THE opportunity to step back in time and travel by steam train on Scotland’s newest scenic rail route as well as cross the iconic Forth Bridge is back on the timetable this summer.
Hundreds of passengers will have the opportunity to travel on a train hauled by a Black Five steam locomotive when it travels for the first time on the route that takes in two of Scotland’s Great Scenic Rail Routes every Sunday in August.
The special steam experience is being operated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, a charity which owns and maintains the former British Rail coaches. It is the first time that passengers can board a steam train in West Lothian and Fife to cross the Forth Bridge and travel on the new Borders Railway
The journey begins in Linlithgow before travelling over the Forth Bridge and round the Fife coast before heading south on the Borders Railway to Tweedbank every Sunday in August.
VisitScotland says that the return of steam experiences will help shine a spotlight once again on the Borders Railway as it approaches two years since it was officially opened by HM Queen in September 2015 and highlight the quality of the country’s tourism offering.
Passengers from Linlithgow will be able to enjoy the unforgettable experience of crossing by steam the Forth Bridge – designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 – before taking in the spectacular views from Kinghorn, Burntisland and Aberdour along the Fife coast. After crossing the bridge once again, the train steams through Princes Street Gardens before arriving at Edinburgh Waverley and continuing along the 31-mile route of the Borders Railway, stopping at Galashiels and Tweedbank.
Passengers will be able to enjoy more than two hours in the Borders before the return journey and are being encouraged to visit some of the nearby towns and visitor attractions on offer in the region. Trips are being arranged to Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, as well as to the historic towns of Melrose and Galashiels. The Scottish Borders is celebrated for its outstanding natural larder with a variety of food and drink establishments on offer in the local towns, as well as at Seasons restaurant over the River Tweed in Gattonside. The hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing Scottish Borders open top bus will also be operating tours of the Borders for train passengers.
VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: “We are absolutely delighted that steam railway experiences are returning to the Scottish Borders, Lothians and Fife once again this summer. As well as providing another unique opportunity to showcase the recently opened Borders Railway, passengers on board the train will be able to enjoy the picturesque beauty of the Fife coast and the breath-taking experience of crossing the Forth Rail Bridge by steam engine.
“It also presents a unique opportunity to travel from the heart of Edinburgh city centre where Sir Walter Scott is celebrated right through the rich heritage and beautiful and inspiring landscape of the Scottish Borders to the home of the famous author at Abbotsford House.
“The Borders Railway has had a massive impact on the local economy since it was re-opened less than two years ago and opportunities like this continue to shine the global spotlight on the quality of tourism offering in this country.”
SRPSRailtours commercial directorRoger Haynes said: “SRPS Railtours are organised and staffed by unpaid volunteers with proceeds from the railtours used to restore rolling stock and locomotives of historical value. We would urge passengers across the country and further afield to take part in this rail tour to discover the truly magical experience that awaits them and the spectacular scenery to be enjoyed.”
Rob Dickson, Scottish Borders Council’s Corporate Transformation and Services Director, said: “This is the third year of the steam train experience, and the most exciting yet.
“The offering this year will provide a day to remember for all on board, crossing the Forth Rail Bridge before travelling along the Borders Railway to spend the afternoon in our wonderful area with plenty to see and do, and quality local food and drink available.
“I am delighted the Scottish Rail Preservation Society is hosting the steam train days out this year, and with support from the Borders Railway Blueprint group partners, I am sure passengers will enjoy a fantastic occasion.
“It is clear that the Borders Railway is now becoming one of the great scenic rail journeys to experience.”
The Forth Bridge and Borders Steam Special Experience will depart from Linlithgow every Sunday in August, picking up passengers at Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Dalgety Bay and Edinburgh Waverley.
The return will be diesel-hauled from Tweedbank to Newcraighall, where the train will be turned on Niddrie triangle so that it can be steam-hauled for the remainder of the return journey.
The Black Five locomotive was designed by Sir William Stanier for the London, Midland & Scottish railway and a total of 842 were built between 1934 and 1951.
The trains will be operated by West Coast Railways.
For more information on the rail experiences and add-on ticketing offers to Abbotsford House, Melrose and Seasons in Gattonside, please visit: Scottish Rail Preservation Society
For more information on Scotland’s Great Rail Journeys, visit: VisitScotland