Borders rail stalwart Madge gets own loco

The Borders Railway'The project marks the completion of 30 miles of track laying at Tweedbank Station.Galashiels.
The Borders Railway'The project marks the completion of 30 miles of track laying at Tweedbank Station.Galashiels.

She was present at its death in 1969, has fought for almost half-a-century for its rebirth and today sees rail campaigner Madge Elliot honoured.

Madge’s contribution to the campaign to have the Waverley rail link reopened will be marked at an event at the capital city’s Waverley station, just a few months ahead of completion of Borders Railway construction works, when she has a locomotive named after her.

Borders Railway Briefing.Black Path Lane, Galashiels. From left, David Parker, SBC leader, Madge Elliot, veteran borders railway campaigner and Stewart Stevenson, minister for transport, infrastructure and climate change.

Borders Railway Briefing.Black Path Lane, Galashiels. From left, David Parker, SBC leader, Madge Elliot, veteran borders railway campaigner and Stewart Stevenson, minister for transport, infrastructure and climate change.

A founding member of the Campaign for Borders Rail, Madge will be accompanied at today’s ceremony by family and friends.

She will unveil a name plate attached to a Freightliner locomotive which has been used for railway work throughout Scotland, and is expected to be used to help maintain the Borders line.

Craig Bowman, senior communications manager for Network Rail, said the organisation wanted a suitable way of marking the impending completion of construction works.

“We couldn’t think of a better way of doing that than honouring Madge Elliot and the grassroots campaigners who got us to this stage in the first place,” he told us this week.

“I’m sure that Madge would like to see the line running all the way to Hawick – but getting it to Tweedbank isn’t a bad start. The train being named is expected to work on maintaining the railway in years to come and I hope that will give Madge and her family some satisfaction.

“Waverley station is also being decorated to mark the new service and we’ll reveal some of that artwork on Thursday.”

With just 95 days until the new route’s launch in September, it won’t be long before rechristened Freightliner number 66528 provides a lasting and fitting reminder of Madge’s marathon effort to have a rail line reopened in the central Borders.

When its closure was announced as part of the infamous “Beeching Cuts”, Madge organised a petition that garnered nearly 12,000 signatures.

And in December 1968, accompanied by her 11-year-old son, Kim; Borders MP David Steel; the Earl of Dalkeith and a bagpiper, she arrived at the door of 10 Downing Street to present the petition to Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Asked for her reaction to the naming event this week, a delighted Madge told us: “It’s a very nice thing for them to do. Obviously, I’d like to see the line reopened all the way to Hawick and Carlisle, but at least we are getting part of it back now.

“It just shows you what people can do if they are determined enough.”