Changing face of Dundee & Fife tracks | So Good News
They were once the white heat of the cutting edge of technology, but by the 1960s their luster had faded and local train services hit the buffers.
The infamous Beeching Report swept away virtually every Scottish branch line, and Angus was littered with the remains of closed stations and torn up lines.
One was Kirkbuddo, which opened back in 1870.
David Tough of Blairgowrie organized a special passenger train to the village in October 1967 to mark the closure of the line after almost 100 years.
A cinema film from the last journey was where it all started for the Angus Railway Group (ARG), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022.
Memories from the first days
Mr Tough and fellow enthusiast Lindsay Horne were the driving force behind the group, which held its first meeting at Mr Horne’s Dundee home in 1972.
Mr Horne became an active secretary, persuading other enthusiasts to join the group.
It was a period when diesel and electric locomotives gradually continued to take over after the last of steam and the arrival of the high-speed Inter-City 125s.
John Cumming was one of the original members.
“I was approached by David Tough and Lindsay Horne, asking if I would like to join a small railway group they were thinking of starting up,” he said.
“Some of these larger community meetings were quite packed affairs at the time and several of us went back to Lindsay’s house in Seymour Avenue in Dundee.
“We saw a cinema film of the last train to Kirkbuddo in 1967 along with photographs of Angus railway stations which were closed as a consequence of rationalisation.”
It was nostalgia all the way with a cup of tea afterwards!
The ARG began meeting every three weeks in members’ homes, where everyone was charged 50p to cover the cost of tea and sandwiches.
The group grew in popularity throughout the 1970s with members joining from Perth to Arbroath, sometimes making standing at meetings a breeze!
The group organized a number of train tours in the area in the 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when British Rail was closing several lines and stations.
These included trips to Forfar, Ladybank and a full day tour of all the Fife railway lines while the members’ wives served food and drink from the guard’s van.
Take the last train to Forfar
It was also not unknown for enthusiasts to attach a lift in the guard car to the daily freight train that ran from Perth to Forfar and the limeyard at Eassie!
John said: “Our most famous trip was of course the last train to Forfar, which happened just before the line closed completely in June 1982.
“We ran two trains that day from Perth with a Class 40 locomotive and coaches.”
“Forfar Farewell” took place on June 5, 1982.
The line was only used by freight trains after passenger journeys ceased in September 1967, but some of the track further north had already been lifted.
Eventually, the British Railways would dispose of the land for development.
Some people came from as far away as England.
Class 40 diesel loco 40143 was set up that Saturday at the former Forfar North Junction, hauling six coaches at 12.13, and then, at 12.47, drove it back to Perth.
The train made the same journey again and then left Forfar at 17:15 for the return journey to Perth, arriving at 18:47.
It stopped at many stations, although many of those platforms were already gone.
“We also published several picture books from the golden age of steam,” said John.
“Many of the pictures came from a long-deceased member, Tom Mahoney, plus a few from our members, and they all proved very popular.
“After many years the group felt we had outgrown meetings in members’ houses and started using Broughty Ferry station building on Sunday evenings.
“We had it for a time and then the disused Errol Station building and farm came on the market in the 1990s and was bought by various group members.”
Make history at Errol Station
Errol Station was a place they knew well.
Members of the ARG carried a wreath to mark its closure in 1985 before a wave of detonators echoed around the village as the last train left the platform.
No one else seemed to care.
Most people present that day expected it to be over.
The Errol Station Trust was set up to purchase the site and worked hard to restore the buildings internally to their 1920s style, creating a heritage center with railway memorabilia, company documents and old photographs.
Errol Station made history when the newly restored complex was unveiled to the public in May 1990 and proved popular with railway enthusiasts and tourists alike.
In 1992, for the first time in seven years, a train stopped at Errol Station to mark the 145th anniversary.
But a mountain of fixed costs and a lack of staff led to the building being put up for sale in 1999.
The ARG began meeting at the Royal Tay Yacht Club in Broughty Ferry every third Sunday between September and May, where talks and presentations were given by well-known rail photographers and other enthusiasts from across Scotland.
John said: “We also had some outdoor walks in the summer months over extended closed railway track beds and trips to various railway museums.
“Unfortunately the Royal Tay Yacht Club building was sold last year but we were able to secure an alternative venue at the Woodlands Hotel in Broughty Ferry.
“Our meetings are still well attended 50 years since we started, although we have unfortunately lost a few members, because as the group gets older, so do the members.
“One of our founding members, Lindsay Horne, passed away 10 years ago, but David Tough still manages to come to a few meetings during the year and is still as enthusiastic as ever.”
The ARG celebrated its 50th anniversary when 32 of its members and their partners enjoyed a return trip on the Speyside Railway from Aviemore to Broomhill with lunch.
The locomotive carried a special headboard to mark the momentous event.
The ARG has documented the triumphs and tragedies of Scotland’s rail network over the past 50 years and is always looking for new members to join and get involved.
Here’s to the next 50 years of making memories on the field!
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[Changing face of Dundee & Fife tracks]