Back in the day, I was a trainspotter, and that's what I call myself and people like me in this narrative. You won't find any loco/railway/steam/diesel enthusiasts, no locomotive club members/supporters/observers, no transportation/industrial archeology or architecture aficionados or fanciers. Because this was 1964 and binmen had not yet become sanitation engineers, 'consultants' were people on the dole, kids exhibiting symptoms of 'Attention Deficit Disorder' were called spoiled brats and their 'special needs' mothers and fathers were your basic clueless parents. Back in 1964, as far as I'm concerned we were all trainspotters. Unless our name was O.S. Nock, and then you were a closet trainspotter.
In the late summer of 1964 I had three good reasons to take a week in Scotland. Most of all I hoped to see, even travel behind, the gaggle of A4s reported to be working the Glasgow-Edinburgh three hour expresses. While I was up there I wanted to do a bit of last-chance branchline bagging - just about everything north, east and due west of Inverness was under Beeching threat. And lastly, I had to get my mind off a 17 year-old blonde bombshell with spectacular legs and a sexy way of eating chips, who had rejected me after an embarrassing date to see 'Hard Day's Night'. I'll spare you the details.
I bought a Scottish Railrover pass, valid from Carlisle north and good for just about anything, anytime. That, my box camera, my 1959 Ian Allan Combine, a Scottish Region Timetable and thirty bob was just about all I needed. I would essentially camp out on trains. The trick was to arrive at Carlisle Citadel the evening before my pass kicked in. Once there I'd walk around Citadel station until the stroke of midnight, no hardship whatsoever for a trainspotter, board the first train north with my freshly-valid Railrover, and the world was my oyster.
I left Chester mid-morning and changed at Crewe. It was the first time I had been on the West Coast main line north of Warrington. Staking out the front corner of the corridor of the first coach, I covered two hundred miles with my head out of the window listening to the tune of the 'Scot' just in front of me. By Preston my face was black with smuts, but we overfilled so badly at Dillicar troughs that I couldn't have avoided a free clock-wash if I'd tried. Half of our coach was flooded out and occupants of the first compartment fled for higher ground. I took their place to watch a westering sun lighting the fells around Shap with that long, evening glow that seems to me, in retrospect, to be the essence of a British summer. There was no motorway alongside us back then, just us threading the close-shaved hills. I knew this was going to be an epic week.
(Above-Below) From a trainspotting standpoint, there were stations close to nirvana and those good only for changing trains. And it's just to do with the type or amount of traffic passing through. Into the former category would fall Crewe, Doncaster and York for me. On the other hand I was always glad to get out of Carlisle in spite of the ceaseless, day or night, activity. Part of that may have been the constant wind through the station. But I think it was more to do with its general ambience. It always seemed to be depressing, workaday place that no number of engines, green, black red or pink, could enliven. In these two shots, 46239 City of Chester and and 45697 Achilles, both sporting the disfiguring yellow stripe of their last years, try to lend pizzazz to the place.
At Carlisle, steam punctuated the evening hours nicely: semies, jubs, scots, brits, pats, mickeys of course. Even a Clan - 'Clan Buchanan', or so I thought. It was only my second 'cop' of this class and looking like a first draft for a Brit. I watched it heading north on the bypass lines just west of Citadel and beyond the station lights. However, reader Ian McKellar has pointed out that 72000 was scrapped by this time, so it was perhaps 72008. Forty five years later, I have an un-cop! I am indebted to Ian for emailing me. Input is always welcome.
With all this steam around me I was feeling like a lush at a wine-tasting and by the time midnight rolled around I was starting to get a bit picky. There was no way I was going to journey north behind some common or garden Class 5, 6 or 7, still less a diesel. I could get my fill of that sort of stuff back in Chester. It was 8P or nothing. And lots of empty seats so I could spread out and catch a few winks if necessary. Between midnight and 2 a.m. there was a cavalcade of northbound expresses, sleepers from London, overnighters from Manchester, Birmingham, all behind diesels or the more mundane variety of steam engine, all packed to the gills with summer traffic. "City of Coventry" arrived at the head of a London sleeper but my Railrover excepted sleepers. A couple of mickey-hauled stopping trains showed up, but no thanks. Now I was tired desperately tired, cold too. This may have been August but it was August at 55 degrees north and long after midnight. Then 70051 "Firth of Forth" hissed to a halt at the head of a Perth express. Not exactly 8P but close enough and if there wasn't a single empty seat on the whole train, at least you could open the doors without someone falling out. I boarded and found a corridor window to crack open for the din of 70051 tackling Beattock. Then tiredness swamped me and I slumped shivering on my haversack in a drafty corner, praying for somebody to free up a seat. At last, at Carstairs a whole compartment emptied out. I sprawled full length along a bench seat that felt like a feather bed after the corridor gales and I went into an immediate deep sleep. How long I lay there I have no idea, but it was after 6 a.m. when my eyes opened to Perth's airy, sunlit platforms. Now I was really in Scotland.
