THE first commemorative dinner organised by the Langholm & District Rail Group to mark the 55th anniversary of the last passenger train from Langholm on June 13, 1964 was held last Friday.
The event in the Eskdale Hotel, Langholm was well-attended and guests included Val Tarbitt, Cumbria County councillor for Longtown, and Ronnie Tait, Annandale East and Eskdale councillor.
Under the direction of Denis Male, chairman, guests heard Grace Brown reminiscing about her time at various border railway stations.
She said she had ‘railway blood’ in her veins because four members of her family worked on the railway.
At Langholm where her father, Thomas Brown, was the last stationmaster before it closed, she recalled looking out of her bedroom window seeing all the passengers taking that last train.
Her vivid memory of events kept the audience’s unwavering attention, culminating in unanimous support for her toast to The Last Train.
The response from David Mundell, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP, was very encouraging and he praised the group’s activities.
He briefed the audience on how governments in Westminster and Holyrood were providing the ways and means for the process which would, it was hoped, lead to the completion of the railway from Edinburgh to Carlisle.
The Borderland Growth Deal, which covered the five cross-border councils, received funding of £345m earlier this year.
Within this, money had been allocated for the Scottish government’s strategic transport projects review, phase two.
This included provision for the Langholm option to form an integral part of the feasibility study for the extension.
Mr Mundell confirmed South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, which was scheduled to be set up in April 2020, would support the development.
He stressed the need for the group and community to keep the Langholm option to the forefront of their minds and promote it wherever possible.
Mr Mundell toasted The Next Train through Langholm and that was enthusiastically supported.
Earlier, Andrew Scott, group secretary, had briefed the guests on its work and plans.
He said the group’s principal objective was to re-establish the direct rail link between Edinburgh and Carlisle and for a serious and proper study to be made for the route to pass through Langholm.
He pointed out that the original and preferred route in the 1840s from Hawick to Carlisle by the North British Railway and the Caledonian Railway was through Langholm.
The geography of the route was more suited to gentler curves which allowed higher speeds, certainly a requirement for a 21st century railway and the overall summit would be more than 150 feet lower than other routes.
Today, the same basic fundamentals remain unchanged.
In the group’s opinion a rail line through Langholm would be the single most important development in its economy.