History of the Borders Railway

Some key dates in the history of the Borders Railway. 




Union Canal opened from Falkirk to Edinburgh. Engineer, Robert Stevenson, prepared a report predicting that Midlothian coal works would close if no railway was built because of competition from water borne coal from the west and Fife.

1826, 26th May

Edinburgh - Dalkeith Railway authorised by Act of Parliament. This was the beginning of the so-called 'Innocent Railway'. It used the Scotch gauge of 4' 6" and was horse-drawn.

1831, October

Edinburgh -  Dalkeith Railway opened from St Leonards to Dalhousie for the coal trade.

1832, 21st Jan

Dalhousie Viaduct opened taking the railway across the River Esk


A passenger stage coach was run on the line. It was so successful that the service carried 150,000 passengers in first year.


Union Canal complaining of competition from the Edin/Dalkeith railway


The Edinburgh - Dalkeith Railway company took over the passenger services


40 passenger vehicles on the line that carried 299,000 passengers in the year; 1 penny a mile at 8 miles per hour.


North British Railway company started. 

1844, 4th July

North British Railway Act authorised construction of a line from Edinburgh to Berwick via Dunbar.

1845, July 21st

North British Railway bought the Edinburgh - Dalkeith Railway.

1845, July 31st

The Edinburgh and Hawick Railway Company Act passed to extend the line from Dalhousie to Hawick.

1846, February

Navvies riot at Fushiebridge resulting in the murder of a policeman

c. 1846

Dalhousie Viaduct demolished as too narrow for standard gauge. To be replaced by the Newbattle Viaduct.

1846, April/May

Reports in Scottish Herald on the appalling living conditions of navvies working on the Edinburgh -Hawick line


Hawthorn of Newcastle delivered 8 passenger engines to NBR (2-4-0); The engines struggled to manage the demands of this particular route.

1847, April

Many accidents in the construction of the line: a labourer was killed at Bowshank Tunnel and another at Stow; a month later a man called Grieve had his arm shattered at Torwoodlee.

1847, June 21st

Work on replacing the line from Portobello to Dalhousie was complete and open to passengers.


Newbattle Viaduct completed.

1848, May 4th

Line from Dalhousie to Bowland Bridge open to passengers

1848, July

Navvie riots in Galashiels


Cholera epidemic strikes.

1849, Feb 20th

Line from Bowland Bridge to Newtown St Boswells open to passengers

1849, Nov 1st

Line from Newtown St Boswells to Hawick open to passengers

1858, Nov 12th

Discussions between the NBR and Caledonian Railway companies over route from Hawick to Carlisle ended in uproar at a meeting in Kelso; the two rail companies would be fighting this out for many years

1859, March 3rd

NBR plans approved

1859, July 21st

Border Union (North British) Railway Act passed

1859, Sept 7th

Sod cutting ceremony at Hawick; huge public turnout and celebration

1862, July 1st

Whole route open from Carlisle to Edinburgh; the first timetable was titled 'Waverley Route'


Waverley Route achieved main line status when Midland Railway built a line from Carlisle from Leeds; a through service was then possible from London St Pancras to Edinburgh Waverley.


Dugald Drummond express trains appeared on Waverley Route; built in Cowlairs,Glasgow; 4-4-0; ran 91 ¼ miles in 2 hours ten minutes.


North British Railway Guide describes Galashiels as having 20 large woollen factories and a population of 15,343

1890, June

Forth Bridge opened which encouraged more traffic from England to be routed via the Waverley Route

1899 - 1902

Waverley Station enlarged to become the largest railway station in Britain.

1901, 2nd July

Lauder Light Railway opened; Fountainhall becomes Fountainhall Junction.


4-4-0 engines struggled with the increasing passenger traffic; NBR introduced the Atlantic class locomotive 4-4-2; the journey time from Carlisle to Edinburgh was 131 minutes.


World War produced more traffic. Stobs Camp near Hawick generated a lot - over 22 thousand men billeted there

1914 - 1918

Railways under state control. All railways heavily used and the Waverley Route served Stobs Camp, near Hawick, where over 22 thousand men were billeted.



The Railways Act created the 'big four' railway companies - Southern Railway (SR), Great Western Railway (GWR), London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), and the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) - from the hundred-odd companies that had previously existed.

1923, Jan 1st

The 1921 Railways Act took effect and NBR becomes part of LNER


D49 class (4-4-0) designed by Nigel Gresley for light express passenger duties

1927, March 20th

The first Gresley A3 Pacific class 4-6-2, the William Whitelaw, visits Waverley Route; for many years these locomotives were familiar sights on this route, including, Bayardo, Coronach, Flaming and Sir Visto.

