Anniversary of opening of rail link marked in Leven

Train at Leven station in 1912
Train at Leven station in 1912

The more things change, they say, the more they stay the same – yesterday (Tuesday)marked the 160th anniversary of a victory in a battle that is, right now, being repeated in Levenmouth.

It was on Saturday, August 5, 1854, that a rail link was, after no small struggle, first opened from Leven to Thornton.

That the old advocates of the first line did not have it easy, yet did win out in the end, must gird the loins of those currently fighting to re-establish this very connection.

On that great day, 160 years ago, a special train of seven carriages, packed to the gunnels with the directors and shareholders of the new Leven Railway, plus other enthusiasts, set off for the first ‘iron horse’ trip to Thornton.

The train, pulled by a fine new engine delivered only the day before, its nameplate inscribed with ‘Leven Railway’, was cheered off by large crowds, and, in the evening, the jubilant passengers returned to the coast for a celebratory dinner.

The Leven Railway actually jumped the gun by running without the appropriate Board of Trade certificate, which was only released two days later, so the official date of the line’s inception was reported in the newspapers of the time as August 10.

Like today’s LevenMouth Rail Campaign (LMRC), the body behind the push to have the line re-opened, those launching the enterprise back in the 1850s faced obstacles.

Originally mooted in 1845, with a planned capital of £250,000, the project got serious in 1851 when promoters of the Leven Railway Company (LRC) published a prospectus, claiming they could construct the line for only £25,000.

That year, Sir Ralph Anstruther, speaking in Leven, noted that “towns connected to the rail network prospered”.

The new company had to raise £15,000 at short notice to allow the Leven Railway Bill to go before Parliament, which passed it in April 1852. From that point, shares were snapped up and the LRC went from strength to strength.

The project did face opposition, though. Landowners tried to block it and, when it was finally given the green light, some demanded exorbitant compensation.

Several accidents, one fatal, occurred during construction, and, with the job done somewhat on the cheap, the line was prone to derailments and had a 40mph limit. It was only developed to a higher specification much later, when it was required to deliver coal freight to Methil Power Station. It was finally closed as part of the infamous and shortsighted Beeching cuts in October, 1969. But, fortunately, under Network Rail’s ownership, it has only been mothballed and is fully intact.

So the way remains paved – or sleepered – for a grand re-opening of the line and perhaps another great day soon, which might echo, in all their pomp, the celebrations of 
August 5, 1854.