SEVEN months before he issued his long-awaited report on the reorganisation of British Railways, Dr Richard Beeching made a three-day visit to Scotland and a 500-mile tour of the country’s railways. At times, the reception was hostile.

The chairman of the British Transport Commission was greeted by 300 railway maintenance men at Edinburgh Waverley (pictured) on August 28, 1962. They had stopped work early in protest against line closures and job losses. Two of their placards read “No Beeching of Our Railways” and “Doctor – Operate, Not Amputate”.

Dr Beeching was smiling as, accompanied by railway policemen and the station manager RM Shand, he walked between the ranks of the demonstrators. At one point the crowd surged forward and a man aimed a kick at him. The man – who did not appear to be a railwayman – was removed and cautioned by police.

Dr Beeching met union representatives for 90 minutes; afterwards, he was pursued by angry demonstrators shouting “away back to London”.

In Aberdeen the previous day, he had addressed union concerns when he said: “The final picture of the railways will be substantially different from what it is at present, but it will not be as violent a difference as the NUR [National Union of Railwaymen] would suggest.”

The day after Edinburgh, Dr Beeching was in Glasgow. Behind a coffin marked “BR Scottish Region”, some 5,000 rail workers marched past the region’s HQ in Buchanan Street when he was in the building. After meeting him, a cross-union campaign committee told reporters that there was no doubt that he was planning thoroughly the complete destruction of the railways.

During his three-day visit Dr Beeching also met industrialists and other notables.

His report was published on March 27, 1963. “Revolution in British Railway System”, read the Glasgow Herald’s front-page headline. Amongst it recommendations: that Scotland’s 669 stations and halts be reduced to 230.

Read more: Herald Diary