A trip into my favourite local bookshop yesterday revealed a Waverley Route title I’d so far been unaware of, and have now been reading avidly for the last 24 hours. Quite simply a brilliant book.
Waverley route – Death and Rebirth of a Borders Railway
Unlike other histories of the line this one starts where the others end and focuses on the route from the announcement of closure right through to the re opening of the northern section from Edinburgh to Tweedbank through the Borders Rail scheme.
David Spaven is in a position of rare insight. His father, Frank, was heavily involved from within Scottish Government in the opposition to closure of the borders and later Highland lines proposed by Dr Beeching. David eloquently relates the reasons for the Waverley’s closure along with the original case to keep it open. He goes on to explore each of the subsequent plans to reopen parts of the line in great detail. Sections of the book are devoted to the period up to closure; the dismantling of the line; the twenty years of decay; and the schemes to reopen the Northern section, concluding with progress on Borders Rail right up to 2012.
In the conclusion of the book there is some great, but very fanciful, speculation on what might have been if BR had kept the line north of Hawick open and passenger traffic had increased through the new house building at Tweedbank in the 1970s and 80s. Couple this with the various schemes for a preserved line further south and a means of moving Timber from Kielder Forest by rail then the great borders Railway might still be properly alive today. Imagine the steam special or the tour train leaving Leeds to go via the Settle and Carlisle and then the Waverley to Edinburgh.
The book’s cover photo is a classic, taken like many at the end of the line’s life by Bruce McCartney, featuring the famed last sleeper train to St Pancras and equally famous passenger David Steele MP, who won his seat in the borders on a mandate to oppose the Waverley’s closure.
David Spaven is a must read for any Waverley Route fan.