£200k heritage railway project is well on track

It’s full steam ahead for a £200,000 eco-friendly heritage railway project in Tweeddale.

By Paul Kelly
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 3:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 3:57 pm
Christine.
Christine.

For the past five years the six members of what is now Tweeddale Heritage Railway Society have been working on a narrow gauge railway project, methodically assembling a collection of locomotives, rolling stock and track at a yard and workshop near Broughton.

Over that period the members have kept a low public profile but the group is now close to identifying a permanent site in Tweeddale where a railway heritage site could be established.

As a result, volunteers are being sought to help repair the stock so that the project can “hit the ground running” when the move is made, hopefully early in 2023.

Volunteers are being sought to help repair the stock.

Retired businessman and former police officer Jim O’Neil, one of the founders, said: “It all started when the successors to Messrs, William Sinclair of Leadburn decided to stop using light railways to harvest the peat on their various peatfields across southern Scotland.

“I approached them and was offered ‘Christine’, a derelict engine-less four-wheeled diesel locomotive.

“At the time I was a member of the Tweeddale Railway Group, which, pre-pandemic, met regularly at the Newlands Centre, Romanno Bridge. Together with a colleague, we cosmetically restored Christine and displayed her outside the Newlands Centre to advertise our annual railway exhibition there.”

Peter Graham, another co-founder of the group, said: “Since then we have re-engined, re-wired and fitted her with new hydraulics, so now, bar some tidying, she’s ready to run.

“Meantime we have been adding other artefacts from wherever we could. Most of our track and some wagon bogies came from the peatfields. ‘Rachel’, a loco that worked alongside Christine, was repatriated from Norfolk, whilst another locomotive and more track came from Somerset.”

Jim added: “We’ve now narrowed it down to two contenders for the site with one looking extremely likely. Once the final decision is taken, we hope to call a public meeting to announce our plans, for what will be a new tourist attraction in the district. We are working closely with the South of Scotland Enterprise to achieve this end.

“The total project cost is going to be nearer £200,000 than £250,500, covering the whole infrastructure.

“It will be very eco-friendly. We plan to be as near carbon neutral as possible and to reinstate a pond that was on the site and plant trees, alongside bee-friendly plants. It will be a family visitor centre that will also serve a purpose for visiting school parties.

“However what we really need now is volunteers to help speed up the renovation and repair of our stock so that when we do move, we can hit the ground running.”

The aim is that the railway heritage site would be open on summer Sundays, between April and October, and the weekends prior to Christmas.

To find out more check out ‘Tweeddale Heritage Railway’ on Facebook.

To get involved, email [email protected], or call Jim on 07511 733089.