Two of the houses were detached from the rest. At number one, Riccarton Junction, lived the station master. A fine, grand house below the main terrace, overlooking the north end of the junction, this had the luxury of three bedrooms, a bathroom and an outside toilet & coalhouse.
The second detached house was the school teacher’s house. This too had three bedrooms, but unlike the station master’s, had the toilet indoors. This building, sitting higher up the side of the fell at the southern end, is the only one at Riccarton to have remained inhabited since the day it was built.
Dropping south from Riccarton Junction, the route sat on the eastern flanks of Arnton Fell, descending sharply, with even more grinding reverse curves and a further massive earthwork at Riccarton Culvert. Twisting left then right, then left again, for over 3 miles before the next station, at Steele Road was to appear.
Yet another tiny hamlet that the North British were to provide for, the station was situated on a sharp curve, at a constant gradient of 1 in 75.
Two small platforms were constructed, with the Station Master’s house on the down side and a small bus shelter like construction on the up platform. Also on the up side, beyond the platform was a small siding. A signal box sat approximately 50 yards from the southern end of Steele Road station, on the down side, with a narrow path adjoining the station.
Through another cutting, getting shallower as the line curved south, the route coursed past Nichol’s Bank, Old Castleton and Liddel Castle, then over Hermitage Water on the Sandholm Viaduct, demolished after closure by an army of explosive experts. This viaduct was also known as Hermitage Viaduct, but neither name used was incorrect.
Riding high on the massive southern embankment of the viaduct, the line made yet another sharp turn before coming alongside the village of Newcastleton. Also known as Copshaw Holm, this was a planned village dating as late as 1793.
With one long, straight, main street running for almost ¾ of a mile, the station was constructed on the western side, just off the central, main square.
Two platforms, fairly extensive sidings, a signal box, level crossing, station masters house which still stands and a footbridge were all constructed, for this was the first major centre of population since leaving Hawick, 21 miles to the north.
This was also the scene in the early hours of 6th January 1969 where Reverend Brydon Maybon lead his parishioners in a sit-down protest on the level crossing, after locking the gates to the oncoming and final train, the night sleeper from Edinburgh.
As the line passed through Newcastleton the gradient eased off. From Whitrope Summit, 8 miles to the north, it has been a constant 1 in 75, but here, as the line comes alongside Liddel Water, the gradient drops until we finally come to a short level stretch, about a mile south of Newcastleton.
The road then crosses the railway with the line running through an underbridge, long since demolished, the road now having been lowered and widened. The line then heads for the Liddel Water, crossing on the Liddel Viaduct at Mangerton, now also long gone.
Once on the eastern side of the Liddel Water the line runs along the lower flanks of Blinkbonny Height, on a relatively flat embankment for approximately 2 ½ miles until coming to the Anglo – Scottish Border, over the Kershope Burn, at Kershopefoot. Here stood magnificent twin signs, displaying the site of the Border crossing.
This was yet another small community, amply catered for by the North British. A level crossing, surely the closest one to any Border crossing, again allowed the surrounding farms to send their livestock to the markets they once, probably, only dreamt about.
It may seem quite odd in looking at the new railway in this way, but one has to remember what opportunities it did provide for those who were, until then, seemingly unprivileged.
In small, agricultural communities, especially those in the Scottish Borders, movement of livestock in the 19th century would have been extremely difficult, tiresome and would probably not have even been contemplated in some instances. The route which was being constructed would have allowed these smallholdings to spread out, giving them a far greater way of competing with others, at the new markets opened up as a result of the new railway systems.
Back to the line, though, and south of the level crossing, and the first station in England, was Kershopefoot. A signal box and siding were also constructed on the English side of the Border, but now, sadly, all signs of these are gone.
As the route carried on south it followed the contours of Liddesdale, and, remaining on the eastern side of the Liddel Water for another 5 miles ran through Penton. Here was a small station, similar to Steele Road, further north; but here, and still looking resplendent to this day, stands a much grander station master’s house, similar in style to that standing at Riccarton Junction.
After passing under a beautifully crafted, large, road bridge, the route continued, down a 1 in 100 gradient for 3 miles or so until arriving at what was to become Riddings Junction. Prior to receiving this name, though, it was known originally, in 1857 as “Canobie Junction”, at this time without the -n in Canonbie, then the following year, in 1858 as “Langholm point-road”.
Here stood a small, if not isolated junction, a mile west of the nearest village, Moat.
An island platform stood for the small trains that would provide Langholm with their branch line service. A further platform on the main line up side adjoined the island by way of a footbridge. Also on the up side stood a signal box, from where the junction would be controlled.
Incidentally, the population of Langholm, not entirely happy with being provided with only a branch line by the North British, were later to be allowed to pay a fare for their journey which would be calculated on a distance “as the crow flies” as a slight means of compensation.
Langholm, seven miles north of the junction was reached by constructing three major viaducts, over Tarras Water, Byre Burn and Liddel Water, the latter being close by the junction and standing in pink sandstone as magnificent today as it did all those years ago.
Just 1½ miles south of the junction the main line crossed over another viaduct. This one, known as Thistle Viaduct, was constructed as a 5 spans of steel girders, on 4 masonry piers, with 2 masonry bank seats and a timber deck. Amazingly enough this also stands today, although in a somewhat neglected state, just visible from the A7.
Closing in on the “Debatable Land”, a further station was constructed by the North British just west of the Scotsdike earthworks, thrown up in the 1500s in an attempt to stop the Scots and the English from killing one another.