Whenever you travel far to witness a fabled sight peculiar to a particular locale, you fear the reports have got it all wrong. They're exaggerated, long out of date. They've moved the artifacts into a museum; they shot the last grizzly 15 years ago; those birds are only seen in an irruption year; that glacier photo was taken thirty years ago, it's all shale now; the river disappeared when they built the dam. But for trainspotters Scotland in 1964 met or exceeded all expectations. I traveled as far north as Thurso, south as far as Stranraer: west to Kyle of Lochalsh and east to Aberdeen. I stood alongside Highland Railway "Jones Goods" 103 in Inverness. I experienced an A4 at 90 m.p.h., rode behind A3s, Semies, Prinnies, saw scads of A1s and the various permutations of A2. I was in nirvana. And I found an enduring love for the Scottish countryside.
What follows is a reconstruction from a none-too-sharp memory. But needs must. Originally, both trip report and photographs were detailed in an orange school exercise book, but that has long disappeared. In fact it wasn't until David Hey encouraged me to take a look through old negatives that I discovered the photographs were not lost forever. Text and photos are intended to describe the first, and best, of three trips to Scotland from 1964 to 1966. Bits and pieces of the second and third trips may have snuck in thanks to my less-than-perfect mental and physical filing systems. If my memory is ropey, so too are some of the pictures. My camera of the time was of very limited capability, one shutter speed and two apertures. I tried to pretend it was a Leica, but anything close and moving at greater than government-employee speed came out blurred. Between the two, my mind and my camera, details are none too sharp. So if any narrative or picture is inaccurate, you'll have to bear with me. In fact, if you can clear up any of those inaccuracies I would be very grateful. At more than 10,000 miles and forty years distance my own means of verification are limited.
I owe many thanks to David Hey, without whom these photos would have continued to languish forgotten in some envelope or drawer. Sorting through them was as exciting as "copping" the engines for the first time. I hope some of that excitement comes through on this page.
The Scottish Region timetable was our catechism. "We" means me and Chris, my summer co-worker on the refreshment trolleys at Chester General and as near as I've encountered to an uncertified lunatic. Chris lived life at Mach 3, and all for steam engines. He'd been chasing them around Ireland for a week and we had arranged to hook up in Stranraer, where I arrived on an unforgettable evening to watch the ferry draw in with - no kidding - the sound of bagpipes in the hills behind. He gave me a 150 decibel "Vicar!" coming off the boat. I always wondered why he called me this until years later I looked at old photos of myself, wearing black pants, black school blazer or black jerkin...With neither of us wanting to waste a second of our Railrover passes every spare minute was spent scouring the pages of our Scottish Region timetables like acolytes searching for enlightenment from a holy text, deciphering all the "Saturdays only"s and "Alternate Tuesdays July 14th to August 25th"s and "Cumbernauld only, first Sunday of the months"s. All through the following week we made connections by the skin our teeth, made connections that were not technically possible.
We HAD to do Haymarket sheds between a particular arrival and departure at Waverley and there was no way we could afford a taxi. We came up the steps out of Waverley like a double-headed "Royal Scot" storming Shap, coursed the streets of Edinburgh and did our "mice in a maze" act around Haymarket, one calling out the numbers, the other writing them down. I tried to take pictures but it was like photographing while matching moves with a whirling dervish.
(Above-Below) V2 60868. One of the few photos I managed while we were storming St Margarets. (Below) 60026 "Miles Beevor" with his gob open, either Haymarket or, more likely Ferryhill Shed.
