A former railway station used by Queen Victoria and royal guests from across Europe for visits to Balmoral will be restored after it was devastated by a major fire earlier this month. Local people and historians alike have welcomed the news that the Old Royal Station in Ballater, Aberdeenshire,will be rebuilt following the blaze but officials are warning that the process to bring it back to its former glory could take up to two years.
The Old Royal Station, leased to Visit Scotland, housed a museum, visitor centre, restaurant and several shops. It was hit by fire on May 12th with nearly 50 firefighters working for three hours to save the building. The wooden structure, which included a replica of a waiting room used by Queen Victoria, was badly damaged by the flames but fortunately no one was injured in the fire.
And the crews who tackled the blaze did save a replica of a railway carriage once used by Queen Victoria on one of her many trips to the Balmoral Estate. It was opened by The Prince of Wales in 2008 and gives an idea of how the longest reigning monarch in British history, for now, would have experienced the considerable journey from Windsor to her Scottish retreat as the railways took hold of Britain.
The restoration process could be a lengthy one. Janelle Clark of Aberdeenshire Council said that while officers understood everyone in the area was keen to see the rebuilding happen as quickly as possible she added that it will take time and continued ‘I ask for..patience as we work to create the most appropriate plan of action going forward.’
The Old Royal Station at Ballater is a B-listed building meaning that Historic Scotland will have to be consulted. And while consultations and surveys are already underway it’s thought that the actual process of reconstruction will take an additional 18-24 months meaning it could be the summer of 2017 before this royal visitor attraction is open to the public again.
Ballater was the nearest station to Balmoral and the railway line reached this part of Scotland in 1866. The Royal Waiting Room was built there in 1886 to provide more luxurious surroundings for Queen Victoria and her many royal visitors from monarchies across the continent as they began their Balmoral breaks. The line closed in 1966 and the museum at the Old Royal Station aimed to show visitors the history of the railway and its royal users over that span of one hundred years.
News that Aberdeenshire Council is committed to restoring the station to its former glory was welcomed by the local community with the chairman of Ballater Heritage Society, Alistair Cassie, commenting that ‘the building is the nucleus of the village and it is the centre really in some ways. It is a very important part of history’.
And now that royal history will be recreated as accurately as possible as officials seek to ensure that future visitors to the area get a chance to see how Queen Victoria and her guests would have travelled over a century ago through painstaking work to restore the Old Royal Station, Ballater.
Photo credit: Mikael Minarie via Flickr