Levenmouth rail campaigner Eugene Clarke is a glass half full kind of person.
We caught up with the 72-year-old, now a local Lib Dem councillor, at the site of the new rail route to Leven under construction.
Now set to open in 2024, there was a time when some thought the £116 million project pie in the sky.
Eugene is a season ticket holder at his beloved East Fife FC.
“I call it the pie stall test,” he says.
“At the start of the campaign, I’d go to the pie stall and people would be taking the mick.
“They’d say, ‘did you come here by your train?'”
Eugene tells us how the rail link now under construction brings optimism to Levenmouth amid a bleak economic outlook.
And he admits he was once so demoralised with the campaign, he even thought about walking away.
How did it all start?
Eugene joined the Levenmouth Rail Campaign about a decade ago.
But that was not the start of calls to reinstate the rail line from Thornton to Leven, which carried its last freight in 1966, and passengers in 1969.
A transport pressure group highlighted the potential benefits in 1991.
And former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish, who was a local MP at the time, made renewed calls in 1996.
In 2008, local SNP MSP Tricia Marwick raised the issue in Parliament.
It was an issue that united politicians from all the major political parties – something that might seem like a miracle in today’s climate.
But the same year the Scottish Government’s strategic transport review ruled out the project.
A few years later, Eugene found himself standing at some roadworks in Methil.
“I saw a poster advertising a meeting to get the railway line back.
“I went along and found myself chairing it.”
Levenmouth Rail Campaign was officially launched in 2014.
Eugene remained chairperson until last year, when he stepped down to focus on local politics.
A community unites
“Without the support of the local community, it wouldn’t have succeeded,” says Eugene.
“And things didn’t happen by accident.”
The campaign, led by a dedicated committee of around 15 people, kept a “bank” of parliamentary questions to help local MSPs keep the issue alive at the Scottish Parliament.
“If they drew lucky and got the chance to ask a question at Holyrood they could get in touch with us.”
He adds: “Something I’m proud about is we managed to keep all the different political parties behind us without falling out, which was pretty good.
“We had a united front supporting it throughout.
“We would go out and set up a wee stall on the High Street or the prom, and just talk and listen to folk.
“The response of people there which was 99.9% positive that kept us going.”
So why did he nearly pack it all in?
In 2017, local SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth, who is now Scotland’s transport minister, called a debate to discuss the link.
“We all attended. There were buses going through.
“We all thought the then transport secretary Humza Yousaf was giving the go-ahead.
“Then when we read the official transcript the following morning, here he hadn’t.”
He admits: “I was very close to packing it up.”
But the momentum of the other campaigners, and his pals at the pie stall, kept him going.
And in August 2019, Levenmouth finally heard the news it had been waiting for.
The rail line was happening.
What next for Levenmouth now the rail link is happening?
Eugene is now focusing on his role as a councillor for Leven, Kennoway and Largo.
Born in Stenhousemuir, he moved to Fife to teach English at the now closed Buckhaven High School in 1972. But he was only a teacher for a couple of years.
“I realised teaching kids wasn’t really my forte,” he says.
He went on to set up a consultancy, helping businesses with things like running meetings and presentations.
And East Fife FC, where he helped set up the supporters’ trust, remains a big part of his life.
“My mum and dad said if you’re not happy about something you should try to change it.
“You can’t just moan, you’ve got to do something.”
Meanwhile, Allen Armstrong has taken over as chairperson at Levenmouth Rail Campaign.
Eugene says: “Eventually, the reason we were successful was, with the help of the community, we were able to convince Transport Scotland and everyone else involved that this wasn’t just about transport.
“This is a fantastic chance for Levenmouth to reinvent itself – to be a place that people want to come to for leisure or for sport, or for shopping.
“And I know that will sound daft in the current circumstances.
“At the same time, I genuinely believe it can happen.”