It’s only a journey of the thoughts now. A practice full of individuals, all of their Sunday greatest. Smiling and pleased. Buckets and spades and sandwiches. To the left are the fields of Fife, to the proper is the ocean, and at instances you’re so near the water it feels just like the practice is flying over it.
Take a look at the names of the stations as they go by. Largo. Elie. St Monans. Pittenweem. Stravithie. It’s a practice journey that hasn’t been bodily attainable for 55 years.
Robert Love remembers it effectively. The retired TV producer, greatest recognized for creating Taggart, grew up in Paisley and remembers his complete household decamping to the East Neuk of Fife for summer time holidays within the Nineteen Forties and 50s.
The Glasgow people at all times headed off in July for the Honest Fortnight, however the Paisley vacation was later, in the beginning of August. The primary journey Robert took was within the sizzling summer time of 1947 when he was 11 years outdated.
Like tons of of different households, they’d take the practice from Glasgow Queen Avenue. One among Robert’s strongest reminiscences is the lengthy queues and everybody ready on the gates then making a mad sprint for the trains to get a compartment to themselves.
In that first yr, rationing was nonetheless in place so Love’s dad and mom despatched a trunk stuffed with tinned meals up forward. The ambiance within the station, he says, was heat and pleased. Everyone had the identical vacation spot: their holidays.
The practice journey itself can be nonetheless vivid in Love’s thoughts. The golden fields. The glowing Firth of Forth. Love, like plenty of different boys in these days, was a gricer, or trainspotter, so he would sit on the window and spend his time noting down the numbers of different trains as they handed.
And he remembers how heat it was. “The climate appeared completely completely different,” he remembers. “All I bear in mind from my holidays in Glasgow is rain, however that first yr in Fife it was cloudless blue skies.”
THE closing vacation spot for Love and his household was at all times the identical: a fisherman’s cottage within the village of Pittenweem, the eighth cease on the coastal line that went all the way in which to St Andrews.
“We beloved that journey alongside the coast,” says Love. “The only line with passing loops on the stations, golden seashores, inexperienced golf hyperlinks, the viaduct at Decrease Largo harbour, which continues to be standing, and the occasional ruined watchtower.”
Some 70 years on, Love’s nostalgia for the journey continues to be robust nevertheless it’s greater than nostalgia now. The truth is, an attention-grabbing risk has opened up with the information that building work has began on reopening a six-mile stretch of the coastal line from Thornton to Leven. Resulting from be accomplished in 2024, it signifies that in a few years, Love will have the ability to make at the least a part of a journey that he hasn’t carried out for greater than half a century.
And it’s not the one signal of change on a community that was so famously decimated by the Beeching cuts within the Sixties. The Borders line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank has been reopened now for seven years however within the subsequent few days, Reston station, on the East Coast Foremost Line, may even reopen to passengers for the primary time since Beeching, reconnecting the village to the practice line for the primary time for the reason that Sixties.
The hope is that it is just the start. Railfuture Scotland, the impartial group that represents passengers, has ready a research on all of the stations and features that might be reopened.
It experiences that fifty stations may realistically be added to the community and high of its listing is Glasgow Cross on the Trongate, which was shut in 1964. Additionally on the listing is the circle line in Edinburgh with stops at Gorgie and Morningside, and new stops on the Ayrshire line to Dumfries. Additionally mooted is an extension of the Borders line all the way down to Carlisle.
Even when solely a few of these plans come to fruition, it could be a major reversal of the cuts which occurred within the Sixties, though Beeching’s authentic plans had been really rather more drastic. Underneath his preliminary proposals, Scotland would have been left with no passenger companies north or west of Inverness, northeast of Aberdeen, south of Ayr, or by means of the Borders from Edinburgh. There was even concern at one level that each one trains north of Perth is perhaps axed.
