Excellent track record

19th April 1996 at 01:00
Why did the picturesque railway line, which followed the River Dee from Aberdeen, stop at Ballater, leaving poor Braemar without a link to the world? Because Queen Victoria did not want her peace at Balmoral disturbed, according to this gem of a video for Standard grade history, one of the last acts of Grampian's advisory service.

Like the line in the 1960s, to which the video refers, the advisory service has undergone its version of the "Beeching cuts", but not before conjuring up this 150-year history of the north-east.

The story of the Great North of Scotland Railway Company (GNSR) begins in the 1850s with small private companies linking towns and offering cheap travel.

The boom years of the GNSR lasted until the end of the First World War and the advent of the eight-hour day, higher wages and increased coal prices. Costs doubled and left the company open to amalgamation with the London and North Eastern Railway. Unfortunately, the narrative skips over the reasons for rail nationalisation in 1947. Teachers might well revisit the arguments about private versus public control.

Chris Green, former director of Scotrail, having said that too many lines were closed without justification, a fact Dr Beeching later acknowledged, argues that rail is "a very sane form of transport" with a future as well as a past. The video is an excellent route into history.

* Railways in Northern Scotland. Produced by Ron Grant and Robin Palmer, Grampian advisory service

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