1850 - 1900
Industry, Trade and Commerce
IT WAS A significant event in the history of the Royal and Ancient Burgh when, on 4 July 1855, the Peebles railway carried its first passengers to and from Edinburgh on the newly-opened local line which linked into the North British Company's railway system at Eskbank. This connection was supplemented nine years later by the Symington, Biggar and Broughton railway extension to Peebles, providing the town with a railway link to Glasgow via the Caledonian Railway's network. However, the full potential of the 'coming of the railway' to Peebles was not fully realised until the Peebles railway extension to Innerleithen was further developed to provide a connection to Galashiels in June 1866; an event that truly made Peebles the centre of an important railway network that was to play a major role in the development of the burgh.
The Peeblesshire Advertiser informed its readers in July 1853 that the Railway Bill had been passed, commenting: 'This is a great era for Peebles, and we anticipate that it is the commencement of a career of prosperity of which we can at present form a very vague conception.' The History of Peebles: 1850-1990 is about these times and the events which followed, from the coming of the railways to their closing nearly a century later. It is the story of the tweed-mills and their near virtual disappearance, in terms of capacity to provide employment, and how the town has fared with the loss of these 'engines of improvement' that our forefathers welcomed when Peebles was described as 'being at its deadest'.
It is clear that the innovation of the railways had an immensely stimulating effect on the whole of the Scottish economy and that was certainly true in terms of 'sparking off' the development and expansion of the burgh of Peebles. In the decades after the coming of the railways, it was no longer a place that could be referred to as 'quieter than the grave' .