The Fellowship History Series: Railroads and Diversity

This significant historical event is brought to you by the Fellowship of St Andrews. Each fortnight, Owl Eyes will bring you their re-telling of a lesser-known event in St Andrews history. 

 
Sometimes we find that the most influential landmarks in history slip past our vision, despite their impact in even our most obvious surroundings. For example, does the 29th June 1852 ring a bell? Let’s face it… probably not.
 
It was on this day that the railway tracks between Leuchars, Guardbridge and St Andrews were completed. Fascinating, right? Actually, it should be. Think about it. As students of St Andrews, most of us will have gone to the Leuchars railway station, dragging our suitcases up and down those all too familiar blue metal ramps a countless number of times over the course of our study.  From an outsider’s perspective, St Andrews is a small, some would even say remote, coastal town in Fife.  While its history shows that St Andrews does indeed stand as a noteworthy religious pilgrimage site, not to mention a legendary location for golfing, it is also important to reflect on one other thing that makes this town and university so distinctly unique: the diversity that it offers. In the university alone we have student representation from an estimated number of 130 nations around the world.  For any town, let alone one with only three main streets, this is an outlandishly impressive figure in terms of multi-cultural representation.  
 
 
Winston Churchill waiting at the St Andrews station, 1940. 
 
Railroad expansion contributes to a number of benefits, one of them being greater possible travel distances. This is clearly exhibited by the expansion of the Fife railroads that serves to connect larger cities (such as Edinburgh) to the smaller surrounding towns (such as St Andrews), which in turn allows for an increase in both efficiency and accessibility of travel for mass numbers of people (such as yourself).  For this reason, it is reasonable to say that this particular achievement in history on the 29th June 1852 has made a pretty big difference to all of us, in that it has enabled us to have the amazing experience of meeting and making friends with fellow students and community members from around the globe.
 
 
Class J37 No 64569 photographed during the RCTS Fife Coast railtour, 1965. 
 
 
Exact modern day location of previous photograph, 2005.
 
The diversity of St Andrews is certainly something to be embraced. There are so many unique and personal opportunities to delve into learning pieces of a foreign culture that you may not otherwise have ever experienced. People of St Andrews (POSA) is a student-directed project that uses photography to illustrate the major premise that St Andrews is a widely diverse and multicultural town. The concept is bare-bones-basic: the two students leading the project walk around St Andrews and introduce themselves to random individuals around town—students, visitors and community residents alike.  Upon learning where that particular person is from and going into a discussion to learn a bit more about the individual, a picture of him or her is taken and posted to the POSA Facebook page. These photos collectively reflect the diversity that St Andrews offers from a more personal perspective. 
 
It is remarkable how one event, particularly one that most of us have likely never given too much consideration to, could contribute to so many great subsequent actions and could open such incredible opportunities to students and individuals across the world.  Just give it some thought—how has the Scottish railroad expansion impacted you?
 
Images courtesy of George W. Robin and Colin Miller. Churchill image by unknown local photographer, from personal collection of Kay Castle. Compiled and edited by Kerri Pandjaitan. 

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