Early in 1970 a letter appeared in the Railway Magazine suggesting a new challenge for a Rail Rovering Holiday. The writer (and at this distance in time I can’t remember who he was) said that he had been looking at the Scottish Region timetable and felt that it was possible to travel over all the passenger track in Scotland in a week. This was opposed to those who wrote in claiming magnificent mileages done in a week which usually meant them tearing up and down the East Coast mainline between King’s Cross and Edinburgh.
Eventually 7 of us agreed to take up the challenge and so we gathered at Euston for the off! Armed with returns to Carlisle and a Scottish Rover we boarded to 20:15 to Birmingham headed by E3105.
On from Birmingham on the Edinburgh sleeper at 22:30 hauled by D1860 which gave us the first rare piece of track – the Carstairs avoider. This being a Friday night the Birmingham – Scotland sleepers ran as two separate trains to Glasgow and Edinburgh so no need to split at Carstairs.
After an early arrival at Edinburgh and a bite of breakfast we went off to North Berwick – out on the 07:22 and back on the 08:07, DMU’s in those days. Then to Glasgow Central via Shotts and then another of the rare track species, the 11:26 to Stranraer Harbour which ran via the Troon avoiding line.
On arrival at Stranraer we took the 14:25 to Dumfries headed by D263 and then our second rare track basher of the day, the 17:58 to Glasgow Central which ran via the Kilmarnock to Dalry line.
The 21:30 from Queen Street High Level took us to Falkirk Grahamston where we caught the 22:11 to Stirling.
To do the Stirling – Motherwell line meant a trip on a sleeper so we took the 23:15 headed by D427 to Carlisle. This train travelled over the Mossend – Motherwell line and on over Beattock.
After a snooze in Carlisle’s waiting room early Sunday morning found us on the 05:04 to Glasgow Central via Kilmarnock, thus traversing the missing portion of this route as far as Dumfries and Kilmarnock to Glasgow, or so we thought. Everything went as planned as far as Kilmarnock but then we veered off again to Dalry so some timetable work was required to ensure the line via Barrhead was included later in the week!
Luckily summer Sundays in Scotland in those days saw people going for excursions to the offshore islands and train services were run to the various harbours to accommodate them.
We then boarded the 08:48 to Ardrossan Harbour where a short walk took us back to South Beach. The next departure at 10:18 conveniently ran to Fairlie Pier where, after some difficulty getting out of the station and not getting on a boat, we strolled back to Fairlie High. How did this station get its name as it’s not fairly high at all!! The Largs branch was truly finished off with the 11:44 from Fairlie High to the terminus and the 12:20 back from Largs to Glasgow Central.
The rest of the day was
spent travelling on various lines around Glasgow as follows:
13.50 Glasgow Central - Gourock
15:20 Gourock – Port Glasgow
16:04 Port Glasgow – Wemyss Bay
16:30 Wemyss Bay – Glasgow Central
18:26 Glasgow Queen Street Low Level – Bridgeton
18:45 Bridgeton – High Street
18:58 High Street – Airdrie
19:34 Airdrie – Dumbarton Central via Westerton
20:46 Dumbarton Central – Balloch Pier
This train was unadvertised between Balloch Central and Balloch Pier and we had intended to walk between the stations. The guard was a friendly sort of chap and let us ride the e.c.s.
21:30 Balloch Pier – Glasgow Queen Street Low Level via Yoker
Not having had any real sleep since starting we had booked beds at the YMCA and collapsed gratefully into them, only to be woken at 05:00 to start again!!
A great relaxing day, apart from the early start!
06:00 Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig. Hauled by D5357 and D5406 as far as Fort William and banked up to Cowlairs by D7576.
Just past Helensburgh Upper the steward came round announcing that he was open for breakfast. All 7 of us duly appeared in the restaurant car and were asked if we would mind being the second sitting!! We agreed and soon the steward came round advising that he was now ready for us. These were the days when the food was cooked on board and we had a delicious breakfast of porridge, the full English (or should this be Scottish?) toast and marmalade and coffee whilst travelling over the West Highland Line on a beautiful summers day. What more could you ask for?
D5361 hauled us from Fort William to Mallaig.
Deserting the railways at Mallaig we boarded Mr Macbrayne’s vessel the Loch Seaforth for the 12:15 sailing to Kyle of Lochalsh and on board treated ourselves to an excellent lunch whilst cruising the Sound of Sleat.
Upon arrival at Kyle we were timetabled to catch the afternoon departure to Inverness which was still some time away. As the railrovers were valid on the ferry between Kyle and Kyleakin we went on the 14:25 departure on board the Coruisk returning on the Lochalsh.
We then caught the 17:50 Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness hauled by D5123 and on arrival at Inverness there was time for fish & chips before boarding the 23:30 sleeper for Glasgow. This was triple headed over the Highland main line as far as Perth by D5330, D5132 and D5117. D5330 was taken off at Perth and the other two locos took us through to Glasgow Queen Street High Level for an on time arrival at 06:07, passing the following days 06:00 to Mallaig in Cowlairs tunnel. A great days railroading, as an American legal acquaintance of mine would say.
