Book: Memories of Lost Border Railways

Bruce McCartney

This book describes the days before Health and Safety regulations when a primary seven lad in short trousers could drive the engine at Jedburgh station, or when a goods train would be set off on its own across a bridge over a river in flood.  One poor guard would be involved unwittingly in Blind Man’s Bluff, and another, a Canal guard, had the misfortune to be goaded into a carriage with three or four ‘innocent’ Border lasses only to emerge at Carlisle with a red face minus every button of his uniform, trousers included!

Gordon: Cover of Memories of Lost Border Railways by Bruce McCartney. The photograph is of the last freight leaving Gordon station watched by station master Scott. Bruce McCartney 16/07/1965

The memories are from people who used the lines and add another dimension to the usual railway book.  Two contributors used the same phrase “it would have broken my heart” … [to see the line being dismantled].
Be prepared to have your memories flood back if you recall these lines.  One purchaser reported that his step-mother was in tears reading the book.
Visit Bruce McCartney's website for more details and ordering information.
170 A4 pages with laminated covers, over 100 B&W photographs and illustrated with documents, tickets and newspaper extracts.

- the school train

The occupants of Paul’s compartment had formed a tradition of dividing the journey into three parts: from the Holm to Steele Road was ‘homework’; Steele Road to Stobs was ‘fun and games’ and from Stobs to Hawick was ‘tidy up’.
‘Fun and games’ included 3-a-side rugby with a paper-filled cap that served as the ball with the windows at either side of the coach being the try line.
They all got into a lot of trouble after an incident involving the trail left from a tin of treacle held out of the window!
On the return journey on a regular Edinburgh – Carlisle train, Blind Man’s Bluff was a favourite. The blindfolded pupil would be set off to walk arms extended down the corridor catching their victims if possible. Paul recalled one occasion when he and a friend were herded into the far end of a coach. As it was against the rules, they could not go through into the adjoining coach, so they watched in horror as the guard appeared only to be ‘caught’ around the shoulders. Standing stock-still the guard allowed the hands to explore. Once the buttons had been felt and recognised the horrified pupil who was ‘it’ tore off her blindfold and fled.

- a train of two halves

One day at Glenfield I was casually watching the progress of a northbound partially fitted freight which to me was running rather slower than was normal. Eventually the end of the train came into view with, surprisingly, no brake van. The train continued cautiously onwards and just as the end wagon disappeared from sight, a second freight train appeared on the same line but with no locomotive at the front: it was also running at a cautious rate. However, this train did have a brake van complete with a guard who was absorbed in keeping a good look-out ahead.
Putting two and two together, a coupling must have broken somewhere between Melrose and Galashiels.
The train crew were experienced enough to realise that stopping in the middle of the block section was liable to cause delays to other trains, whereas if they could reach Galashiels, which they had, then either the broken coupling could be replaced with the assistance of the railway staff at Galashiels, or the defective vehicle could be dropped off into Galashiels good yard. Either way it meant that their course of action resulted in no delays to any other train.

Site links

Edinburgh and Hawick Railway (North British Railway)

Border Union Railway (North British Railway)


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