Museum to mark 50 years since Beeching’s axe fell

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Fifty years ago the publication of a report changed Britain’s railways forever.

Richard Beeching’s seminal report, published on March 27, 1963, resulted in miles and miles of rail lines across the country being axed on cost grounds.

To mark the anniversary, the National Railway Museum in York has opened a new exhibition in its dedicated art gallery – Beeching 50 Years On – which runs until June 16. The exhibition explores the social impact of the report and what drove Dr Beeching’s decisions.

A specially commissioned work by artist filmmaker Esther Johnson will provide a close-up of one of the key stories – the closure of the Waverley line which ran between Carlisle and Edinburgh. The line, which connected the Borders communities and was one of the first lines to be axed, closed after 120 years as the report decided it was uneconomical. No other line closure left a population so far from a rail network although a project is now underway to re-open 30 miles of the link between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, near Galashiels, at a cost of £300m. It will be the longest new railway to open for more than 100 years.

The exhibition is one of a series of events at the museum to mark the report which drew huge opposition from communities affected.

John McGoldrick, curator of museum collections, said: “The loss of many railway stations and closing of almost 4,000 miles of rail track affected most of the population at the time.

“People all over the UK can remember travelling along the regional branch lines, closed as a result of the 60s reports, with fondness, so the public reaction to Beeching’s Axe is still current even in the present day.”