19 August 2013
Andrew McIntyre of Kilsyth recalls the fun of rail travel in 1970s Scotland, from Sunday school trips to memorable journeys across the Forth Bridge. ...
What is it about railways and engines that evoke such feelings within folk? Is it an escape back to slower times and days gone by when we were growing up and it was always exciting to see a steam engine and its carriages puffing by? I'm still amazed at my grandkids when they play with trains that they still say 'choo-choo' and 'puff-puff', although in all probability they have never seen one in daily life.
Programmes like Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington keep the dream alive for our ever-sceptical youngsters. In the Sixties, steam engines were the highest of technologies, beautiful artisanship and design went into these leviathans of the track. Even their smell was intoxicating; anyone my age will remember that from Queen Street Station, St Enoch and Central Stations. Cathedrals of steel and glass filled with the smoke and noise of steam, more underworld than other world. Many of the stations have gone now, but are still remembered fondly.
Where I lived in Lambhill, near Possilpark, there was a railway station which still stands, rather dilapidated, and which evokes memories for me. This was the line from Queen Street that went along the west coast of Scotland, ending at Fort William. Our church in Knapdale Street, Lambhill Mission, held its annual Sunday school trip and used this station in Balmore Road as a departing point. On holiday at Cullen in the summer holidays, what a joy it was to see engines and trains puffing along the viaducts through Cullen on their way from Inverness to Aberdeen.
One of my most enduring railway trips occurred in 1971 when my girlfriend and I went on a touring holiday by train. We bought what was termed a 'rover' ticket that for a one-off payment gave you as many journeys as you wanted within a set period.
We boarded at Queen Street and went through to Edinburgh; from there we caught a local service to Dunbar. We found a b&b for an overnight stay then next morning after breakfast, we travelled back to Edinburgh and boarded a train to Aberdeen. After leaving Waverley station, we ventured north and it was amazing to travel over the Forth Bridge.
Trains and steam engines have given us so much joy and many memories that linger on in the mind. Go to a model railway exhibition and see in miniature what the Golden Age of Steam was like. I guarantee that this bug will bite you.
Read more railway memories and features about steam and diesel trains in bygone Scotland in the railway special edition of Scottish Memories magazine, available now.
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