We made it back to Waverley's Brobdingnagian stone staircase with under five minutes to go to and cascaded down. That was part of the fun, and continues to be, to this day, for me: making it by the skin of your teeth. I've also spent many long hours in airports, ferry and bus terminals, and on train stations, after watching the tail end of whatever means of transport I was aiming for, disappear.
It was somewhere around here that Chris lost his Book. He called it his Book, but it was more of a dossier, the size and consistency that lawyers carry into discovery hearings on things like aboriginal land claims and constitutional issues. Apparently it contained records of his trainspotting escapades back to the year dot, to when he first learned to say "Choo Choo," for all I know. Anyway, its loss was no laughing matter. During one of our frantic connections it had stayed on a train that we vacated. Somehow or other he worked out that it had gone on to Edinburgh while we went elsewhere, and now he was going after it. We would split. Like Seigfried or some other Wagnerian character, he was off to retrieve his love and I was continuing up the Rhine. I wanted to take a look at those threatened branch lines.
(Above) 60528 Tudor Minstrel gets under way from Stirling with an early evening train for Glasgow.
JOURNEY TO THE ENDS OF RAILWAY EARTH
Based at Inverness I had three rail goals: to take trains to Thurso, Kyle of Lochalsh and to do a circuit via Forres, Elgin, Craigellachie and Boat of Garten. Three separate days and they took me far from my beloved steam engines because it was nearly all diesel up there. But it was here that I found a lasting love for Scotland. After traveling through a soft, rosy evening up to Inverness, I woke next morning to Noah's deluge. What do you expect, I can hear Billy Connolly say, this is Scotland! H.R. 103 was huffing around Inverness station, an unlikely yellow against wet monochrome, looking like a bird of paradise on a slagheap. I've been back to Inverness many times since and can attest to its attractions. But this was not the best introduction. Through my Elgin circuit the deluge continued, the hills of Cromdale lost in mist. It was like going through a carwash. Sounds, rather than sights, defined the journey: the call of the Stationmaster at Forres, "Forrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrres!" - the correct pronunciation of Craigellachie from the Stationmaster there; the omnipresent panting of the Type 2 Brush at our head, a sound I came to associate with Highland rail travel.
Thankfully the weather cleared for my trips up to Thurso and over to Kyle of Lochalsh. The line to Thurso more or less followed the coast as far north as Helmsdale then took a sharp turn west into moorland, miles of boulder and wind-ruffled grass or heather. Big sky. Lonely country. Lonely on the train too. It was hardly difficult to find a compartment to yourself. Sad, but you could see why this line was under the gun.
Out to Kyle of Lochalsh was very different country, green and pastoral in the valleys, trees and gardens along the way, peaks and ridges in the distance. And then the distinct tang of ocean at Kyle, ferries lazing over to the blue hills of Skye, more Type 2s panting in station sidings. The whole journey, travel and destination, was a gentle dream. Regardless of whether the line stayed open, I knew I would be back there, again and again. But I wanted to get back to steam.
(Above Right) A bedraggled canary. H.R. 103 "Jones Goods" weathering a little Scotch Mist at Inverness.
(Above-Below) The Orcadian stands ready to leave Inverness for Thurso. A neat little headboard for a neat little train, unsullied by paying passengers unfortunately. (Right) My thanks to Ian C for identifying the bay platform at Georgemas Junction, occupied by a BRCW Type 2.
STEAM TIL YOU PUKE
It was a steam madhouse in Scotland in 1964, from Aberdeen south anyway. A1s, 2s, 3s and V2s worked Aberdeen to Edinburgh via Dundee over the old North British route, while the Caledonian lines were a free-for-all with every kind and class of east and west coast steam rubbing shoulders. There were J36s, some looking a bit beaten-up in shed sidings but a few still in action. Dinosaurs they seemed to me at the time, a class introduced in 1888 and looking it. Grannies. Today I reflect: in the year I saw them they were less than 15 years older than I am today. Spring chickens.
(Above-Below) Two pictures of J38s at Alloa. 65903 takes a coal train through the station, and 65917 takes a break. I found ex-LNER goods engines fascinating after the steady diet of Stanier 8Fs we were used to on the LMR. Alloa looked like the perfect prototype for a model railway layout.