Rather pretentiously on the North British part, the station was questionably called Scotch Dyke, and remained with this name throughout. This structure also stands to this day, with its low sandstone platform together with the restored “SPEED AND COMFORT BY RAIL” sign above the veranda, complete with British Railways emblem.
Running alongside what is now the A7 trunk road, the route sat just above the southbound carriageway, and 1½ miles later came a large pumping station, just west of Oakbank. This well built brick construction also stands today, alone in a field, ¼ of a mile from the road, sometimes confused with the shed at Longtown which is long since gone.
Only a mile south and Longtown was the next station. With a signal box, level crossing and viaduct, all now demolished, this was the final major population prior to reaching Carlisle.
Originally the North British intended to join the Caledonian with a junction at Rockcliffe, but such was the animosity from the Caledonian, the NBR decided to look to alternative ways of accessing Carlisle.
Having obtained permission to run over the Port Carlisle & Silloth Railway system which was subsequently absorbed, the North British ran their new route south from Longtown, through Westlinton, and Lyneside station, Harker and it’s station, then the small Parkhouse military halt. This was the final station prior to climbing slightly, and traversing the Caledonian main line at Kingmoor.
From here the line would curve round and cross the River Eden, then with another sharp turn would run past Canal Junction, with the towering signal box and meet up with the Caledonian metals, which would be used for only the short section to run into Citadel station.
Not the easiest way of accessing Carlisle, but one which would provide the North British with their own path, without too much of the animosity that the other companies were famous for. Even so, the North British would not find it easy to get traffic onto their line, and even their locomotive shed back at Edinburgh was known to have spare parts sent to it, purposely marked as to travel north via the Caley.
It seems the North British would have to live this way for a long time until it got any better.
RUNNING ON THE WAVERLEY ROUTE
Goods traffic commenced from Canal yard to Scotch Dyke on 15th October 1861, followed by passenger traffic on the 28th October.
The section between Scotch Dyke & Newcastleton opened to traffic on 1st March 1862, with the Newcastleton to Riccarton Junction section opening on 2nd June 1862. Finally, the Riccarton to Hawick section opened, together with the line throughout on 23rd June 1862, for freight only, with passenger trains commencing on 1st July 1862. The first northbound train was in fact over an hour late into Hawick, at 9am, thanks to a late connecting train at Carlisle.
From the outset of opening as a through route the line became known as the “Waverley Route” , thanks to it’s passing through the romantic countryside immortalised in Sir Walter Scott’s recent and popular “Waverley” novels.
Fourteen years later, when the Midland finally opened their route from Settle to Carlisle, the Waverley Route’s capabilities for through traffic were increased substantially.
Passenger trains ran through from St. Pancras, in London, to Edinburgh, over what were arguably the two most scenic railways in Britain. The only named express to run over the Waverley Route was, until World War II known as the un-headboarded “Thames-Forth Express”, after the war being known as “The Waverley“, which then carried a headboard. It came close on time to the “Flying Scotsman”, travelling on the East Coast line, between the same two cities.
During the years that the Hawick to Carlisle section was under construction the North British Railway Company obtained further Acts of Parliament to amalgamate both the Jedburgh Railway and the Selkirk & Galashiels Railway Companies. They also constructed a new line from Galashiels to Peebles, and took lease of the Peebles Railway, of 1853.
These lines were to further increase the scope and running powers of the North British, until company grouping took place in 1923.
CLOSURE & BEYOND
In 1969 the Waverley Route achieved fame, becoming one of the major closures as part of the “reshaping” cuts of the 1960s, ultimately authorised for closure on 15th July 1968 by Richard Marsh the Minister for Transport, a supporter of road traffic.
As previously mentioned, protesters blocked the line at Newcastleton until the early hours of the morning, on 6th January 1969, causing the final scheduled southbound train on the line to be several hours late. Only two days later on 8th January 1969 British Rail staged a track lifting “ceremony” for the media at Riddings Junction, to formally separate the London Midland Region from the Scottish Region.
However, that date was not the end for all traffic on the line. The section between Lady Victoria Pit and Hawick remained open until 28th April 1969, and the section between Carlisle Kingmoor’s Brunthill Sidings and Longtown until 31st August 1970, for freight traffic.
The “down” line between Longtown and Hawick was finally lifted by 1st April 1971, with the “up” line having already succumbed by February 1970.
Lady Victoria Pit to Newtongrange closed on 20th December 1971. With the Newtongrange to Millerhill section closing on 28th June 1972, the curtain was absolutely and finally drawn on all traces of this third Anglo-Scottish trunk route.
During 1969 a consortium, the “Border Union Railway Company” attempted to purchase the infrastructure from British Railways. The asking price was around the £1 million mark, but with the demand for massive monthly interest payments whilst funding was sought, negotiations ceased in April 1970.
In the last decade however, there has been an upsurge in campaigning for the reopening of this route. In 1999 a £400k Feasibility Study was conducted on behalf of the Scottish Executive, and now there is the distinct possibility that we may yet see this long lamented main line rise like a Phoenix from the ashes.
In the November of 2001 the Waverley Route Heritage Association was formed, helping to preserve & protect the route and its legacy & heritage. The group also made a start in ensuring at least part of the route could reopen for tourism.
14th January 2002 marked the start of the “Waverley Railway Project” to reopen the section of line between Edinburgh & Galashiels for commuters. It is earmarked for opening by 2008, and more details can be found on their web site listed on our Web Links page.
September 2002 saw the Waverley Route Heritage Association re-lay the first section of line and run the first rolling stock on the route since closure.
The Waverley Route ran as a direct alternative for passengers travelling across the Border, and from inception, in 1862, provided a link, for over a century, between some of the most isolated communities in Britain.