A walk across Glasgow to Central saw us on the 06:57 to East Kilbride, returning on the 07:42. Back to Queen Street for the 08:35 to Oban hauled by D5358 and the 12:25 back, hauled by the same locomotive.
Then on the 17:13 from Queen Street to Inverkeithing via the Dalmeny direct curve and back into Edinburgh on the 18:25 from Inverkeithing.
Then more fun as 7 people turned up at the Edinburgh booking office and separately asked for a day return from Berwick to Newcastle! By the time the last one of us had bought his ticket, the booking office clerk was not amused!
These tickets were needed as we caught the 20:20 Edinburgh to Newcastle hauled by D1975 and…
returned on the 01:01 ex Newcastle hauled by D1806 which we took through to Aberdeen. At least we got some sleep on this one!
At Aberdeen we caught the 07:47 to Inverness and this is where tragedy struck! It had been our intention to travel to Thurso, get the bus to Wick and return from there, no direct service in those days. Unfortunately the 10:50 to the far north was a guaranteed connexion out of the West Coast Postal which was running hours behind schedule. So we eventually left Inverness behind D5343 and it was obvious that we would miss the bus from Thurso to Wick so a decision was taken to travel to Wick (as it is further than Thurso) and we would fail in our quest by 6 ˝ miles. (As an aside the following year two of our party made a journey from Thurso to Okehampton to complete their Scottish travels.)
Departure from Wick was at 17:20 behind D5342 and we again caught the Glasgow sleeper from Inverness at 23:30, this time hauled by D5344 and D5128 which took us all the way to Glasgow Queen Street.
Back in Glasgow saw us doing more of the suburban lines around the City:
06:30 Glasgow Queen Street Low Level – Springburn
06:45 Springburn – Cumbernauld
07:20 Cumbernauld – Springburn
07:38 Springburn - Milngavie
08:20 Milngavie – Glasgow Queen Street Low Level
09:12 Glasgow Central – Kilmacolm via Paisley Canal
10:07 Kilmacolm – Glasgow Central via Paisley Canal
Then off to Carstairs on the 10:50 hauled by D1996 and then to Haymarket on the 12:08 hauled by D5325.
Back across the Forth Bridge on the 13:04 Haymarket to Dundee Tay Bridge via Cardenden, returning to Glasgow Queen Street via Perth on the 15:40 hauled by D5325.
Then almost our last bit of local stuff, the 18:10 Glasgow Central – Glasgow Central via Blantyre and Bellshill, 19:23 Glasgow Central to Motherwell via Hamilton, 20:12 Motherwell to Lanark via Holytown and the 21:00 Lanark to Glasgow Central via Wishaw. The day finished off with the 22:50 Glasgow Central to Carlisle via Barrhead hauled by D89.
Our last rovering day started with the 02:24 from Carlisle to Ayr hauled by D5381 and D5392 and at Ayr we had booked ourselves on some brake van trips as follows:
06:20 Falkland Junction –
Riccarton SSEB – D5366
07:30 Riccarton SSEB – Falkland Junction – D 5366
09:20 Ayr Harbour – Waterside Colliery – Ayr Harbour – D5367
12:24 Ayr Harbour – Littlemill Colliery – D5386
16:00 Littlemill Colliery – Falkland Junction – D5386
We now needed to complete our challenge so we got a lift to Neilston where we caught the 17:06 to Glasgow Central, travelled round the Cathcart Circle on the 20:16 ex Central, then the 20:56 Glasgow Queen Street Low Level to Hyndland, 21:14 Hyndland to Dalreoch via Yoker, and the 21:51 Dalreoch to Helensburgh Central.
Apart from Georgemas Junction to Thurso we had travelled over every inch of passenger track in Scotland, plus a few freight lines, in a week!!
We returned to Glasgow on the 22:15 ex Helensburgh Central via Singer and again collapsed into bed at the YMCA.
To conclude a successful week we took in the Branch Line Society’s Glasgow South Railtour, did a complete circle plus one station from St Enoch to Buchanan Street on the Glasgow Underground and returned home on the 22:05 Glasgow Central to London Euston. Nobody got the loco number on leaving Glasgow but we arrived at Euston with E3105 which we presumed came on at Crewe.
37 years on it would be great to see if such a challenge could be repeated. Not much has closed, the longest line being Glasgow – Kilmacolm but this was reopened as far as Paisley Canal. The Troon avoiding line has gone as has Kilmarnock – Dalry and Bridgeton. Against those we have to add the many openings, probably not all mentioned here, Newcraighall, Larkhall, Cowlairs curve, Thornton South curve, Whifflet, Glasgow Central Low level lines, Drumgelloch, Falkirk – Cumbernauld, with Alloa and the Waverley route still to come.
It was probably surprising to non railway enthusiasts that such a challenge could be virtually successfully completed in the post-Beeching era. In the whole week we only had one serious late running, that of the West Coast Postal which ruined our chances of reaching both Thurso and Wick, and one diversion from Kilmarnock which gave us our second trip over the Dalry line and meant we had to return to Carlisle via Barrhead on the last night.
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