(Above-Below) What a difference a couple of years makes. Looking very much ready for a swish evening out, J36 65234 is being prepared outside St. Margaret's shed, Edinburgh in 1964. A couple of years later it was providing stationary boiler service at the same shed.
(Below) Elsewhere in this article I make a snide comment about V2s, but in all honesty I enjoyed riding behind them more than any other engine. They could go if they and their crew felt like it and nothing matched the sound of a V2 being thrashed, an art-rock drum solo belting out from that whiplash single-chimney exhaust in syncopated time. 60919 starts out of Larbert in a hurry. In retrospect, the Scots drivers knew the line between Glasgow and Aberdeen was full of spotters and timers, and lost no opportunity to give us a good run for our money. Acceleration out of the smaller stations was often breathtaking.
(Above) Distinguishing between photos taken in 1964 and those taken in the next two years has not been as difficult as I'd expected. So many engines were beautifully turned-out the first time I went up to Scotland, especially the Gresley Pacifics. I hadn't realized the difference until I looked through my negative pile. Aside from the ghastly yellow cab stripe ("Unclean! Unclean!") even the few remaining A4s were grungy by 1966 and that's not just nostalgia talking. 60031 Golden Plover at the head of the afternoon Aberdeen-Glasgow 3-hour express, taking water at Perth. The yellow cab stripe and state of the engine identify this as a post-1964 picture. Contrast with two 1964 photos of 60532 "Blue Peter" at Perth and Dundee sheds.
(Above) 60532 "Blue Peter" was a handsome engine the first time I saw him, he looked like a dockside tart by 1966 with silver paint splashed all over and a garish blue background to the nameplate. All a matter of taste, I suppose. Judging from what I read in the "railway enthusiasts" press, I may be the only person on the planet who preferred the A3s with jerry blinkers. And I also thought Diana Rigg was far sexier than Ursulla Andress.
THREE HOUR RACETRACK
The official line, the one you got in contemporary "Railway Magazine" and "Railway World" editions, was that Scottish Region had tagged a group of A4s surplus to East Coast Main Line requirements to cope with the sharp point-to-point timings of the accelerated Glasgow-Aberdeen expresses. We trainspotters, conspiracy theorists all, know the real reason. On any summer weekend through the 1950s and into the first years of the 60s, about a billion kids spread through the British Rail system, a huge proportion to places like Crewe and Doncaster, trainspotting. Any marketing expert will tell you that as a kid reaches his late teens and early twenties he becomes a prime marketing target. He (sorry ladies, but I can't recall a single one of you amongst our ranks) has started to earn money and it burns in his pocket. Tragically the transition of those juvenile billions into their earning years coincided with the mass-scrapping of steam engines and some waning of enthusiasm in the ranks of those reared on the perfume of hot steam mingled with oil, grease and coal.
(Left) An A4 heading south out of Perth. Hopefully this is 60031 "Golden Plover", which was very active the week I was there but seems to have eluded my camera in 1964, or at least the shots that came out.
In the past forty years I've sat in countless meetings considering problems like this: revenue and cost graphs both misbehaving, a whole section of the populace out there just begging to be relieved of their cash, bright ideas as to how to help them at a premium. Long faces all round.
Some marketing guru up there in Scottish Region hit the jackpot. Grab a handful of the most famous steam locomotives in Britain, if not the world, attach them to trains that in terms of weight and timings, if not distance, emulate the pre-war glory years of the LNER, stand back and watch all those nouveaux-Rothschilds flock north. Sound a bit far-fetched to you? Then answer me this: why was the timetable so designed that a person could spend the entire day, from seven in the morning to eight-thirty at night, bouncing backwards and forwards between Aberdeen and Glasgow with just enough time at either end to bonk a shed, update a Combine or grab a Gala Pie? Your average, non-trainspotting, traveling Joe has no need to connect neatly at one end so that he can return to whence he came and do the same in the afternoon, right? I rest my case.
(Right) Maybe it's just coincidence, but I've never seen a picture of 60024 "Kingfisher" looking less than immaculate. Like those kids you used to know who could play football in the street for four hours and go home without a hair out of place. When I posted this page on the web I asked if anyone knew the identity of the station. Mystery solved! Ian McKellar has identified the location as Larbert station. 60024 is standing at the north end with a down Glasgow-Aberdeen express.
