Taking another rail excursion from the Scottish capital following an enjoyable day at Stonehaven, my destination this time (3 September 2021) is the first, rather than the last, of the ten remaining outposts of mechanical signalling between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Cupar is a pleasant place to visit, even on a gloomy day, being just one hour by train from Edinburgh, with an attractive and historic station building and a 1910-vintage North British Type 7 signal box that stands north of the down platform and controls three semaphores from its 32-lever frame.
Two of this trio can be seen and photographed from the platform ends, with up starter CP14 standing south of an over-bridge next to the station and a tall down starter (CP26) standing north of the signal box on a right-hand curve in the line, as seen above.
The final Cupar semaphore is up home CP13, which can be seen and photographed from Tavit Road over-bridge, just six minutes’ walk from the station, that carries the B940 road and which has an interesting story.
On 4 July 1988 a train of cement wagons being hauled by Class 47 locomotive 47004 derailed at this location due to a combination of excessive speed and a rail fault, causing extensive damage to the road bridge, which had to be demolished and re-built.
For a view of the new Tavit Road bridge and a front view of CP13 it is worth taking another six minute walk, continuing out of town along the A940 then taking a left turn towards Tailabout Farm until you reach an over-bridge.
Freight traffic through Cupar has all but disappeared since that accident, although the southbound working of cement tanks from Aberdeen Craiginches to Oxwellmains Lafarge near Dunbar is scheduled to pass in the early evening, while the northbound working runs via Perth.
Passenger traffic at Cupar currently comprises hourly Class 170-worked stopping services between Edinburgh Waverley and Arbroath, Scotrail Inter7City HST workings between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, LNER Class 800 Azuma services between London Kings Cross/Leeds and Aberdeen and occasional XC services between Aberdeen/Dundee and South-West England.
Cupar’s attractive and historic (Category B listed) station building is on the down (town) side of the station and now partly used as a museum. It was opened in 1847 by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway as temporary terminus of its Tayport branch, before the line was extended to Tayport in 1850 and then to Dundee when the first – and doomed -Tay Bridge opened in 1878.
Re-signalling is on the cards at Cupar, though not for some time. Under current plans the signal boxes here, at Leuchars (another outpost of semaphores) and at Tay Bridge South (no semaphores) will close in 2025, when control of the route will pass to the East Scotland Regional Operations Centre in Edinburgh.