The excitement of a steam train trip - Scottish nostalgia


09 May 2016
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Bill Findlay remembers the fun of travelling by steam train in 1940s Scotland.

Bill Findlay remembers the fun of travelling by steam train in 1940s Scotland.

I have many happy memories, including my early days when I’d tell friends that my father was a millionaire; this despite the fact that we lived in a council house. A little later I had to tell them that the word I should have used was millwright and that he worked in Cowlairs locomotive works in Springburn.

As a railway employee, my father and his family were entitled to rail travel at a considerably reduced cost. We made use of this when going on holiday. My earliest holiday memories are of travelling to Clyde coast resorts, generally from St Enloch’s Station in Glasgow. When I was eight years old, however, our holiday destination became Anstruther.

Fife coast trains departed from Queen Street station. There were lengthy queues and the carriages were always crowded. This was the 1940s and any complaints would be met with ‘Don’t you know there’s a war on?’ We always managed to get seats together, though never a carriage to ourselves but this didn’t matter greatly as people talked to one another more in those days and on at least one occasion, a lasting friendship was made with another family travelling to the same destination.

THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS

Back at Queen Street, my father could explain the reasons for the various noises made by the train and engine as departure time approached. There was the clunk of the brake being applied and the engine chuffed several times due to the wheels slipping as we moved slowly forward. The train entered the tunnel, which sloped upwards from the station. It seemed to take ages before we emerged and moved slowly along the track towards Cowlairs with its vast network of rail tracks and workshops.

Soon we were passing through Bishopbriggs, where we lived, and I was able to wave to my house, which stood on high ground about half a mile from the station. Thereafter, as far as I was concerned, we were in unknown territory. My parents made sure that I had a window seat and did their best to answer my many questions about the towns and villages that we passed through.

I found the journey most enjoyable and I never remember asking ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ All the little towns and fishing villages were fascinating.

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(Image copyright Tuck DB Postcards)