THE official clarification for the cuts on the time was that a lot of the community was not worthwhile, however they had been deeply controversial from the phrase go. When Richard Beeching visited Scotland in 1962, forward of the publication of his report, he was met with demonstrators wherever he went.
At Waverley, the group surged ahead and one man aimed a kick at him. The SNP additionally despatched a telegram to Michael Noble, Secretary of State for Scotland, protesting that Scotland was getting twice its share of the cuts. If he didn’t cease the closures, they stated, he would show that Authorities pledges to Scotland had been nugatory.
The cuts had been controversial – and nonetheless are. However had been they needed? Reporting on the proposals on March 28, 1963, The Herald stated in its chief article that the Beeching report was typically defensible and ought to be accepted in its define, and that the operation of the railways, which had a deficit of £136 million, needed to be rationalised.
It additionally stated the disappearance of greater than 2,000 stations and halts, and a variety of strains, was needed if large-scale operations based mostly on intercity operations had been to be given an opportunity.
Nevertheless, The Herald additionally had a warning. A number of the areas affected, it stated, had a superb declare to be retained within the reshaped railway. It additionally pointed to American cities which had allowed city practice companies to be deserted as “inessential” and had been now beset with issues and site visitors jams. If the plans went forward, warned The Herald, British cities might need to reckon with site visitors issues on the current American scale. Anybody who has ever been caught on the M8 would most likely say that the warning got here true.
Tim Dunn, the railway historian and TV presenter, agrees that some form of rationalisation or discount within the community was most likely needed and factors out that cuts had been launched within the UK lengthy earlier than Beeching.
“What we had been seeing then,” he says, “was a common pattern as a result of individuals had been altering their habits at a time when using the automobile was on the rise. The opposite challenge is that there was a severe over-supply of railway line in lots of elements of the nation.
“You could have the Nice Central Railway, for instance, which ran from London Marylebone all over Aylesbury as much as Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester – it was typically referred to as the final nice most important line. It was constructed on the flip of the century nevertheless it was severely underused as a result of the site visitors didn’t materialise.
“And even way back to 1835, you’ve got the Southern Railway shutting down varied department strains.”
Dunn may also see what the issue was with the Fife coastal line that Robert Love and his household loved a lot. “At what time was that getting used?” he asks. “An infrastructure for use by just a few thousand individuals in a brief burst throughout the holidays – is it price preserving the road open for that?”
He additionally believes that Beeching himself has been relatively unfairly maligned.
“Individuals typically criticise Beeching,” he says, “however I typically say that he’s unfairly made out to be the evil genius. He was mainly finishing up orders below the transport minister Ernest Marples, the person who had shares in a giant road-building firm as did his spouse. There was much less scrutiny again then.”
DUNN additionally factors out the larger context for the Beeching cuts. “It got here at a time once we didn’t place a lot on the social worth of public transport,” he says, “and that’s the foremost half that was lacking from the calculations. In all of the surveys that had been carried out across the time of the Beeching cuts, they had been being carried out with the most effective data that was obtainable to them on the time which was saying these railways are superfluous.”
Nevertheless, that stated, Dunn believes that when the Beeching axe did ultimately fall, Scotland was significantly badly hit.
“Scotland was utterly wrecked by the Beeching cuts in comparison with the southeast of England,” he says, “and that was as a result of within the southeast a variety of the strains had been commuter routes and due to this fact had been worthwhile whereas within the west Highlands, out to the coast, they had been unprofitable.
“The Killin department within the Highlands, for instance, was a locomotive and one carriage however that required a driver, fireman and guard, and each station needed to have its station grasp and porter and so forth.
“It was extraordinarily costly to run that form of infrastructure. At this time, you may run it with a rail bus maybe or a diminished gentle railway – we now have higher methods of coping with these conditions.”
Dunn’s level that some elements of the nation had been extra affected than others by the Beeching cuts additionally leads him to a different vital level. If the cuts are to be reversed, he says, there could also be a stronger case in some areas of the nation than others for restored strains and stations.
