The ‘Allo ‘Allo Alloa Rover
Don’t go to Edinburgh when it’s raining!!

 It was time to complete the track bash of Scotland so as I had one of those birthdays with a large 0 at the end, my family came up with a Freedom of Scotland Rail Rover as my present. 5 days ridin’ railroads, what more could I ask?

 Wednesday 6th August 2008

 Wednesday 6 August 2008 dawned bright and sunny (as always) here in Jersey and British Airways whisked me off on the red-eye, as the 07:00 departure is affectionately known, to Gatwick. Having no hold baggage meant, after the transit to South Terminal, I could easily catch the 08:38 to St Pancras International via the Quarry Line and London Bridge. 319456 and 319455 were on duty.

 St Pancras is amazing and if you have not been there yet a visit is well recommended. A short walk to Kings Cross for the 11:00 hauled by 91102 via the ECML and Darlington station to Newcastle.

 After checking in at my hotel the first serious piece of track bashing was to be the remaining bits of the Tyne & Wear Metro I needed. According to their website a Day Saver ticket was available for £3 but when I pushed the relevant buttons on the ticket machine it only wanted £2.60! Be warned, the TWM ticket machines do not accept notes although there is a change machine at Newcastle Central by the ticket machines.

 First train was out to the Airport to complete the line beyond Bank Foot. 4056 and 4028 were the consist. At the Airport I managed a zero connexion back into another train (4072/4013) bound for Park Lane. There is only a 24 minute service to South Hylton so 12 minutes after arrival at Park Lane 4028 and 4056 turned up again to complete the line and the TWM Metro system was complete.

 The same units then returned me on the 16:12 to Pelaw where 4004/4005 provided the next service to South Shields. A short stroll along the High Street and back to the station for 4027 (in North Eastern Railway livery) and 4073 for the 17:31 departure to Central Station.

 I decided that fish and chips on the coast would be nice for dinner so after a short break 4044/4021 took me one station to Monument and 4032/4049 to the terminus at St James. Newcastle United were playing at home and the fans were starting to gather! The same units then took me out to Whitley Bay where hopefully fish and chips would be waiting. I was disappointed to say the least with the condition of Tynemouth station. What was a superb piece of railway architecture is being allowed to slowly rot away. Perhaps somebody should slap a preservation order on it?

 Upon arrival at Whitley Bay, again quite a nice station this time, I started to look for food. Unfortunately virtually every restaurant in the town is of the Indian variety so eventually I ended up in a local hotel but I found my fish and chips!

 Back to Whitley Bay station where I had planned to take a South Shields service via Benton back to Central Station but due to an ‘ongoing serious incident at Wallsend’ the service was disrupted with a suspension between St James and North Shields. However a train appeared (4034/4030) going as far as South Gosforth which meant that I could change into a service from the Airport to get back to Central. This appeared in the shape of 4069 and 4016 and on arrival it was time to retire having completed the whole of the system in one afternoon/evening.

 Thursday 7th August 2008

 The day started with the 08:41 Newcastle – Edinburgh Waverley, an HST from Leeds headed by 43315. We were late departing at 09:00 due to level crossing problems outside Leeds and this was a portent of what was to come. Arrival into Waverley was delayed as the previous night there had been torrential rain in Edinburgh and the track through Princes Street Gardens was under a foot of water. Trains were subject to ‘delay and cancellation’ as you might imagine!

 A replacement bus service was running between Waverley and Haymarket and we were advised that all Fife and Bathgate services would start from there. Upon arrival at Haymarket I enquired when the next train to Kirkcaldy was going to be told that ‘he hadn’t any idea, mate!!’ I threw my plans for the day away and decided to get on the next train that arrived no matter where it was going. 170460/170427 arrived from Waverley, so some trains were getting through, and was advertised as going to Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk High. The Queen Street service was reduced to every 30 minutes and we had an additional stop at Croy. This train actually left Haymarket at 11:50 but was announced as the 11:15 departure from Waverley.

 Time to start bashing off the bits of western Scotland I needed and with trains virtually running to time I caught 158710 on the 12:56 to Anniesland which gave me the Kelvindale curve. I attempted a zero connexion into the Larkhall service at Anniesland and an announcement was made that it was running 5 minutes late. Success!! But alas no, another announcement came to say that the next train was 5 minutes late so I assumed that the Larkhall had left on time, if not a minute or so early.

 Got the 13:23 (318275) from Anniesland to Glasgow Central Low Level and then 334002 on the 13:57 to Larkhall. Another line crossed off the wants list. The same unit returned me to Hamilton West on the 14:37 ex Larkhall and from there 318265 took me onto Motherwell departing at 15:01.

