Marking 45 years since Leven line closure

Members of LMRC with author Andrew Hajducki (centre)
Members of LMRC with author Andrew Hajducki (centre)

Rail campaigners in Leven welcomed co-author of ‘The Leven and East of Fife Railway’, Andrew Hajducki to their open evening last Wednesday in what marked 45 years to the week since the Leven line was closed.

Mr Hajducki, who compiled the book with fellow rail enthusiasts Alan Simpson and Michael Jodeluk, provided an in-depth history into the line which served the whole of the east coast of Fife, from Thornton right up to St Andrews.

The original Leven railway line from Thornton opened in 1854, in great faith that the new link would eventually lead to busy guest traffic to the east of Fife.

Over the next 30 years, the line was extended and stations opened right along the coast, with trains taking locals and visitors the length and breadth of east Fife right up until the 1960s.

But in 1969 the decision was taken by the British Government - and completely separate from the Beeching plan, which actually marked the line for retention - to close the Leven rail link to passengers.

Locals were given a chance to voice their disaproval at the closure, with many reasons given to keep it including the tourist trade and the fact that Leven had been flagged up as one of only five special development districts in Scotland.

But the campaign proved fruitless and the last train to pull out of the station was at 8.25 on Saturday, October 4 with around 100 people making the trip.

The line remained open and functioning for freight, serving Cameron Brig distillery, Methil Power station and the Redpath Dorman Long oilrig fabrication yard until the Power Station’s closure in 2001.

Commenting after his presentation, Andrew said: “I see no reason why Leven would not prosper from a reopening of its rail link just like Alloa and Larkhall did when their lines were reopened and like Galashiels will its line reopens next year!

“However, through-trains to Edinburgh and even Glasgow are important as this would ensure that there would be no need to change trains en route - the change at Thornton Junction was a weak feature of the service in the past - and the majority of the traffic will probably be for the south and west.

“The present journey by bus is already a slow one and we only have to look across the Forth at North Berwick where the advantages of a good rail service over the slower bus is obvious!”

Melanie Ward, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Glenrothes and Central Fife, attended the meeting on Wednesday. She said: “Scotland’s railways have been very much in the news in recent weeks, and the campaign to reinstate the Thornton-Leven rail link is clearly gathering momentum.

“There’s a strong case to restore the rail service, not only because this is the largest community without one, but also because of the increase in opportunities that it could bring for local people.

“An impressive number of people are signing the petition - I urge everyone to sign so that the Scottish Government has to listen.”

The next LMRC open meeting will be held at the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre on November 12 at 6.30 p.m. Paul Tetlaw from Transform Scotland will be the guest speaker.

‘The Leven and East of Fife Railway’, published by Oakwood Press is available now.