Thrumster kids on the right track for historic station visit
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Rail strikes may be affecting journeys across the country but Thrumster kids have no such worries as their local station has not seen a train stop there for over 70 years.
It was a different story a century ago, however, as trains ran regularly on the Wick and Lybster Light Railway which had been opened in 1903 to accommodate the fishing trade as well as rural passengers along the route.
Children from Thrumster Primary School had a special day of fun and learning as they visited the refurbished station and the community woodland and wild meadow surrounding it. Islay MacLeod is vice chair of Yarrows Heritage Trust (YHT) and was instrumental in the work done to restore the dilapidated building and the area around it.
Originally constructed in 1903, Thrumster Railway Station was restored in 2011 by the Trust and was one of five intermediate stations on the line. It found a new use as a post office since the closure of the line in 1943, and this saved the building from becoming completely derelict though it needed a lot of work to take it back to its original state.
The Trust bought the station and a small area of ground in front and this area was planned using paintings provided by children from Thrumster Primary School in an art competition. Almost every child included a length of rail in their artwork, and a local firm provided this.
The platform was reinstated, and some memorabilia of the station was donated by different local people, including the original sign. Within the grounds is the community woodland with pathways and picnic benches which classes from the local primary school came out to enjoy last Thursday for a nature talk with former Keiss Primary School teacher Rhona MacPherson.
After a guided tour of the old railway station and some of the artefacts associated with it, the children listened to stories and a poem from Marjory Scott about her memories of travelling on the Wick and Lybster Light Railway.
Lynsey Bremner principal teacher at Thrumster and Watten Primary Schools was at the event and said: "In Thrumster school we are very fortunate to work closely with both Yarrows Heritage Trust and with Islay on an independent level throughout the year.
"Islay grants the school with access for pupils to run their forest school sessions in Thrumster Estate. These have been paused over the past couple of years due to Covid but we are hoping that we will be able to engage the whole school in these moving forward again next session."
Miss Bremner continued: "YHT is frequently engaging with the school and every year the children are given opportunities to take part in the Swartigill Archaeology Dig and field walking, providing them with hands on opportunities to build on their knowledge and understanding of their local environment and its history. Since restrictions have eased over this academic year, pupils have been very lucky to engage in sessions with Rhona and Islay exploring their community and how this has changed throughout history."
Younger and older children split into groups for their annual school picnic at the station's garden and then learned about the flora and fauna of the area. "Rhona provided some learning opportunities for them to learn about wildlife and wildflowers, and Islay opened Thrumster Station for our pupils to explore and learn information about the history of the building," added Miss Bremner.
"It was an added bonus with Marjory being able to join us and sharing her own experiences of journeys on this train line, it really brought the experience to life for them."
The construction of Wick and Lybster Light Railway was heavily supported financially by local government and the Treasury. It was worked by the Highland Railway and when the line was operational, the station at Lybster represented the furthest station on the entire UK rail network, being 738 rail miles from London Euston.
The line was never heavily used and the anticipated expansion of the fishing trade did not take place. When a modern road to the south was built in the 1930s, transits from Lybster were considerably shorter and quicker by that means, and the railway closed completely in 1944.
The Friends of the Wick and Lybster Light Railway, a registered charity that looks after the heritage of the former line, is looking for any historical items, photographs and memories related to it and has a website at: www.wicklybsterline.org.uk/
The body received funding from Foundation Scotland and SCHET (Scottish Hydro Electric Community Trust) to set electricity into the station to enable its use as an information point for YHT to hold events, talks, lectures and be a focal point during archaeological digs.