(Below) The engine named after the country that was to become my home. At Larbert, spotters chat to the driver of 60010 Dominion of Canada while two prim Scots ladies eye engine and admirers dispassionately from the opposite platform. Too bad the engine looks like a rapscallion, one of the few Gresley Pacifics working in Scotland in that condition in 1964.
For those new to the details and those who have forgotten them: there were, if I recall correctly, six of these trains per day, three from either end. Over the few years of their operation the timetable may have shifted slightly but departure times were roughly 7.15, 13.30 and 17.15, running time approximately three hours, with stops at (going south) Stonehaven, Forfar, Perth and Stirling. Timings were tight: 19 minutes out to Stonehaven (16.1 miles), 43 minutes Stonehaven to Forfar (41.2 miles with a 5 mile climb to Carmont Summit at 1 in 102 from a standing start), 31 minutes Forfar to Perth (32.5 miles), 35 minutes Perth to Stirling (33 miles with 6 miles at 1 in 100 Dunning to Gleaneagles), 52 minutes Stirling to Glasgow. Train composition was generally around 6-7 coaches, 210 to 265 tons full, but could get up to 8 packed coaches in summer.
Speeds in excess of 80 mph were common, particularly coming down the bank north from Gleneagles, 18 miles north of Perth around Ardler, and coming south from Carmont Summit. We once topped 90 around Auchterarder behind 60009 "Union of South Africa" on the northbound evening train out of Buchanan Street, coaches rocking and at one point a large chunk of coal glancing off the side of the side of our carriage. Heaven. There were three timers on this particular train so the speed was verified. They were gaunt men a little older than the average spotter, dressed like junior schoolmasters or lab technicians out of overalls. Wide-eyed, they compared notes and watches at Perth. It may have been the happiest day of their lives and it has a special place in my memory bank too. Six-thirty or so on a late summer's evening, the sun sinking to our left throwing gold on rolling Perthshire hills, the coach swaying, the A4's exhaust a continuous purr... Fortunately, we're never given the option of trading in future years to revisit one special moment, otherwise I'd have been in an urn on my wife's dressing table for the past decade.
(Above) In charge of the afternoon up 3-hour express from Aberdeen, the crew of 60034 Lord Faringdon climb back on board after a short break at Perth before starting out for Glasgow.
Speed down a bank is one thing, but it was acceleration from a standing start that brought a flush to this trainspotter's smutty cheeks. Coming out of Stonehaven the exhaust crackled off lineside embankments and buildings while Glasgow-bound businessmen and shoppers dozed over their morning papers. That was the special thrill of riding behind such steam in those days. You were transported into a state completely alien to ninety-nine percent of those around you, like being stoned or listening to music in the company of tone-deaf people. There is a drama taking place and you are the private, solitary audience. And that, to me at least, is why the feeling is beyond duplication today. Riding steam specials is a totally different experience.
(Right) Cabbed it. Fireman's view from the cab of 60006 "Sir Ralph Wedgewood", at the end of the line. Ferryhill Shed scrap siding.
In 1964 the Scottish A4s were generally in spic and span condition. Those operating, that is. I went up to Aberdeen before I'd had chance to see any of them in action. There, in the shed, were 60006 "Sir Ralph Wedgewood" and 60004 "William Whitelaw" with that cadaverous look engines have when they've dropped their last fire, dirty, tenderless, every sign of last rites bar the chimney shroud. I wondered if I had arrived too late. Maybe the A4s had just been replaced by diesels a week of so before I got there. 60019 "Bittern" and 60026 "Miles Beevor" were also on shed, looking spic and span but dead. I need not have worried. To my knowledge 60006 never did run again but 60019 is of course a whole other story, and there were more than enough A4s alive and kicking elsewhere. Nevertheless, it was the low point of the whole trip. A cold steam engine is like a human corpse, all outward visible signs intact but the essential part, the part that generates all association missing.