“We glance again on a few of these strains with a barely rose-tinted view and assume gosh, wouldn’t it’s pretty to have these again. However they weren’t effectively used again then – do we want them now?” he says. “The reply is sure, we most likely may do with a variety of them again however not all of them.
“There are locations the place the case may be made to carry them again, reminiscent of Reston, for instance, the place really the group has grown sufficiently and we’ve received to a degree in our society the place we’ve recognised that connectivity with two strips of metal that connects us to the following city is essential. Which may be as a result of we imagine in democratic transit and by that I imply not everybody can afford to have a automobile – not now anyway, when the price of gas is rising and rising.
“Additionally, we’re a future the place inexperienced transit is rather more vital. A highway requires you to have a personal automobile or a bus and the factor about buses is that there was presupposed to be a community of buses to interchange the Beeching cuts.
“However, after all, bus deregulation means these buses didn’t essentially materialise so some communities had been lower off and that was by no means presupposed to be the plan – they had been presupposed to be saved collectively by buses however they’ve disappeared after years of cuts and modifications in laws.”
Two strips of metal
THE different downside, says Dunn, is that buses and automobiles can by no means present fairly the identical feeling as what he typically refers to, relatively lovingly, as two strips of metal.
“In city areas,” he provides, “individuals desire to have trams to buses and the explanation for that’s you probably have these two strips of metal so it’s seen as a safer and predictable route, as a result of buses may be taken away identical to that.
“If you concentrate on these two strips of metal, again within the 1840s we had railway mania – one firm would connect with the following city, then one other firm would connect with the following city, and also you’d find yourself with a internet and this internet successfully binds a area or an space or a county or a rustic.
“When you sever that strip of metal, that city successfully floats free as a result of it’s not on the timetable, you may’t catch a practice from there, you may’t catch a practice to Paris or London. The web has been lower open.”
Dunn says that, in contrast, buses and automobiles are extra transient. “And there’s a psychological aspect to the strips of metal,” he says. “They’re metal, they’re there on the bottom, they’re seen. A bus may come alongside at a sure time however a railway has indicators, it’s received a timetable, it’s received platforms, it’s seen, tangible infrastructure, and that’s why trams and trains are additionally most popular by most individuals to buses.
“You see these strips of metal and also you assume there can be a practice alongside in a second or two. A bus might be any time in any respect and may deviate from its route.”
ROBERT Love actually feels this manner. The Fife coastal line that he and his household used for a few years was ultimately closed in 1966, and Robert’s dad and mom had to make use of the bus to stand up to Pittenweem.
It meant the journey was by no means fairly the identical however, like Dunn, Love is reasonable about what needed to be carried out on the time. “There most likely needed to be some rationalisation,” he says. “There have been too many department strains which simply weren’t worthwhile and in some respects Beeching did some fairly good issues like introducing the concept of intercity trains.”
Nevertheless, Love can be fairly excited in regards to the prospect of the Fife line opening up once more and Tim Dunn believes that the pattern may speed up, partly as a result of the business is methods of decreasing how a lot it prices to reopen outdated stations and features.
It’s nonetheless a reasonably costly enterprise, after all, as a result of strains and infrastructure constructed within the 1800s and left to rot are not match for objective. However Dunn believes there may be methods to make use of what’s there to maintain the prices down.
He’s additionally fairly excited by the prospect of Reston station reopening subsequent month.
It would put extra individuals in simpler contact with Edinburgh, he says, and down south after which on to the continent – and that may solely be a superb factor.
Robert Love can be trying ahead to the prospect of the road to Leven opening once more sooner or later, which means that he may take the practice journey once more for the primary time since he was a boy.
Will he be doing the journey when the road reopens? “I shall,” he says, “I shall.”
Tim Dunn presents Secrets and techniques of the London Underground on the Yesterday channel on Thursday, Might 5.
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