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failed to stop at a warning signal in Wootten Bassett, Wiltshire last year and as a result the licence to operate was withdrawn from the company.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.
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.
The day began very early in the morning with the sun rising over the Northumbrian coastal town of Alnmouth.
Breakfast is a sterling effort cooked on the train and served in mass catering style near Edinburgh.
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.
The stations have a country feel with unique West Highland Line architecture.
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.
On arrival in Fort William, the clouds were very low as seen behind Duncansburgh Mackintosh Parish church.
Even the Crannog fish restaurant at the loch shore couldn't provide the colour to brighten the day !!
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.
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 ...