The Peebles Railways
AMONGST THE TOWNS which featured in the earliest rail-based schemes to serve the south of Scotland, Peebles was one of the most prominent.
In 1810 the celebrated engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) proposed a horse-drawn tramway to link Glasgow and Berwick by way of Peebles. Next, in 1821, another prominent Scotsman, Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), put forward a similar proposal.
Amongst the many schemes promoted in the 1830s and 1840s, six involved rail links between Newcastle and Edinburgh and Glasgow serving Peebles, whilst another, grandly entitled 'The National Railway of Scotland', proposed a line from Lancaster and Carlisle, up Liddesdale and through the Borders to Peebles, dividing there to continue to Edinburgh and Glasgow. This scheme actually originated in Peebles and copies of correspondence about it dated February 1841 from William Turnbull writing from the 'Stamp Office' Peebles (the Revenue Office) to John Rooke of Wigton in Cumberland are held in the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh. Turnbull's letters exemplify the practice of the time when facts were falsified to serve the ends of the promoters, mileages, traffic potential and prospective revenue being distorted in order to present a favourable proposition.
In order to discriminate between these schemes, a royal commission was appointed. Its report, published in 1841, declared that only one Anglo-Scottish route was necessary, finding in favour of the newly-formed Caledonian Railway Company's proposed line from Carlisle to Glasgow via Beattock with a branch from Carstairs to Edinburgh. Despite this the North British Railway Company opened its line from Edinburgh to Berwick in 1846.
The Caledonian Railway's line was opened in 1848, and in 1849 the North British Company's Edinburgh and Hawick line was opened.