29 June 2021

Coveted railway heritage award unveiled at Ballater Old Royal Station

A coveted railway heritage award was unveiled at Ballater Old Royal Station earlier today (Tues, June 29).

The B-listed station - historically used by the Royal Family travelling by train to their home at nearby Balmoral Castle - was destroyed by fire in May 2015 and carefully rebuilt and restored by Aberdeenshire Council before reopening in August 2018.

Back in December 2019, the council received the prestigious South Eastern Commercial Restoration Award from HRH The Princess Royal, but the Covid pandemic delayed a formal unveiling of the commemorative plaque.

Judges who visited the station in the summer of 2019 said the £4.2 million reconstruction of the building was "most praiseworthy" and singled out the council's determination to see the works completed to a high level.
 
Gregory Beecroft said: "Although there was an insurance payout, that was not adequate to cover all of the work, so the resolve to restore the building at a time when there are severe constraints on council expenditure was particularly commendable."
 
Recalling his visit to Ballater, fellow judge Edward McGloin added: "On the day of my visit the station had a vibrant feel and was busy throughout. It is great to see that four years on from the devastating fire the station is again at the centre of Ballater and its community. Well done to all involved in this very good restoration of this historic station." 

The judges singled out the renovation of the Royal waiting room – now used as a private dining room – as a "jewel in the crown" and an "astonishing display of craftsmanship" which could easily have merited its own entry for an award.
 
Following the devastating blaze which ripped through the building in May 2015, officers quickly committed to the restoration of the structure, working with partners including Historic Environment Scotland and the Royal Household.

Survey work included 3D laser scanning and modelling to capture the exact size and proportions of timber mouldings and fretwork allowing any new timbers to be as accurate as possible and reduce waste. A key focus of the repair and conservation work was to retain and utilise as much of the original fabric as possible.

Provost of Aberdeenshire, Cllr Bill Howatson, who cut the ribbon to officially open the rebuilt station back in 2018, said: “Thanks to the massive efforts of council staff, architects, contractors and a host of partners, the Ballater community and visitors to the town have once again been able to experience this important part of Royal heritage and history in surroundings which are arguably improved on what went before the devastating fire.

"The restoration was very sympathetic and the standard of workmanship exceptionally high which the National Rail Heritage Awards judging panel said merited this prestigious and very much appreciated accolade.”

Paying tribute to all those who had played a part in the restoration project, Aberdeenshire Council’s Marr area manager Janelle Clark said: “This award recognises the massive commitment by the many partners who made the project such a success including our architects Halliday Fraser Munro, with Conservation Architect Georgina Allison, and main contractor Morgan Sindall Construction.

“We take this opportunity once again to thank the community of Ballater for its fantastic support throughout the project and all those individuals and local organisations who helped piece together this historic jigsaw and breathe new life into the station for future generations to enjoy.”

Ballater Old Royal Station was one of three North-East railway projects to receive their plaques, with the restoration of the turntable at Ferryhill in Aberdeen and the South Esk Viaduct refurbishment at Montrose also being recognised.