Plans for new Fife museum to house two historic locomotives

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Two historic steam locomotives could be relocated to the East Neuk if plans are approved for the conversion of an agricultural storage building into a museum.

Cameron Railway Trust wants to create a permanent home at Balbuthie Open Farm Visitor Centre at Kilconquhar for the ‘Union of South Africa’ and ‘Great Marquess’, described as locomotives of national and international importance.

As well as the two locomotives and their tenders, the plans include the display of a coach.

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The aim is to display these vehicles to members of the public who are already visiting the Open Farm Visitor Centre cafe as part of a trip to the farm.

The 'Union of South Africa' steam locomotive could soon have a permament home at Balbuthie.The 'Union of South Africa' steam locomotive could soon have a permament home at Balbuthie.
The 'Union of South Africa' steam locomotive could soon have a permament home at Balbuthie.

In a statement on behalf of the trust, Neil Gray, of Gray Planning & Development, says: “The trustees are passionate agriculturalists who also share a passion for the preservation of two steam locomotives – ‘Union of South Africa’ and ‘Great Marquess’.

“They hold a lifelong ambition to preserve and widen the younger generation’s interest in farming and railways through sharing the opportunity to view these locomotives at Balbuthie.”

Both locomotives have fascinating histories.

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The ‘Union of South Africa’ is a sister locomotive of ‘Mallard’, which still holds the speed record for a steam locomotive and is exhibited in the National Rail Museum in York.

The ‘Great Marquess’ is the sole survivor of its type.

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Both locomotives were based in Scotland during their working lives. In 1938 the then LNER introduced its famous ‘Coronation Express’ which ran non-stop between Edinburgh and London, and the ‘Union of South Africa’ was one of the locomotives used for this service.

In addition to its regular work, it was often used to haul the Royal Train in Scotland, and in recent years hauled the train carrying the Queen from Edinburgh to Tweedbank to open the Borders Railway.

'The Great Marquess' was one of a class of only six locomotives and was held at Fort William to work the famous fish trains over the West Highland line between Mallaig and Glasgow.

In his statement, Mr Gray says: “Most steam locomotives have been scrapped and it would be tragic if these examples were allowed to deteriorate. This proposal allows their preservation and permanent public access. The locomotives would not be operated, nor moved from the proposed permanent home at Balbuthie.”

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The agricultural storage building was constructed in 2020 at the same time as the Open Farm’s visitor building, housing an open conferencing area with associated café and toilets.

The only engineering works required to achieve the proposed change of use would involve erection of an internal partition wall.

All existing infrastructure within the existing agricultural storage building and all infrastructure associated with the existing Open Farm Visitor Centre, including the entrance, car parking provision and landscaping, would be unaffected.

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