 From Motherwell I took the 15:37 to Whifflet (unit 156494) and then 156512 on the 16:07 to Glasgow Central High Level. I had previous travelled over this line on a Branch Line Society tour but not on a passenger service.

 A swift walk to Queen Street High Level for the 17:22 to Falkirk Grahamston (unit 156477) which would give me the Cowlairs curve. Unfortunately due to the Edinburgh flooding the crew were stranded there and so we left late. Arrival at Falkirk missed the 18:22 to Waverley so I had to wait for the 18:52 and unit 158708.

 Food was now the order of the day but after a suitable repast it was back to Waverley for the 21:34 to Newcraighall. A diesel unit, 170453, which I suppose would be usual as the service is normally connected to the Bathgate/Dunblane services. Only a shuttle was running from Waverley but no attempt was made to use an electric unit for this. Upon arrival at Newcraighall the unit continued into the reversing siding rather than staying at the platform until departure time. Back to Waverley on the 22:04 and on to my hotel. Not bad for a days track bashing considering that I had to reschedule en route.

 Friday 8th August 2008

 Friday dawned bright and sunny but there were still problems with the flooding. Freedom of Scotland Rovers are not valid until 09:15 Monday – Friday so I took the 09:36 (170394) from Waverley to Haymarket. There 170407 was waiting in the curiously numbered platform 0 allegedly on the 09:52 to Glenrothes. Don’t believe all you hear! It turned out to be the 09:22 to Cowdenbeath but was terminated short at Dunfermline Town with the promise of a Glenrothes service following 10 minutes behind. No such luck! The booking clerk at Dunfermline advised that there had been no trains north ‘all day’ and started to find me a taxi when I advised her that would not be necessary.

 I returned to Inverkeithing on the 10:31 by the emergency timetable, 170407 again, to chance my luck going via Kirkcaldy. The train ’10 minutes behind’ must have been at least 25 minutes behind and then was only advertised as going as far as Cowdenbeath so I abandoned hope and took the 10:55, again emergency timings consisting of units 158730/158723/158740 back to Haymarket.

 By this time I had again abandoned my carefully prepared timetable and decided to go to Alloa the opposite way to the original plan. Luckily a Dunblane service was advertised, the 11:36. This duly arrived in the shape of 158704 which I took as far as Larbert. This was followed by 170478 on the 12:48 Larbert – Alloa which besides giving me the new branch also gave me the junction at Stirling. Yes, a bit pedantic I know!!

Alloa Station - with 170478.

 There is quite a long stopover at Alloa which provided an opportunity to visit the local ASDA store which is right next to the station and stock up with provisions. 171478 returned me on the 13:41 to Stirling and from there it was 170410 on the 14:07 to Dundee. Back across the Tay Bridge with 170429 on the 15:32 to Kirkcaldy where I decided to hang about just as long as it took to get a service round the Thornton South Curve, the last piece of real track that I needed in Scotland.

 According to the departure board there was to be a departure at 17:26 which would have meant a long wait but the station staff were sure that the 16:26 was running and it duly appeared with 158729. So at 16:37 I completed all Scottish passenger track at Glenrothes station. I continued on to Haymarket via Cowdenbeath where I changed onto the 17:51 to Bathgate with 158729/158715. As the current Bathgate station is a new construction and not on the original route of the line to Airdrie I suppose you could say that this was the last piece of track needed. I had previously been all the way to Airdrie, again on a BLS tour. Back to Waverley on the 18:25 with the same units, noting that construction was getting on with the doubling of the track in readiness for the rebuilding to Airdrie.

I celebrated with a quick trip out to North Berwick on unit 322485; the 19:37 out and 20:20 back.

 Saturday 9th August 2008

 This was to be the day when I completed the entire ‘rare’ track as shown in the Branch Line Society’s publication – Passenger Services Over Unusual Lines or PSUL for short. The track needed was Craiglockhart Jn to Slateford Jn off the Edinburgh Suburban Line and according to PSUL there was just one train a week scheduled over this route, the 07:15 Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Central, Saturdays only.

 With the problems in Edinburgh earlier in the week I wondered whether the train would actually run, and if it did, would it go via its scheduled route?

 An early start saw me at Waverley at 07:00 and the train was shown on the departure board. At least that was the first hurdle crossed! Departure was to be from Platform 9 which is one of the through platforms on the south side of the station so it could go either way. When I arrived on the platform the stock had not come in but at about 07:10 221119 arrived from Craigentinny and the driver set up the red end of train lights before he left the cab and disappeared. It was looking good!

221119 waits at Edinburgh with the 07:15 to Glasgow Central via the Sub.

 07:14 and the signal at the eastern end of the platform was pulled off and we left on the dot of 07:15. Round the suburban line and onto the Carstairs line at Slateford Jn. Success!!

