HISTORY OF MELROSE STATION

Melrose station is situated in the county of Roxburghshire and was opened by the North British Railway Company on 20th February 1849 as part of their line from Edinburgh to Hawick, which itself did not open until 1st November of that year. The line was later extended to Carlisle and became known as “The Waverley Route” but, unfortunately, the whole of the line from Edinburgh to Carlisle was closed by British Railways on 6th January 1969.

The main station building is now Grade A listed and has been fully restored externally. Internally the building was gutted leaving just a shell but was later rebuilt and is now occupied by a restaurant, a play school and office lets. A replica running-in board and period bench have been installed on the surviving up platform and restoration work continues, with planning permission having been granted for track panels and a buffer stop to be laid alongside the platform.

Melrose station was unusually large and opulent considering that the population of this market town was little more than 1,500. However the town was already developing as a tourist centre when the railway arrived, and the station was designed to accommodate and meet the needs of the tourists for whom it was intended. The main station building, on the up side, was designed by the well known Scottish railway engineer John Miller in 1846. It looked more like a country mansion than a railway station and was constructed in the fashionable Jacobean style, complete with Dutch gables, stone mullioned and transom windows, shafted chimneys, ornamental finials, carved balconies and a portico. To protect passengers from the weather the platform was provided with a most unusual long iron and timber canopy with an upward slope of about 30 degrees towards the track. It was supported on cast-iron columns, with lotus capitals, and curved wooden brackets to take the weight of the overhang.

The building was constructed on two levels: passengers entered on the lower level, where accommodation was provided for the stationmaster and his staff. At the upper railway track level the building comprised a booking office, general waiting room, ladies’ waiting room, ladies’ and gents’ toilets and other staff offices. The two levels were connected by an open staircase through the middle of the building with a trolley path up the side. There was also an internal staircase which no longer exists.

The building was sited to overlook the town, the River Tweed and the medieval Abbey, and was described at its opening in the Border Advertiser on 9 February 1849 as ‘the handsomest provincial station in Scotland’.

The down platform was facing, but slightly staggered, and comprised an equally long canopy of similar design with a small waiting room at its west end. Beyond the canopy there was a cast iron gents’ urinal – a style popularly known as an ‘Iron Duke’. Initially passengers had to cross the line using a barrow crossing, but before the turn of the century a lattice footbridge had been provided.

The small goods yard was on the down side behind the platform and, as built, could be accessed only from the west; it comprised three sidings but had no signal box. The siding to the north had a loop and then passed though cast-iron-framed wooden goods shed with a common wall forming the rear support for the down platform canopy. There was also a 1 ton 10 cwt crane.

Before the turn of the century the goods yard had been re-laid with two parallel sidings, one passing though the goods shed, and on the south side of the yard a widely curving loop gave access to the yard from both directions. The weighbridge was also moved, and access to the yard was controlled by a signal box at the west end of the down platform.

Goods traffic was withdrawn from 18 May 1964 but passenger services survived until closure of the line to passengers on 6 January 1969.

While many of the larger stations on the Waverley route were demolished Melrose somehow managed to survive, although by the 1980s it was in a vandalised and dilapidated state. In 1981 the outstanding architectural quality and importance of the building was recognised by the Secretary of State and it was given Category A listing (equivalent to Grade 1 in England).

In 1985 the building was acquired by local architect Dennis Rodwell who had a grand plan to bring the station back to life as a focal point for the local tourist industry. He was able to get financial backing from the Scottish Development Agency, the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, and the Borders Regional Council.

Unfortunately it was too late to save the down platform and goods shed which had already been demolished by this time to make way for a new Melrose by-pass which was built in 1987, parallel to the Waverley route and passing within a few yards of the up platform. The remainder of the goods yard to the south was also redeveloped for housing.

Restoration of the station building was completed in 1986, and it was officially opened in July of that year by the Rt. Hon. Malcolm Rifkind, Q.C., M.P.

In September 2010 a group of railway enthusiasts formed the Waverley Railway Company with the aim of carrying out restoration work to the remaining platform including laying track panels and a buffer stop alongside the platform. To date repairs to the platform have been carried out including the installation of a replica running-in board and period seat. The station is now owned by local development company, J. S. Crawford Estates who have given their approval to the restoration plans.