Published: 9th September 2015
Her Majesty the Queen formally declared the Borders Railway open on the day she became Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
The Queen travelled by steam-hauled train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank with the Duke of Edinburgh and invited guests led by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP.
Seven new stations and more than 30 miles of route are now fully open for business. The Scottish Borders has lost its unhappy status as Britain’s only mainland region without a passenger train service.
But although the project brings trains back to Midlothian and the Scottish Borders after almost half a century, the Campaign for Borders Rail and others are calling for more.
A proposal to extend the railway through Hawick back to Carlisle is being given serious consideration by politicians and others on both sides of the Border.
The Royal special on 9 September paused at Newtongrange for local celebrations and to help promote Scotland’s national mining museum at the adjacent Lady Victoria Pit.
The main celebrations were at Tweedbank, the new terminus between Galashiels and Melrose. Crowds at Tweedbank heard the Queen thank people around the world for their messages of kindness, wishing her well on beating Queen Victoria to reign for more than 63 years – at least 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.
Crowds of wellwishers turned out to line the route and cheer and wave as the special train made its way south, running a little late because a helicopter bringing the Royal party from their holiday home at Balmoral to Edinburgh had been delayed for 40 minutes by fog.
The preserved A4 streamlined locomotive number 60009 “Union of South Africa” hauled the train. The engine was built in 1937 as one of a fleet of streamliners to head the Coronation express train between Edinburgh and London. When the locomotive was new, the Queen was Princess Elizabeth, then 11 years old.
This was not the first time that The Royal Train had been hauled by an ‘A4’. The Sir Nigel Gresley designed engine named after him, No. 4498 was used on ‘The Royal’ on a trip from Bishop Auckland to London Kings Cross on February 23, 1939.
And it was this engine that had been selected to open the Borders Line at short notice but despite herculean efforts by all concerned, the paperwork accreditation could not be completed in time. This was despite the engine steaming into and out of Edinburgh in the last month or so on a charter service.
Among those on board for the Borders formal opening was the veteran rail campaigner Madge Elliot MBE who went with a delegation to Downing Street in 1968 to protest against the closure of the Waverley Route from Edinburgh to Carlisle through Galashiels and Hawick. The line closed in its entirety in 1969.
The opening in September 2015 of the Borders Railway restores trains to around one-third of the original route. This marks a huge success for long-running grassroots campaigning and at more than 30 miles is the longest domestic railway to open in Britain since 1901, the year Queen Victoria died.
Public ScotRail train services began on 6 September. The Royal formalities were on 9 September.
Already, steam-hauled special trains organised in the opening weeks by ScotRail and Steam Dreams have sold out. The Borders Railway promises to be a “must do” journey for many people.
The Pullman carriage ‘Pegasus’ that The Queen travelled in was built in 1951 for The Golden Arrow service from Victoria to Dover and Folkestone serving continental boat trains. It is sometimes used on charter services as a luxury way of travelling. It costs, but is worth the experience!