Monday, 30 May 2016

North East Railtours, Fort William, Scotland

It's been a while since I posted due to life and further adventures in Scotland and as I have been majoring on these parts for some time, some readers will be pleased to know that I will be posting from south of the border from the next blog onwards. If anyone wants to see anything in particular please feel to comment.
North East Railtours (formerly Whitley Bay Horticultural Society) have been running day charter rail tours around the UK for as long as I can remember from railway stations in the North East of England. Charter (or special) trains need to fit in around the timetabled services with the routes and timings having to be painstakingly worked out, particularly on scenic remote lines such as The West Highland Line (shown above). Many of the outpost or picturesque lines are made up of single track and passing places where if a locomotive fails, most of the services on that day suffer passenger delays.
As a background to this post, there have been issues with The West Coast Railway Company (WCRC) that own the railway engines used for these trains. A driver of a WCRC steam train failed to stop at a warning signal in Wootten Bassett, Wiltshire last year and as a result the licence to operate was withdrawn from the company. It was the intention of Network Rail who withdrew the licence, to ensure the safe operation of future outings with a view to renewing it as soon as feasibly possible. As a result, the proposed tour in May 2015 was cancelled at short notice and the renewal of the license earlier in 2016 did not allow enough marketing time to repeat the trip this year. Provisional timings that the operator received for this outing were ridiculously early in the morning and with the lack of uncharted territory generally elsewhere, it was decided to combine their efforts alongside the Scottish Railway Preservation society (SRPS) in fewer outings mainly to English destinations.

Corridor train  GJC_011727

As the SRPS already run numerous tours from various starting points in Scotland, it seems unlikely that this day trip will ever run again. This set of photos is a nostalgic look back at the May 2013 event. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great and as a result the image quality suffers too, apologies for that as I have so many great images taken from the train window on previous occasions.

Alnmouth Sunrise  GJC_011700

The day began very early in the morning with the sun rising over the Northumbrian coastal town of Alnmouth.

Breakfast  GJC_011705

Breakfast is a sterling effort cooked on the train and served in mass catering style near Edinburgh.

Heather  GJC_011709

On passing Glasgow the train follows the north side of the River Clyde and on reaching Helensburgh, the railway line is known as The West Highland Line.

West Highland Line architecture  GJC_011710

The stations have a country feel with unique West Highland Line architecture.

Station building  GJC_011721


The landscape becomes more scenic eventually turning to remote and desolate moorland. It is usually uncommon but always advisable to watch for wildlife such as deer.

Duncansburgh Mackintosh Parish Church  GJC_011733

On arrival in Fort William, the clouds were very low as seen behind Duncansburgh Mackintosh Parish church.

The Crannog  GJC_011737

Even the Crannog fish restaurant at the loch shore couldn't provide the colour to brighten the day !!

Lochside sculpture  GJC_011741

I did come across a bizarre sculpture near to the waters edge of Loch Linnhe. To me it looked like a celebration to water skiing but further investigation revealed it was made of old mountain equipment to honour the local mountain festival.

Umbrella or Ice Cream !!  GJC_011746

There are not a lot of shops in Fort William but most seem to represent a mix of clothing and tartan tourist stores. This one gives the more interesting variety of the British weather depicting the sale of both Umbrellas and Ice Cream. There wasn't a lot sold of the latter on this day.

Lastly, due to the long train journey, the time allocated at Fort William was about 2 hours giving enough time to walk up and down the main street and visit the favourite shops. The larger woollen mill at the far end of the street is usually a step too far as my dabbling with sign alterations show ...

No Shopping  GJC_011742

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Wemyss Bay railway station, Inverclyde.

You'll all be pleased to know (including myself !! ) that this is the last post in the South West Scotland series. There's no need for me to remind anyone that it has taken me over 1 year to post about 1 weeks travel.
It may seem a bit unusual to talk about a railway station but this is one of my favourites. In the past I have only visited the station by special charter trains but there were too many people about to capture the place properly. Having arrived by car, visited Rothesay and Mount Stuart by the ferry, it seemed an ideal opportunity to photograph it late in the day between the ferry arrival / departure times.

Tower  GJC_017642

Wemyss Bay railway station first opened in 1865 with the extension incorporating the pier being designed by Glasgow Architect James Miller and completed in 1903.
The 19th century Industrialists of Glasgow opted to escape the city by living to the west of the conurbation and along the Clyde coast. With the rich history of shipbuilding in Glasgow, Clyde steamers provided the means of reaching the new found holiday destinations of Dunoon and Rothesay.
The Steamers initially sailed directly from Glasgow to Rothesay with options of Dunoon and Largs. In 1841 a rail route was opened from Glasgow to Greenock that reduced the journey times significantly by an hour to the destinations of Largs and Rothesay. The ferry service from Glasgow still ran many years later, but due to river pollution, only the poor used it with economy fares. On a similar theme, there were concerns about the wealthy having to pass through the poorest part of town from Greenock railway station to the dockside.

To the ferry  GJC_017591

... variations on a theme ... 

Curve  GJC_017608

There were operational difficulties between rival railway companies who  owned the boats and large financial losses resulted. It was necessary to have a dedicated railway station / pier terminal to improve the situation and an extension to Weymss Bay (for Rothesay) was built in the late 19th century.

Train  GJC_017594

The 10 mile branch to Wemyss Bay that opened to passengers on 15th May 1865 was most unusual in that it was designed to carry passengers first and not freight.

Entrance  GJC_017619_edited-1 (1)

The formative years were not easy due to all the different rail and ferry companies not agreeing on a variety of operational issues.

Posts  GJC_017606

Steamers ran complex routes and were often late causing trains to miss their paths on a single railway line network. Competition from the later Gourock extension and pier caused some disagreement due to platform rights at the brand new Glasgow Central station.

Centrepiece  GJC_017601_edited-1 (1)

The enlarged and updated Wemyss Bay station created a statement of railway grandeur that defied other terminus rivals on the Clyde coast.

Windows   GJC_017580

The station underwent a major restoration programme and was completed in 1994.

Station GJC_017610

Time to allow the sun to set on my South West Scotland travels ...

Ferry lines  GJC_017645

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