The soot, smoke and steam of the engines, the social hubbub of summer arrivals at the little picket-fenced stations dotted along the coastline from Largo to Crail, beach activities from dawn to dusk – these are some of the enduring memories of people interviewed by film makers Kenny Munro and Ed O’Donnelly for the specially commissioned East Neuk Festival film, The Holiday Line.
Prompted by sepia-tinted photo albums and silent flickering cine-film they recall the 1950s and early ‘60s heydays of the railway line that brought city dwellers every summer to the resorts of Pittenween, Elie and Anstruther for the long days of bathing, picnics, pageants and golf. Locals would move into the garden shed for the months of July and August and rent their houses to vacationing city dwellers and tents and caravans would take up residence in many a farmer’s field to accommodate the incoming swell of holidaymakers. Campers would apparently hurl their tents and equipment from the train windows as they passed by the campsites to save the haul back from the station several hundred yards further on. And everybody remembers times gone by as more relaxed; even the train chugged its way along the coast at a leisurely pace.
The development of the railway after the war encouraged not only tourism, but also agricultural and industrial development of the region: fish, fruit, hemp and linoleum are just some of the products that the railways took south. The demise came after the mid 1960s when the rail route was closed (a casualty of the Beeching Axe*) and now the railway lines are just ghostly traces across the landscape and only memories remain.
More recently though, a new generation love affair with the wide sandy beaches, coastal paths, fine dining, cosy pubs and burgeoning cultural scene has urbanites from Edinburgh (an hour’s drive away), Glasgow and London once again flooding to this corner (neuk) of Scotland, albeit by road and air these days.
The Holiday Line film will be shown in Crail Community Hall during the 2010 East Neuk Festival (30 June – 4 July) with six screenings a day (Friday-Sunday inclusive) and will undoubtedly appeal to railway enthusiasts, nostalgic romantics hankering after days gone by and baby-boomers with their own childhood memories to share. Admission is free.
An exhibition of the history and memorabilia associated with The Holiday Line will be on display in the Hall’s adjoining room, fashioned as a railway waiting room. Meanwhile round the corner on the site of the former Crail Railway Station another bucket-and-spade project of monumental proportions will be on parade and will transform a rather neglected corner of this picturesque seaside village.
The East Neuk Festival has commissioned Sand in Your Eye, a company famed for its award-winning sculptures in ice and sand, to create a gigantic steam engine made out of sand. This ephemeral work of art will take shape out of 15 tons of sand that will be dumped on site Saturday 26 June. The team of sculptors expect it to be completed by the following Saturday, allowing Festival visitors and locals to watch the train taking shape, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of railways past. www.sandsculptureice.co.uk.