1932, 12th Sept

Lauder Light Railway closed to passenger traffic

1939 - 1945

The "Big Four" joined together during the war. Working on the railway was a reserved occupation.


Dalkeith branch closed; Eskbank had Dalkeith added to it at this point

1948, Jan 1st

Nationalisation of the railways


Severe floods on the east coast meant that a lot of traffic was routed through on the Waverley Route.


Dr Beeching appointed to look at economics of British Rail

1962, Feb

Peebles branch closed; first county in Scotland without a railway


Marshalling yards at Millerhill built to handle freight traffic on the Waverley Route, with a hundred sidings capable of handling up to 5000 wagons a day.


East Coast main line diesel hauled only

1963, March 27th

Beeching Report released

1965, late

David Steel, MP for Roxburgh, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire, tabled a question in Westminster about the future of Waverley Route.

1966, Aug

Chair of the British Rail board, Stanley Raymond stated that the Waverley Route could no longer be justified

1966, June 25th

Last A3 to visit Borders was the Flying Scotsman with an excursion train

1967, march 27th

Many stations along the line made into unstaffed halts including; Eskbank, Gorebridge, Heriot, Fountainhall, Stow, and Belses.

1967, Nov 14th

Last steam hauled passenger train Carlisle to edinburgh

1968, July 15th

After months of silence, Transport Minister, Richard Marsh, announced that line would definitely close


Government commissioned Johnson Marshall study reported that closure of the line would have a big impact on the future development of the Borders.

1968, 18th Dec

Petition submitted to 10, Downing Street by Madge Elliot, community activist, protesting against the closure.

1969, Jan 5th

'Farewell to the Waverley Route' rail tour left Waverley station late at night. This train was held up by a sit-in of protesters at Newcastleton led by Rev. Brydon Mabon

1969, Jan 6th

Entire Waverley Route closed for passenger traffic; last train hauled by Peak Diesel no 60, Lythan St Annes

1969 - 1970

Border Union Railway Company (BURC) a private consortium was created to open and run the Waverley Line. This was stymied by difficult financial requirements and seeming obstruction by British Rail.

1972, June 28th

Last of the freight traffic finished from Millerhill to Carlisle. All coal  traffic transferred to the roads.

1983, Nov

Millerhill marshalling down yard closed


Monktonhall Colliery closed (started producing in 1957; peak productivity 1969; mothballed 1989; reopened as the UK's largest private mine in 1992, closed in 1997)

1993, April

Meeting of interested parties agreed that a project aimed at introducing a rail link into the Borders was worth pursuing.

1994, Feb

Inaugural meeting of "Borders Reinstatement Campaign"


Rail Development Task Group set up and chaired by Midlothian Council.


Scottish Executive commissioned a Feasibility Study into the re-opening of the Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Carlisle. (Scott Wilson study - published Feb 2000)

1999, Jan

Launch of Campaign for Borders Rail - to act as an independent lobby group.

1999, 12th May

Devolved Scottish Parliament established

2000, March

Scottish Parliaments Public Petitions Committee met in Galashiels to consider Campaign for Borders Rail petition. Debate in Parliament in June endorsed petition. Councils and other bodies form Waverley Railway Partnership


Waverley Route Heritage Association laid track at Whitrope


Waverley Route Trust created to look at community involvement and other funding.


The Waverley Railway Bill was lodged with the Scottish Parliament

2004, 14th March

Significant Scottish government funding support for the railway was announced.

2006, 14th June

The Bill given Royal Assent and became the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act 2006.


Role of Authorised Undertaker, in agreement with the Waverley Rail Partnership, was successfully moved to Transport Scotland.  The Waverley Railway Project became known as the Borders Railway Project.

2010, 3rd March

Scottish Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson announced commencement of 'advanced ancillary works', indicating the government's commitment to the railway.


Network Rail announced as partner to undertake construction of the railway.

2012, October

Mining remediation works underway. Transfer of Responsibility from Transport Scotland to Network Rail signed.

2012, 13th Dec

Bam Nuttall awarded main construction contract for Borders Rail

2013, March 27th

Anniversary of the Beeching Report which led to the closure of the Waverley route. Fifty years later, the Borders Railway project is on the verge of once again enabling trains to run through Midlothian and the Borders.

2013, April

Main construction of the Borders Railway officially commences. First works involve excavations on the northern section of the line.

2014, Nov

Scottish Government 'Blue Print' published setting out future development plans for the Borders Railway.

2015, Feb

Track laying completed.

2015, June

Driver training starts on the line.

2015, 6th September

Borders Railway open to passengers

In association with

Borders Railway Community Partnership