When the Edinburgh to Carlisle railway line, better known as the "Waverley Route", was closed as part of the Beeching cuts in 1969, a microcosm of Scotland's nineteenth century railway heritage was transformed from being an every day part of our transport system to a relic of our history. And along with the hundred miles of track were all the viaducts, maintenance sheds, signal boxes, halts and stations. All, overnight, became redundant.The survivor from all this wreckage, indeed the sole remaining building of significance from any of the various parts of the old Borders railway system, was the station house at Melrose.
The first talk of a railway through Melrose was in 1810 when the ground between Glasgow and Berwick was surveyed, but it was 39 years before the railway - in the form of a line from Edinburgh to Hawick - came to Melrose and the station opened as a two platform "through station".
Melrose Station was built in 1849 to a scale anticipating tourism associated with the Waverley Novels of Sir Walter Scott. The station house was designed to look like a country mansion, in the then fashionable Jacobean style, complete with Flemish gables, stone mullioned and transomed windows, shafted chimneys, ornamental finials and carved balconies. To protect its passengers from the weather the station platforms were covered with immense iron and timber canopies, of which that attached to the station house remains.
The building was sited to overlook the town, its river and its medieval Abbey, and was described at its opening as "the handsomest provincial station in Scotland" (Border Advertiser, 9th February 1849). Even as late as 1962 Melrose Station won awards for its garden and was featured in Countryman Magazine.
The station closed in 1969 and was rescued by local action leading to its reopening in 1986 with multiple uses. The former Melrose Railway station sita imposingly on a slope above the centre of the town, the station itself on two levels - the principal station building presents a Jacobean facade to the town centre while visitors can ascend a staircase up to the former up-platform covered by an elegant canopy featuring period enamel signs.
The down-platform and most of the track-bed no longer exist, sadly lost for ever beneath the A6091 Melrose bypass. The ornate 'grecian gentleman's lavatory with acroteria motif on the vents', a masterpiece of Scottish ironwork from Sun Works, Glasgow, was moved in 1977 to Bewdley Station on the Severn Valley Railway.The remaining station buildings have been refurbished and now contain a restaurant and a small museum.
By road: Off A68 and A7 via A6091 to Melrose
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