IT was at the heart of Dalkeith railway station for almost 100 years, welcoming passengers in and out of the town with its signature sound.
But with the station’s closure in 1942, the brass bell that once had pride of place was taken down, never to be seen or heard again in Midlothian.
Now, detective work by the Dalkeith History Society has finally managed to track down the coveted relic – and will be returning it to its hometown next month.
Brian Scott, secretary of Dalkeith History Society, said he was “thrilled” that the 19th century bell will be back in Midlothian to mark the opening of the new Dalkeith Town Museum.
Brian said: “We are just so pleased and excited to be getting it back.
“It’s such a prominent part of our community and we are planning on polishing it up and then ringing it to mark the opening of Dalkeith’s new museum on May 25.
“We think it would have been sounded to mark departure of trains due to connect with the then Innocent Railway at Glenesk Junction, about half a mile out of Dalkeith station, which opened to traffic in 1838.
“We understand the bell was removed to a rail company office in Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place sometime after the facility closed to passenger traffic in 1942, before being transferred to the west of Scotland where it was in the storage at the Glasgow Transport Museum.”
Going back to the dawn of the steam age, it’s thought the bell was made at the instigation of coal and land magnate the fifth Duke of Buccleuch. He owned coal pits at Smeaton and Cowden, north-east of Dalkeith, and extended the railway line at his own expense to reach them.
The brass bell used to hang on the site of what is now a Morrison’s supermarket in Dalkeith.
Earlier this year, the Rotary Club of Dalkeith – which adopted Eskbank station – offered help to retrieve the bell after an unsuccessful effort was made by the history society.
They were joined in their efforts by the Scottish Government and Colin Beattie MSP.
Within a couple of weeks, Rotarians Roy Nimmo and Alistair McNeill, accompanied by Mr Scott, were on their way to the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre to view the item and discuss arrangements for its transfer to Midlothian on loan, where it will be displayed in the museum.
Roy Nimmo, president of the Rotary Club of Dalkeith, said: “This has been an unusual but absolutely vital service project undertaken by the Rotary.
“We are delighted to have been able to lend a hand on behalf of the community.”
The new Dalkeith Town Museum is set to open next month in the former Corn Exchange building.