Heritage railway in need of help

Engineer Andrew Anderson at the site of the landslip.Engineer Andrew Anderson at the site of the landslip.
Engineer Andrew Anderson at the site of the landslip.
For 40 years steam trains have been seen and heard chuffing along the Foreshore at Bo’ness attracting thousands of visitors to the town from far and wide as well as a variety of film and TV crews.

Many local people also regularly enjoy a visit to the Day Out With Thomas events or bring the family together to meet Santa on a steam train at Christmas.

For the Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS), operators of the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway, Museum of Scottish Railways and SRPS Railtours, 2020 began like any other with volunteers preparing steam trains, carriages and tracks for another successful season.

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But just like everywhere else, the railway site at Bo’ness was closed down whilst the country went in to lockdown back in March.

“As a charity, we rely on visitors to enable us to continue to preserve Scotland’s railway history. They buy tickets and enjoy a nostalgic journey by steam train and visit our Museum, which is Scotland’s largest railway museum. Many are surprised by what they discover when they come and we pride ourselves in offering a hands on experience with plenty of friendly interaction with our volunteers,” said Amanda Kilburn, Business Development Director at the award-winning heritage railway.

“We don’t get any other government funding or grants so without visitors to welcome aboard, we do not have any income and have had to rely on our reserves to cover any necessary overheads. Sadly this is not sustainable forever.”

However, just when things looked to be going in their favour, much of Scotland was battered by severe thunderstorms, including the line between Bo’ness and Manuel where engineers identified multiple landslips along a mile-long stretch of the railway.

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“This means a further period with no income for the society. The line has been closed for passenger trains until the damage can be repaired. Engineering trains will still operate to facilitate repairs so it is important that people do not trespass on the railway.

A geo-structural engineer has inspected the site. It has been estimated that it may cost as much as £100,000 to repair. It is not something that can be done by the society’s volunteers who make up a huge majority of the workforce there. This will require specialist contractors and machinery. 

The society launched an Emergency Landslide Appeal last Friday and since then public support has been immense with the total donated standing at more than £66,000.

Steve Humphreys, SRPS Chairman commented: “It is heart-warming to receive such generosity from people of all ages who want the railway to re-open just as much as we do.

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“We have built up a lot of loyal visitors and want to ensure we can welcome everyone back as soon as possible.

“We really want to be able celebrate next year, the 60th anniversary of our foundation. We are very grateful for all the support we have received but are still some way from reaching our goal.”

If you would like to help to fix the storm damage head to their Emergency Landslide Appeal at: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/SRPSlandslide.

Any donation large or small will help secure the future of the railway which is one of the area’s most popular visitor attractions.

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