Yo-yoing the line day after day it was inevitable that you got to know some of the drivers. Or Chris did anyway. He would talk to anybody any time, anywhere, regardless of whether they were listening. Driver Jardine was our hero. Perhaps he wouldn't measure up where the professional compilers of engine performance are concerned because there wasn't much fancy about him. He just ran the bejaysus out of his engines. His fireman used a unique oversized shovel to keep up with him. Jardine had his engines scudding out of stations like scalded cats and climbing banks like antelopes. Yet he never, in my experience, slipped a wheel. Later in the week we came across him in charge of a Black 5 on a light stopping train. After chatting to him at Gleneagles, telling him what a lad he was, he put on a show for us and wound the Mickey up to 80 and back down again before our next stop which may have been Greenloaning, less than seven miles away. My memory is hazy here but I know it was the most violent acceleration and deceleration I have ever experienced behind any engine, steam, diesel or electric. It seems to me that had the sleepy-heads at BR discovered the secret of Jardine's fireman's shovel, and been able to read "Duke of Gloucester"'s blueprints correctly, dieselisation would have been put back twenty years. For the record, Jardine was also in charge of the A4 that gave us our 90-plus. He's long-retired so nobody can nail him for it.
We ran across the same people, day after day, between Glasgow and Aberdeen, and it was on the evening up express that Chris and I reconnected after the Quest for the Lost Book and my return from Inverness. I was sitting in a packed, sunlit and silent compartment on the afternoon up train south of Perth, when the door flew open and a voice screamed, "Vicar!" No gale-swept Grimes bursting wild-haired in to The Boar could have made greater impact. Except nobody yelled, "Mind that door!" In fact nobody said anything. They were civilized people. They acted as if he wasn't there and he did the same. It was an arrangement that suited both. Pausing only to empty his nose into a towel that looked as if it had been used to wipe off coupling rods on a coal train, Chris unleashed a torrent of words that matched the sound of the A4's exhaust just in front of us. Out came a saga of the scouring of individual trains, of entire carriage sidings in Edinburgh, encounters with railwaymen villainous and sympathetic, sleepless nights, triumphant success - he brandished The Book - no detail was left out. But he was knackered, although you would never have guessed it from volume of his voice and his actions, swinging his arms about like some repertory actor delivering "Once more into the breach". He insisted we get out at Stirling and overnight at the youth hostel. Tired myself and glad to see Chris again, I agreed.
As we climbed through Stirling's streets he was almost staggering, so physically drained. I couldn't stop laughing. "The Big Noise from Bebbington" as we used to call him back at Chester General, had run out of steam. I put my hands against his haversack and pushed him up the hill. "Double-headed vicar," he breathed.
Over the coming years our paths continued to separate and recross. I assumed they always would. But then they split finally, though we had no way of knowing that at the time. Some years later I saw, in one of those columns with titles like 'Motive Power Miscellany', that somebody named Chris had sent in a report of certain locomotive goings-on in Rock Ferry, not far from his home. I wondered if it was him and I realized, as I do now, how much I miss him. But maybe that's the way it should be with childhood friends. We should know them only before life gets a chance to beat them up and turn them, like the rest of us, into pale reflections of what they were, into clones of everybody else. Like Marilyn Monroe, the only image we should retain in our minds is one that locks them at their peak.
(Above) Doin' that thing they do. 72008 "Clan Macleod" just about ruptures himself trying to get a light train under way out of Forfar. I can't recall ever seeing a "Clan" move more than 10 yards without slipping. At the same time though, the Scottish Region drivers did not believe in babying their engines from a standing start.
(Below) One of my very few pictures on which Chris appears. Background right, he is engaging a railway employee in earnest, man-to-man exchanges. The stance is unmistakable, firm-set, face six inches from yours. Don't let the jacket and tie fool you. Jacket pockets would be bulging like a squirrel's cheeks, tie would be like dried kelp. It is early morning, Bay Platform 2 at Dundee Tay Bridge station. 60919 followed us everywhere with that syncopated beat peculiar to V2s.
(Above-Below) Some time during the week, later on I think, we must have done St. Margarets shed and taken in Carstairs shed on the way back to Buchanan Street, because I have several pictures taken at both places on the same day. Here is a kind of birth and death sequence. First of all, Clayton Type 1s (BR Class 17) looking rather just-out-of-the-wrapper. Reputed to be the least successful diesel loco ever used by BR, one of them has been preserved. They were different, I'll say that for them. And here is A2/3 60512 Steady Aim looking anything but steady, minus its front drivers. It looks ready for the scrapyard but actually lasted another 9 months, the equally unkempt-looking Royal Scot behind it, 46140, being withdrawn four months later in October of 1962.
