The last passenger train to Macduff 70 years ago

Despite ‘the fiercest opposition British Rail has ever faced to a spur closure’, the last passenger train reached Macduff 70 years ago today.

Although a quiet line, steam trains carried passengers and holidaymakers from the central belt via Aberdeen to the coast, and its closure in 1951 hit rural communities hard.

The coastal towns of Banff and Macduff were already experiencing bitter uncertainty in the fishing industry, and the summer vacation trade helped bolster the local economy.

Discussions of withdrawing passenger services from Inveramsay, pictured above, to Macduff began in January 1951 and sparked public outcry.

Join us on a journey back in time as we examine the loss of another rural railway line.

The 18-mile spur from Inveramsay to Turriff opened in 1857 before being extended 12 miles from Turriff to Macduff in 1860, providing a straight line from Aberdeen to the coast.

It was hoped that the line would prosper and it proved useful in cargo handling for the farming and fishing industries.

But even in the 1930s, roads rivaled the railroad.

In 1951 the death knell sounded for rural branch lines across Britain.

A conference on the issue held in Turriff in April of that year left Banff Town Council officials “without hope of a favorable outcome.”

In fact, there were rumors that the service from Banff Harbor to Tillynaught was also facing the axe.

Opposition to the proposal was fierce.

Banff’s provost insisted the talks go to the “highest level” and urged council to present a petition to local MP Mr Duthie.

Residents of communities that surround the line to Macduff argued that if the trains ran at more appropriate times with competitive fares, they would be better utilized.

It was feared that the withdrawal of passenger trains to Banff and Macduff “would kill these places as family holiday destinations”.

The news came as a blow as the beach towns had just had their best season ever.

Presenting their case to the ‘relentless’ rail executive, the Banffshire hospitality industry said: ‘Parents won’t consider a trip from Scotland’s industrial belt if it means the upheaval of getting off the train in Aberdeen with prams, luggage and other trappings, and walking half a mile through city streets to queue for a bus to take them to the final leg of their journey.

Local authorities in Aberdeenshire and Banffshire “have won the admiration of all outlying areas for fighting to retain their rail link to the outside world”.

British Rail was urged to scrap steam and introduce more efficient diesel trains to make the Macduff line more profitable, but the cries fell on deaf ears.

The campaign was in vain; the railroad executive was unconvinced to have second thoughts.

For her, the closure of the Macduff branch line was simply part of a general policy of closing lines which regularly lost money.

The last train for Macduff was called Sir David Stewart and left Aberdeen station at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday, September 29, 1951, arriving at Inveramsay at 7:00 p.m.

Driver John Cowie, his fireman William Rumbles and guard James Milne, pictured above, resumed service at Inveramsay and the train began its final journey arriving at Macduff at 7.59pm

Drawing parallels to contemporary headlines about petrol problems, there was a call for a train to be reinstated on the Macduff line in 1956 during petrol shortages.

The Suez Crisis caused problems with gasoline supplies from the Middle East, leading to fuel rationing in November of that year.

East Aberdeenshire MP Sir Robert Boothby said the resumption of a passenger service between Macduff and Inveramsay would meet strong public demand.

But a passenger service never ran again on the Inveramsay-Macduff branch line.

The freight continued until 1966, when the line – like many others – closed completely under the cuts of Dr Beeching.

The Inveramsay Spur to Macduff

without auchter
King Edward
Banff Bridge

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[The last passenger train to Macduff 70 years ago]


Jose P. Rogers