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Preservation Society


Since 1961, when it was founded, the Scottish Railway Preservation Society has constantly laboured to find adequate money to enable it to achieve its objectives. In the early days, a great many opportunities had to be missed, but two lasting successes were the acquisition of steam engines No.419 (Caledonian Railway, built 1907 in Glasgow) and No.673 Maude (North British Railway, built 1891 in Glasgow). Both of these can be seen in action at Bo'ness (when not in the workshops for maintenance). These locomotives were bought from British Rail, other companies donated locomotives and vehicles.

In 1964 the Society opened a depot at Falkirk, where the collection was amassed. The shed, which was at first thought far too large for what the Society would be able to collect, was soon overflowing with material, and the adjacent sidings had to be leased from British Rail. Some of the locomotives were restored to running order and provided interest for visitors on Open Days, while a few locomotives were sent out onto the main line to work special trains. The Society built up a volunteer base of enthusiasts who enjoy the company of like minded people while learning new skills and caring for the collection. The volunteers remain the organisation's most important asset.

Development of the Railway

From its earliest days, the Society aspired to use its Museum collection and its volunteers' skills to operate a public railway, on which its collection could be demonstrated in an authentic environment, a challenge far beyond the demands of a museum 'static display'. After many years of searching for a suitable site, the Society started work at Bo'ness in 1979. At that time, there was no railway in the town, just a green field where Bo'ness Station now stands. From the first, the Society used partnerships to get things done. The local authority, then Falkirk District Council, organised a Manpower Services Commission project which built Bo'ness Station, the locomotive running shed and the first part of the railway, which opened in 1981 with passenger trains shuttling back and forward from Bo'ness Station. With further Manpower Services Commission support, the line was extended to the run round loop at Kinneil (a mile from Bo'ness) in 1987. With continued support from Falkirk District Council, and from Central Regional Council and the Scottish Tourist Board, and with track materials acquired from the South of Scotland Electricity Board, the line was extended to Birkhill (3½ miles) in 1989. The depot at Falkirk closed due to a redevelopment scheme at the end of 1987, and all of the rolling stock was then moved to Bo'ness. The 1½ miles of the line between Birkhill and Manuel were relaid in 1990 to allow the transfer of locomotives and rolling stock to and from the main-line, and this section has been upgraded for passenger trains to operate from 2010.

Registered Museum

The Railway Collection

The collection amassed firstly at Falkirk, and now at Bo'ness, grew steadily. Many now unique objects were acquired just in time before destruction. The challenge now is to provide supporting facilities to ensure the collection is adequately housed, looked after, displayed and explained to the public.

The total vehicle numbers now at Bo'ness are 25 steam locomotives, 28 diesel and electric locomotives, 65 carriages, 75 wagons and 20 departmental wagons and cranes. There are also over 1,600 small artifacts representing various aspects of the history of Scottish railways. To protect this collection, a new body, the Scottish Railway Museum Trust, was set up in 1992. Ownership of the historic collection has now been transferred by gift to the Museum Trust, leaving the other items in Society ownership for commercial use and/or disposal as required.

The steam, diesel and electric locomotive collection represents the period from 1876 to 1970. Several were built in Scotland. Conservation work, leading where suitable to a return to operating condition, is the constant task of the Steam and Diesel Locomotive groups.

Rolling stock covers the period from 1862 to 1966. The strength of the collection is the diverse range of everyday types and companies represented.

The small objects display enormous variety, from buttons to station signs and from timetables to Rule Books. A speciality is the Signal & Telegraph (S&T) collection which is extensive. Just as the historic rolling stock is available for use on the branch railway, so parts of the S&T collection are coming into active use in signalling the line.

Our Collecting Scope

We collect material representative of railway company and industrial railway establishment and practice, also material representative of the railway manufacturing industry, provided that the material was conceived, designed, manufactured or used within Scotland, or in the sphere of influence of the pre-1923 Scottish railway companies, or represents or illustrates such Scottish material.

Additions to the Collection

We are keen to acquire new items for the collection, provided that they fall into the Collecting Scope definition, and provided that we have the facilities to give adequate care. Our priorities:
Steam Locomotives
All opportunities to acquire Scottish built locomotives would be very seriously considered. Products of the North British Locomotive Company are of particular interest. Acquisition of at least one locomotive representing exported designs, possibly of non standard gauge, will be pursued. Consideration would also be given to acquiring Scottish locomotives from other 'preserved' ownership if the opportunity arose.
Diesel Locomotives
Modernisation Plan designs as used in Scotland are now well represented at Bo'ness, subject to the non-collection examples remaining on site. Recognised omissions are:
  1. Early NBL and Clayton designs which did not have a long service life.
  2. A late example of an Andrew Barclay industrial diesel locomotive.
Examples of later and current designs will be required in due course, but priority will first be given to providing improved facilities.
The lack of covered storage space mitigates against further acquisitions. However, any pre-1948 Scottish carriage with substantially intact interior would be very seriously considered. The Society is taking part in the National Railway Heritage Carriage Survey, and will be guided by the results.
Typical designs not currently represented in the collection would be considered. There is a clear need for a cattle wagon, and containers and container wagons are sought. At least one mineral/coal hopper wagon would be appropriate, as would a steel grain van and a bulk cement wagon. At some future point, consideration will be given to adding a few large modern wagons.
Small Objects
Considerable expansion of this part of the collection is possible. Modernisation will displace most remaining mechanical signalling in the next few years, and much effort will be required if a representative collection is to be achieved.
Archival material, such as documents, photographs, and electronically recorded media, will be collected as follows:
  1. Material relating to existing collection items, as part of a developing catalogue of information providing a background to the collection.
  2. Material relevant to important historical themes.
  3. Material useful in illustrating current display themes.
  4. Material providing useful reference information in the museum Library.

  • Have we missed out something important?
  • What else should we display at Bo'ness?
  • Can you help us to acquire any of the described object types?
  • E-mail us with your comments and suggestions.

Making Connections (PDF 1.5 MBytes)

Future Development

The collection of locomotives, carriages, wagons and smaller items, built up over 40 years of change, represents railways in Scotland from the 1830s up to the present day. It is a unique resource, and has the potential to tell the story of the development of railways.
Our vision is to take the story to new audiences and to future generations. The means to do that are set out in our booklet Making Connections. Our site at Bo'ness, in central Scotland, already connects with 65,000 visitors every year. We have approximately 350 volunteers, who maintain the collection and the railway, operate the trains and present the collection to visitors.
Our next challenge is to find resources to develop the management of the collections, to provide more buildings for collection storage, conservation and restoration, and to transform access to help more visitors to connect with the history of railways in Scotland.

There are tremendous opportunities for development as the national centre for the study of railways in Scotland.

For further information phone :
01506 825855
or write to
The Scottish Railway Preservation Society
Bo'ness Station, Union Street, Bo'ness, West Lothian EH51 9AQ

or E-mail Museum

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