(Below) 60009 "Union of South Africa" looking very film-starry at Stirling. It was a thrill to be privy to such beauty while everybody else (almost) was climbing on and off the train as if it was transportation or something.
GASTRONOMY AND TRAINSPOTTING
Right now, phobic about weighscales, I'm trying to imagine my way back to 1964, a time when I ate only to stave off starvation. Not even then, that August, because the Siren of the Chipshop had dampened my appetite. When not going frantic over steam engines, I pined.
Sooner or later though, even the lovelorn have to eat, and the staple of every trainspotter's diet in 1964 was the Gala Fruit Pie. It was essentially sugar in three forms: disguised as fruit, disguised as pastry, and sprinkled on top. Titles such as "Strawberry", "Raspberry" and I believe "Gooseberry" appeared on the boxes but only to identify the colour of the filling - red, darker red or green. They tasted exactly the same. Still, they were available in every train station buffet, stopped your stomach from growling, and have been putting dentists in BMWs ever since.
Gala Fruit Pies and lovesickness notwithstanding, we found two spots to titillate the most jaded appetite in Scotland. One was the railwayman's cafeteria at Perth station. It was hidden in an alcove out of sight of the general public and intended for railway employees, but they didn't object to Chris and me eating there. We probably spent more time on railway property than any two railwaymen. Food was ten times better than that served up in the public buffet, and a third of the price. Delicious, oven-fresh floury baps, sergeant-major tea, beautifully-prepared bacon and eggs, it was the first time but by no means the last that I found myself wondering if there was a culinary tradition that had vanished from, or bypassed, England. Now the answer seems obvious: all that carrying-on between the Scots and the French, way back.
(Right-Below) There goes the neighbourhood. I think it's an A2 and I think it's 60532 "Blue Peter". Whatever it is it's getting baleful looks from an English Electric Type 1, looking like it's trying to pass as a steam locomotive, and a North British Type 2 looking like an EE Type 4 after a head-on. Location is Buchanan Street. (Below) V2 60819 at Aberdeen with a train for Edinburgh.
The second culinary highspot was a café on the waterfront in Aberdeen. We had arrived at the station very late on a rainy evening and had no intention of looking for a bed, intending to take a 6 a.m. train back south at least as far as Dundee, anticipating A1 or A2 motive power. Plan was to climb aboard the minute they backed the empty stock into our platform and catch a couple of hours' sleep. But meanwhile we had hours to kill and Aberdeen station wasn't exactly throbbing with activity in the dead of night. Somebody gave us the name of a café favoured by Aberdeen's fishermen that served breakfast at three in the morning. Better than sitting on a wet windy platform bench. As it turns out, far, far better. It was a breakfast fit for kings, lashings of bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, scones, tea, served in a steambath of a room full of hairy men in rain gear. They deserved that breakfast. Living as I do now on the west coast of Canada I have the greatest respect for deep-sea fishermen. Along with loggers they have the one of the most dangerous (legal) jobs on the planet. Chris and I felt sort of weedy, unmanly. But wait a minute, trainspotting back then was hardly netball either. Wedged into a corridor corner at eighty miles an hour with your head out the window fielding everything the engine couldn't digest or the tender hang onto; dodging through grease and puddles around a hundred-and-odd tons of static or not-so-static steel and fire with a maniacal shed foreman breathing down your neck; hanging over rusty-spear railings trying to pick out five numbers through a miasma of hot steam and gas; freezing to death on some wind-blasted platform head waiting for the appearance of a piece of machinery which, because it comes from 400 miles away, is worth the agony of martyrs, though you wouldn't cross the road to see an identical piece of machinery if it had come from the local sheds. No, we were hardy, us trainspotters. We belonged in that fisherman's café. We could have swapped stories with those guys.
They put a stinking V2 on the 6 a.m. to Edinburgh.
(Left) Once in a while a Black 5 or Standard 5 would show up on express duty, a huge letdown for us spotters but probably inconsequential to passengers, because the drivers would run them as if they were Gresley 8Ps anyway. Here I'm standing on the Brechin loop at Bridge of Dun as a Caprotti Standard 5 heads a southbound evening express, one of the few times I was able to capture a fast-moving train half-decently with my old camera. My thanks to David Hillier for identifying the location.