 The schedule between Motherwell and Glasgow is so slack that an on time departure gave us a 10 minute early arrival at Central. The schedule for the day was thrown away again as I managed a connexion into the 08:33 (334018/334005) to Ardrossan Harbour. By now it was teeming down again and it was some extremely wet passengers who boarded at Ardrossan Harbour off the Brodick Ferry.

 I also stayed on board and the train returned as the 09:30 to Glasgow Central but I got off at Glengarnock. By now a certain call of nature was needed and all the facilities on the train were locked out of use. None at Glengarnock either!! The next port of call was to be Largs off the 10:11 ex Glengarnock (334013/334011) but again, all facilities were locked out of use. The guard told me that this was a usual problem and not matter how many times they complained at the depot things did not get any better. So I detrained at Kilwinning and success, the booking office clerk held the necessary key!

 This meant that Largs was effectively off the agenda so I got the 10:37 from Kilwinning to Paisley Gilmour Street (318260/318264) and from there the 11:01 to Wemyss Bay. This station is still in its glory, perhaps a bit of TLC required and only 2 platforms with track. Well worth a visit.

Wemyss Bay all its glory

Back to Port Glasgow with the same unit but the zero connexion to Gourock left as we arrived so it was to be the next service at 12:41 with 334008. Gourock station certainly needs some work; rail pouring through the canopy etc, There is a plaque stating that some worthy opened the refurbished station some time ago; if I was him I would take that one down!

Gourock Station - not so nice...

 Back with the same unit to Paisley Gilmour Street on the 13:06 and a short walk through the town to Paisley Canal for the 14:00 to Central (156445.) I had previously been all the way to Kilmalcolm (see the report of my Scottish Rover 1970).

 Due to subsidence at Pollokshields East there were no services around the Cathcart Circle and Neilston trains were running non stop Central – Kings Park via Maxwell Park before reversing over the Cathcart West Curve onto their normal route. I took the 14:25 (314215) out to Neilston and returned with the same unit on the 15:11 ex Neilston to Williamwood.

 A brisk walk to Clarkston saw me miss the 15:30 to East Kilbride by a few minutes so the 16:00 was the order of the day with units 156432 and 156449. These two took be back to Central on the 16:20 ex East Kilbride.

 Down to the Low Level station for the 16:58 to Partick (334022) and the on the Glasgow Subway to Shields Road and check in to my hotel. After checking in it was back on the Subway from Shields Road to Buchanan Street but the travalator to Queen Street was not working. 320308 was the unit on the 18:32 Queen Street Low Level to Drumgelloch and the same unit returned be to Bellgrove on the 19:08 from Drumgelloch.

 The weather had been getting worse and worse and by the time we arrived at Bellgrove the heavens had really opened. A rapid retreat under the small waiting shelter to wait for 320309 on the 19:48 to Springburn. The intention was to wait for the next service to Queen Street High Level but with the weather as bad as it was a certain unsavoury characters frequenting Springburn station I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and returned to Queen Street Low Level at 20:09, same unit.

 After a good meal I completed the Glasgow Subway by going the long way round via the Inner Circle from Buchanan Street to Shields Road.

 Sunday 10th August 2008

 Compared with the London Underground the Glasgow Subway is a somewhat sleepy affair which does not open up until about 10:00 on a Sunday morning. I arrived at Shields Road at 09:55 to find the building still locked but a quick squint through the crack between the doors proved that there was staff about and the doors were duly opened at 10:00.

09:55 - still closed up!

I caught the first train of the day, again Inner Circle, to St Enoch and walked across to Glasgow Central in time for the 10:55 to London Kings Cross pushed by 91118.

 A superb piece of driving by the crews involved. We came to a halt north of Berwick-on-Tweed with a train fault which meant we were 10 minutes down leaving that station. This had been reduced to 3 minutes late on leaving York. An extended station stop at Doncaster due to trespassers on the line meant that we were 11 minutes down leaving there which was the same lateness on leaving Peterborough.

 From there we had a clear run to London, including a Stevenage stop, and arrived at the Cross just 4 minutes down. I strolled across to St Pancras International, which is a good walk to the Thameslink platforms, to discover that all southbound trains were terminating at Moorgate due to engineering works in Snow Hill Tunnel. We were advised to change to the Underground at St Pancras for London Bridge where we could catch a train going south. Not likely! I had just walked from Kings Cross and I wasn’t going to walk back!

 319424 arrived on the 17:02 from St Pancras to Moorgate, which may turn out to be my last trip over this line before closure, followed by the Northern Line to London Bridge. The 17:41 Brighton service left from platform 10 and whilst waiting departure time, I was entertained by a series of bungee jumpers leaping off a crane just outside the station, again in the pouring rain! Down to Gatwick Airport via the Quarry line, the BAA Transit to the north terminal and the flight home.

Chris Totty

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