Border Union Dream - the inside story of Britain's boldest railway preservation bid

David Spaven

Stenlake Publishing Limited


Review by Ewan Crawford

Torwoodlee North Viaduct: On 7th April 1969, Trip E10 from Millerhill to Hawick heads south towards Torwoodlee (between Stow and Galashiels), hauled by English Electric Type 3 (aka Class 37) No. D6847. This photograph is from David Spaven^s latest book Border Union Dream: the inside story of Britain^s boldest railway preservation bid. Ian Holoran 07/04/1969


This is the tale of the ambitious and ultimately unsuccessful plan for a company to take over the operation of the Waverley Route from British Railways.

It is told with both the words of those directly involved (something which sets this book apart) and extracts from original documents. It is clearly the result of meticulous research. The book expands on a period touched on in the author's other book Waverley Route; The battle for the Borders Railway .

This is a bittersweet story. There are twists and turns and the reader can feel an almost visceral pain as the plan slowly loses its way. It was, perhaps, only a pipe dream.

St Boswells: St Boswells good shed, its subsidiary buildings and the yard^s 3-ton crane look in pristine condition in this ^Marie Celeste^ shot on 5th April 1969 - devoid of goods, people or trains. This photograph is from David Spaven^s latest book Border Union Dream: the inside story of Britain^s boldest railway preservation bid. Ian Holoran 05/04/1969


There are four main chapters

1. Before the Border Union Railway Company (BURCo)

This begins with a brief reminder of the events leading to the closure and includes two photographic sections:
'Four months of vestigial freight from Edinburgh to Hawick' with melancholic views of the final freight trains.
'Edinburgh to Hawick: a Mary Celeste railway' with the line and its buildings and not a train to be seen. This section, as with later sections, features many of Ian Holoran's photographs taken as a survey of the state of the line.

2. The rise and fall of BURCo

This tells of the beginnings of the preservation attempt, its aims, the (at times difficult) interplay between those involved - all against a background of the closure of the line and British Railways' desire to remove its assets. The author's access to source material reveals that, at least in this case, British Railways is perhaps not the absolute villain it has been portrayed as previously. But slowly it all goes wrong - and how it does so is the meat of this book.
'Hawick to Carlisle abandoned to the track-lifters' is the next photographic section.

3. The lingering death of the railway

These are the details of the "last gasp efforts" and further dismantling of the line.
"Track going, going, gone" is the final photographic section - views of tracklifting trains and ultimately trackless stations.

4. Forty three years later...

This is a short summation of the situation today: a partial re-opening to Tweedbank and the possibility of its extension.

Steele Road: Lifting of the Up line at Steele Road had come to a halt several months before this 25th May 1969 shot, looking south. This was the favoured territory for Peter Handford^s classic Argo Transacord sound recordings of trains battling up the eight miles of continuous 1 in 75 gradient from north of Newcastleton to north of Riccarton Junction. Handford^s ashes were scattered at the site of Steele Road station following his death in 2007. This photograph is from David Spaven^s latest book Border Union Dream: the inside story of Britain^s boldest railway preservation bid. Ian Holoran 25/05/1969


There are two appendices: a freight working timetable for 1968-69 and "Andrew Boyd's notes of Trip E10, Millerhill-Hawick, 24th March 1969" which is an interesting description of freight operation after passenger services had ceased.

The book includes an unusually good index!

Belses: This shot of a Class 08 heading north through Belses station with a track recovery train is thought to have been taken during the period between the lifting of both tracks south of Belses on 29th May 1971 and north of Belses on 7th June 1971. Oliver Hudson, courtesy of Rae Montgomery. This photograph is from David Spaven^s latest book Border Union Dream: the inside story of Britain^s boldest railway preservation bid. Oliver Hudson 29/05/1971



What this books is and is not

This is not a complete history of the Waverley Route. It is not an album of trains, although there are over 30 photographs of trains: the final freights and the demolition trains. This is the story of the attempt to retain the line in passenger and freight use. In addition there are photographs of the train-less tracks and lifted lines. These are unusual views taken during "the lingering death of the railway".

144 pages
115 B&W photographs
2 maps



It is available from Amazon and other sources.

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