Quick trip to Scotland

31stAugust to 4th September 2011

Richard Hingley & Nick Kelly

Summary

Just for a change this diary covers a trip where we never actually left the UK, the excuse was the closure of the Mull railway but going up on the sleeper has been something I've wanted to do for ages.

Wednesday 31st August

Having spent the last few days at Isfield I met up with Nick at his local station of Shoreham-by-Sea to set off for an overnight to the north.  For some reason Scotrail's computer booking system would not let me book the sleeper we wanted without a struggle; as we were going to Oban it wanted us to use the Glasgow sleeper not the Caledonian to Fort William, telling it to avoid Glasgow stopped that but it then insisted on routing us via Clapham and Watford Junctions then changing from the sleeper to the Oban train at Dalmuir in the early hours. Having got it to book us the berths we ignored all this nonsense and went via London Bridge and Euston and got the steward to change us to getting off at Crianlarich.  The sleeper compartment is tiny compared to most European ones but still large enough to work and the ride is a lot better than in Serbia or Greece.  


The Fort William portion of the train (it splits into three at Edinburgh) was the furthest forward 
- it only just fits the platform at Euston.

Thursday 1st September

The main excuse for doing this was to go on the Mull railway which I had never done and that unexpectedly reopened for a single month with today being the final day.  To get there was a bit of a marathon from the south coast – the sleeper disgorged us at Crianlarich at a reasonably civilised 07:30 but we had until 10:15 for the Oban train.  This gave plenty of time to sample the tearoom's excellent breakfast and have a walk round the village.

 



The rest of the collection of connections worked well – to the Craignure ferry at Oban, then a longer than remembered walk to the Mull railway terminus then two return trips (including the last departure from Torosay).  


On the way to Craignure


Craignure

The driver posed the train in various places for the small number of well-wishers having worked all week to repair the loco so the last day was steam. 


Posed on the turntable


False departure


Last train from Torosay


Last train of all with appropriate headboard


The ferry coming in to take us back

We then headed back to Glasgow and the Euro Hostel near Central station – this is fine for the money although the bunk bed provided in the twin room appears to have escaped from an old episode of Porridge.  On the way back we passed a substantial tanker train branded Rio Tinto Alcan in one of the loops.

Friday 2nd September

We had no particular plan for today – a relatively easy one being wanted after yesterday's 30-hour marathon.  After just catching the end of the breakfast buffet we got the SPTE day tickets (I last used one of these in 1988!) and headed for the new riverside museum.  This proved a bit awkward – the tourist office had run out of the leaflets and finding a bus to it (it is some distance from Partick station) proved difficult such that we got a taxi down to it in the end.  The new museum is ok but the architecture has definitely taken priority over clarity of display and many of the exhibits are hard to see well, the mock street and subway station are good however, as is the access to the locomotive cabs.


Not much room here


But this I like

From here we found the no 100 bus back to Partick (it stops at the station but the stop is some way from all the others and not obvious). 


The open topper on the service was a nice touch 

We then did a few of the suburban routes – mostly in the done it before bracket but still an easy way to watch the world go by, finally doing a double circuit of the subway, the only 4' gauge passenger railway in the UK, indeed I can't think of another one anywhere.


Poor shot but it's dark down there!


Tasteful conversion of the subway company's office (next morning)

Saturday 3rd September

The main aim today was to bash the Airdrie – Bathgate new line, however we stopped off for much of the day at Summerlee industrial museum that is far more interesting than the riverside museum from yesterday, with a more sensible balance betwwen displays and making architectural statements  Coatbridge Summerside station is next to the site but at the wrong end for the entrance, Central would have been much nearer had we checked.  The park is laid out on the site of a long closed ironworks (which has been excavated) and part restored canal.  As well as the main museum building (a former crane works) there is a good selection of mining displays, a street of houses of various periods and a very nice tramway whose staff made us most welcome.  Sadly the majority of the railway exhibits are in rather poor condition, the SAR GMAM has had a coat of paint but the locomotives are mainly outside and deteriorated while the two remaining class 311 EMU cars have been vandalised and are boarded up and look unlikely to survive.


The new part of the museum with the excavated ironworks


Not much hope for this one


The short tramway crosses the canal


Gibbs locomotive - it looks like a Barclay but isn't

From here we got a cab back to Summerside and the A to B to Edinburgh plus a quick trip on the new suburban line to Newcraighall. 


Sunnyside station


Newcraighall

We used a city hostel here which was newer than the Glasgow one but not particularly helpful – they had given us a room as far as possible from the lift despite a request otherwise for example and a demand for a passport for an Englishman travelling in the UK was treated with the contempt it deserved, especially as the receptionist lied about it being stated when booking.  We declined their rip off breakfast as well.

Sunday 4th September

A rather frustrating day as we wanted to go to the Scottish Mining Museum at the old Lady Victoria Colliery but finding the bus took literally an hour.  The tail end of the festival meant the busses in Princes Street were diverted but with no real indication where to.  When we eventually found the right stop in the right direction (not the stop opposite that going the other way) for one of the numbers quoted it turned out to go a massively long way round that took over an hour to go about 10 miles.  If going avoid the 3 or 3A, though we never did find where the alternatives were stopping on the way out.


Nicely presented routemaster a long way from home

We finally got to the museum at 2:30pm and just made the last two guided tours (a lot of the more interesting engineering exhibits are kept in an old workshop and this is only open a couple of days a week, luckily Sunday is one of them).


Another nice conversion

The museum is good, as were the ex-employee guides, again many of the railway exhibits are rather deteriorated although all are at least partly under cover.


A long time since this was painted!


Underground loco in the reserve collection

Heading back the return bus was much quicker but is operated by First who would not accept a Lothian busses day ticket – this sort of behaviour should be banned as a condition of licensing.

Despite stepping on the first southbound train available we were now running so late that we did not get back to Nick's until 1:30 in the morning (no weekend Thameslink service at present being a major problem).  By the time I had driven home it was just gone 3AM.

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