TIME GENTLEMAN PLEASE
All good things come to an end, and a Railrover Pass ended precisely at midnight seven days after it took effect. I knew my Cinderella. Not that a Semi with ten coaches hung on it would turn into a mice-hauled pumpkin at the stroke of twelve. But what WOULD happen, Murphy's Law being what it is, is that a ticket inspector would enter my coach at 12.01 and clip towards me Pacman-fashion while I turned to sweat. 160 hours into my 168 lifespan, I stepped up on my researches into the Scottish Region Timetable for a suitable way of getting back to Carlisle Citadel.
A man who has spent many recent hours behind A4s is not easy to please. He has acquired standards, a certain je ne sais quoi way of looking at the world, tastes that will brook no compromise. Fortunately I was able to find something likely to be pacific-hauled Carstairs south without leaving me halfway down Beattock at the stroke of twelve. I said goodbye to Chris, whose pass had another 48 hours to run, and headed for Carlisle. To be honest, I can't recall much about it except we had a Semi out of Carstairs. I was in an advanced state of combat fatigue and in no condition to moon around Citadel until the wee hours waiting for the right train south, but I did so to postpone end-of-holiday misery.
(Right) Time to go. Early morning at Carlisle Citadel with a Brit taking water.
Exit doors never look like entrances, and in the week since I was last there Carlisle had lost its magic. I was so tired I could sleep standing up and did so occasionally, leaning against a canopy pillar, half awake, half dreaming, opening my eyes at each train arrival, waiting for the right engine to take me to Crewe. My mind drifted back to my last ride of the week behind an A4, 60034 "Lord Faringdon" on a southbound evening semi-fast that we took from Perth to Gleneagles. A couple of other spotters got off at Gleneagles with us, one of them with a tape recorder, and we walked down the track a short way to record the departure. 60034 eased away with the low sun glowing on its casing, hardly a whiff from the chimney, exhaust precise but not urgent. As the train quickened south and then west, climbing almost literally into the sunset, the exhaust built in volume and tempo until it was a near-pulseless roar, growing fainter now, now coming at us in wind waves, almost gone, now gone. Nobody spoke. The tape recorder was switched off and only the crunching sound of ballast accompanied a reverential return to Gleneagles station.
(Below) Goodbye to my last A4 ride of the week. 60034 "Lord Faringdon" pulls away from Gleneagles with an evening train for Glasgow.
So now the dream was over and it was back to the mundane and my chip-eating scornful lovely. She continued to scorn and it took me the best part of a year to get over her. Today I cannot for the life of me remember her name nor recall her face. But I'll bet you I can reel off the names of all 34 A4s and put together a half-decent sketch of one down to the rivets. It takes a lifetime to discover where your love truly lies.
P.P.S. I enjoyed Scotland so much the first time I returned several times over the next few years. But the experience was increasingly watered down by the retreat of steam, closure of remote branch lines, and the general sensation that a heyday had come and gone. Photos from these later occasions are mostly easily identifiable. Engines are dirtier, have lost their nameplates, and suffered the indignity of that cabside yellow stripe. I had also lost touch with Chris and missed his company, that thrill-a-minute soap opera that was his daily life. The following pictures are a bitter-sweet coda to one of the happiest weeks of my life.
(Above) 72008 Clan Macleod pilots an unidentified A4 out of Perth. Either there was something very wrong with the A4 or else somebody in Scottish Region had a bizarre sense of humour. Rather like an old lady helping a boy scout across the road.
(Below) 60031 Golden Plover at Buchanan Street waiting to depart with the evening express to Aberdeen. I cannot recall the time of our usual arrival in Glasgow, from the north, to catch this train, but I do know that in 1964 it often involved a sprint from one side of the station to the other. Which is why, apart from the state of the engine, I know this is a picture from later years. With no Chris around in 65 and 66, I made saner connections and had time to take photographs.
(Below) But back in 1964, here's how it was. A beautifully turned out 60009 Union of South Africa starting the afternoon Aberdeen-Glasgow train out of Stirling.
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