Successful summer of steam

The Scottish Railway Preservation Society’s Railtours (SRPS) steam special ran four trips from the Fife Coast to the Scottish Borders every Sunday in August.

 The Black Five steam locomotive travelled along the Borders Railway, stopping at Galashiels and Tweedbank, with passengers given the opportunity to travel onto Abbotsford House for lunch and a tour, or onto Seasons in Gattonside for lunch.

The successful rail tour comes as the Borders Railway celebrates its third birthday this month. As part of the Borders Railway Blueprint Partnership, VisitScotland seeks to maximise benefits from the rail route which re-opened in September 2015.

VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director Paula Ward said: “We are delighted that the steam train excursions have proved another success and attracted more than 1200 visitors to the Scottish Borders in August and benefiting local businesses directly. A dedicated social media campaign reached more than 600,000 people, helping to once again shine the spotlight on the region to the rest of the world.

“Scotland is about building bridges, connecting places and bringing people together. Tourism is at the heart of this and VisitScotland plays a role by championing collaboration, spearheading digital innovation, promoting local areas and events and ensuring that tourism is recognised for the ripple effect of success, well-being and prosperity it brings to all sections of society.”

SRPS Railtours commercial director Roger 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 have been delighted to run the excursions along the Borders Railway again this summer with visitors from across the world using the steam train to travel to the region for the first time and discovering the spectacular experience and scenery on offer.”

Councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Business and Economic Development, said: “The steam train experience has brought almost 3,000 people to the Borders in the last two summers, which is a fantastic boost to the area and would not have happened without the opening of the Borders Railway three years ago.

“It is great to hear a number of passengers returned this year, showing how much they enjoyed the steam train experience and the local attractions and restaurants we have to offer in the Borders.

“We look forward to welcoming steam trains back to the Borders in 2019 and to many visitors using the Borders Railway to visit year-round.”

Roger McKie, owner of Seasons Restaurant in Gattonside, offered lunch to passengers from the train. He said they used the opportunity to showcase local produce and suppliers and welcomed guests from as far afield as the US.

“We put on special menus focussing on local suppliers from within the Scottish Borders for our steam train diners.

“The steam train excursions were an opportunity to highlight the outstanding natural larder on offer in the region and it was very well received. We had a few diners from the US but most of the guests were from elsewhere in Scotland and were travelling to celebrate a special occasion or a birthday.

“What we have found from taking part last year was that many guests have returned to dine in our restaurant after taking part in the steam train excursion.”