Posted in Railways on Sunday 8th February 2009 at 10:44pm
I woke to a freezing, but dry and snowless scene in Glasgow. I'd been contemplating how best to get to Edinburgh for today's trip for some time, and had even gone as far as booking a cheap seat on the 06:30 National Express bus from Buchanan Street. However, with the tour retimed a little later, and knowing that a fair number of us cranks were planning to catch the first train from Queen Street at 07:50, I opted to do this too. Because of my far too early start, I arrived at Queen Street just as the station was opening. Thankfully the coffee stall was already up and running, and I could at least warm my hand whilst waiting to see which of the stabled units would form the train. The crowds seemed to grow rather steadily, and some familiar faces arrived as with a tap on the shoulder I was advised "it's a long way from Bristol". As soon as the train was called, made a dash for the front and found a seat in First Class with a few other cranks and one or two Sunday morning commuters. The train seemed very full with even a few early rugby fans on board! Arrived pretty much on time at Waverley and immediately found breakfast before heading for platform 11 where the tour was due to depart. We waited for what seemed an age in the biting wind, with no apparent reason for the delay. Eventually the stock rolled in around ten minutes late. With no heating on yet, we shivered through the first part of the trip - but once we got moving things soon improved. All was not well though, as we sped past Portobello Junction where we were due to reverse at a fair pace. An announcement soon confirmed trouble - overrunning engineering works and an emergency possession at Whifflet meant some changes. However, despite overshooting Portobello, we'd soon be heading back to Powderhall.
Even this was not without problems. It seems that as late as Wednesday, DBS staff were refusing to take the train down the branch due to the state of the foliage. A long running dispute between DBS and Network Rail about who should clear this section of line was being fought, and we were stuck in the middle of it. Thanks to some persuasion and reassurance from the Train Manager we progressed gingerly down the branch towards the waste terminal, but stopped at the site of Easter Road station, short of where the Network Rail limit was believed to be. A disappointment, but still an interesting insight into the former lines in this area. Another reversal and off at speed on the mainline again, this time to call at North Berwick, and a chance for a quick photocall.
Off again towards Edinburgh, passing the loop at Drem where the Alloa Alloer had come to grief last year. No paperwork problems this time however, as we curved away from the mainline at Monktonhall Junction and proceeded into Millerhill Sorting Sidings. The next set of manoeuvres was complicated and much discussion went on about the order of play according to timings. In simple terms we firstly reversed around the curve onto the former Bilston Glen colliery line, and followed this line to its current limit. Then we moved forward, taking the eastern chord back towards Monktonhall before reversing again back into Millerhill Yard. Thus we covered all three sides of the triangle, getting a view of the stub of the former Waverley route to Carlisle and the pair of 37s stored at the back of Millerhill into the bargain. Slightly dizzy after this session of reversals and traversals, we headed back via Newcraighall towards the mainline, immediately branching towards Leith. More trouble befell us here though - not so much of a physical issue with limits this time as a territorial one. Network Rails, DBS and the Forth Port Authority couldn't seem to agree where the limit actually was. In the end, we stopped at Seafield crossing, a little short of Leith South. Another disappointment, and also a very early departure. This meant retreating along the Edinburgh Suburban line for a short distance to await out slot in the station. Eventually, after a long fester in the middle of nowhere, we arrived at Waverley for a brief break.
Setting off after a quick lunch and a chance for photographs, we sped along the E&G route towards Falkirk, since the emergency possession prevented us from maintaining our booked route via Coatbridge. This was also a disappointment, just because I find any chance to traverse the knot of lines around Glasgow intriguing. Finally reversed at the desolate and abandoned Cadder Yard in the beginnings of a snow storm. Soon retracing our steps to Greenhill Junction, where we were surprised to see the lines to Falkirk Grahamston falling away to our left. We made a fairly sharp stop, and the driver disappeared to the signalpost telephone. Eventually he was seen practically jogging back down the train to the rear loco. As he passed us he muttered "they didn't say which bloody Falkirk". After a swift reversal, using an unusual crossover in both directions, we finally found our way to Grangemouth Junction. This branch worked out a little better, with the train making it right to the NR limit and giving us a chance to see the fair number of DRS locos sitting at W H Malcolm's depot, at last a good result on one of today's obscure branches!
In failing light and gathering snow clouds we departed for the last bit of unusual track of the day. This took us via Stirling, passing Alloa to Dunfermline. I've covered this track previously in the opposite direction, and even visited again to do the short spur into the new Alloa station, so all was familiar. Interesting to see the rather brooding presence of Longannet Power Station in the dark though, and the bonus was running past Dunfermline and into the rarely used Townhill Loop for our final reversal. From here, it was a straightforward dash back to Edinburgh via the Forth Bridge. Had the rare chance to stand at an open window, cold air blasting in as I was simply awed by the structure over which we were passing. An unusual view an iconic bridge, and a great way to end a strange and occasionally frustrating tour around these branches.
My day of rare track wasn't over though, and after seeing off a couple of colleagues, I made my way to the platform to wait for the 20:12 to Glasgow Central. I could have caught a couple of earlier trains back west, but aside from being rather full of the stragglers from the rugby match, they were not booked by the route which my intended train took. Having spotted a discussion about this on the GENsheet list last week, I decided to check if this train really did use the rare connection south of Newton station as shown in PSUL. This was one of very few minor bits of track I haven't done before in Glasgow, and sure enough after a long and rather slow journey through the snowy landscape at Carstairs, we bumped and shuddered over the crossing and passed through Newton station platforms, before curving away to travel via Kinghill and to join the Cathcart Circle at Mount Florida. Another bit of line covered successfully, and an interesting end to a strange day. Rewarded myself with a visit to the Kings House for a Chinese buffet to round off a cracking day out overall. Here's to the next Scottish tour, which all being well isn't so far away!
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.