11th August 2001

Branch Line Society
The Firth to Firth

Locos Used 37418 & 37670
Stock Used 99830+1859+99829+21241+1730+99826+99828+99827

Route :
1Z41 : Linlithgow to Hunterston HL Sidings
1Z42 : Hunterston HL Sidings to Falkirk High

Loco(s) Route
37670 (1) Linlithgow - Newbridge Jn - Haymarket West Jn - Gorgie Jn - Suburban Circle - Portobello - Craigentinny - Powderhall Branch (to Broughton Road)
37418 (2) Powderhall Branch - Craigentinny - Portobello - Suburban Circle - Craiglockhart Jn - Slateford Jn - Midcalder Jn - Shotts - Holytown - Mossend East Jn - Mossend South Jn - Motherwell - Garriongill Jn - Watsonhead Opencast (end of line)
37670 (1) Watsonhead Opencast - Garriongill Jn - Motherwell - Newton (South Connecting Line) - Kings Park - Maxwell Park - Muirhouse Central Jn - Shields Jn - Arkleston DGL - Paisley Gilmour Street - Kilwinning - Hunterston Low Level
37418 (2) Hunterston Low Level - Hunterston Jn
37670 (1) Hunterston Jn - Hunterston High Level
37418 (2) Hunterston High Level (via Up Freight) - Kilwinning - Paisley Gilmour Street - Arkleston UGL - Shields UGL - Up Through Terminus - Larkfield Jn - Polmadie - Langloan Jn - Whifflet - Mossend North Jn - Mossend East Jn - Holytown - Wishaw - Law Jn - Carstairs UPL @ 74m24ch then 2 x-overs to Plat.1
37670 (1) Carstairs - Law Jn - Wishaw - Motherwell - Mossend South Jn - Mossend North Jn - Coatbridge DGL - Gartsherrie South Jn - Gartcosh Jn - Springburn - Lenzie - Falkirk High

Notes :
(1) 37418 on rear
(2) 37670on rear.

Source : Andy Hoskins

Tour Review
(by Ken Strachan)

The story of this tour starts in August 2000, with my previous bout of haggis hunting. I stayed at a known B&B in Motherwell, and got the bridal suite. This seemed a bit posh for £20 a night; so she charged me £30 a night. As I was skint at the time, I decided not to stay an extra night; but to drive to Northumberland after the tour. Bad decision. I parked my faithful Rover in a ditch, writing it off. I then found that due to high mileage, my insurers valued the car at zero. So for saving £30 on B&B, I was immobile as well as broke!

 Fortunately, my employment and finances have improved this year. I couldn't get an Apex, so I paid £73 for Nuneaton to Linlithgow by the East Coast.  The journey started pleasantly enough, despite the 2 Essex girls opposite me in the 170 leaving Nuneaton. Freight traffic started appearing near Peterborough, with an aggregate train heading towards Leicester; and two 66's at Peterboro' itself. As we headed up the East Coast, I was apparently in a memory loss field. The merchant banker on my right tried to leave the train without his return ticket, and a shapely girl in a kanji-script T-shirt left a rucksack on the train at Berwick. Perhaps she was distracted by the guard's tourist-guide turn on the PA. Whatever, a squaddie tried to hand the bag out through the vestibule window, but they don't slide down on Mark 4's - oops. "My goodness that bag was heavy", he said, or words to that effect. Must admit, I was more interested in his comrade-in-arms, who coud have been Lara Croft - apart from the Glaswegian accent. Not a toff then.

Despite warnings of signalling problems at Polmont, my connection was only 6 down at Linlithgow. My landlady's directions were dodgy, so it was a long way up the hill (and round the houses) to the B&B. Much easier in the morning. As he had four Scratchers as guests, the landlord gave us all a lift in his Saab. Even classier traction was soon in view, with 37.670 leading, and 37.418 at the back. Sadly, not much was in view from my seat, which was centre facing in a compartment; so I occupied the vacant seat on my left. Definitely a better place to observe the foibles of my fellow Society members. The trip round Edinburgh certainly showed the city's seamier side, with 12 burnt out cars and vans in a ditch just 200 yards from a Lotus and Aston Martin dealer. Various new housing developments were seen near the suburban line - passenger reopening, anyone? We were held at Niddrie N junction for the Binliner freight to clear the Powderhall branch.

It appeared after a half-hour fester, hauled by 37.411.

 Here, I reminded myself of the superb value offered by SRPS catering, with hot bacon rolls at £1.20, and sandwiches at a pound a round. Suitably equipped for nibbling, we soon passed Craigentinny, with Virgin Voyager 220.006 on shed. At Slateford Junction, a man came round collecting envelopes for re-use, taking pains to explain that he had been allocated a non-existent seat. Fascinating. Soon afterwards, another chap popped into our compartment, to let someone pass him in the corridor; then returned the way he had come. Of such little incidents are BLS tours made. We were held for 15 minutes to allow a class 318 unit and an express (86.206 hauled) to pass, and left 2 minutes down. Near Shotts, we were bombarded with literature regarding the Banks Group's dust control policies - just when we wanted to stay awake.

Motherwell depôt was well stocked with gronks; 630, 670, 731, 769, 826, 906, and 933 were seen. I needed two of those for sight, so I was cheered. We passed the sad and few remains of steel works in the Ravenscraig area, having earlier passed the well overgrown former Northern rail connections. The Coltness sleeper works branch was still present, but very rusty. From our vantage point at Watsonhead Opencast, we could see that the sleeper works yard was full of buses. They were mostly McKindlees, if you must know; and included a Routemaster. We got very close to the Watsonhead buffer stops, and noted that Quail had the run round loop on the wrong side of the arrival and departure line. 66.024 was seen in the Blue Circle terminal at Uddingston. 334.011/028/032 were stabled at Shields depôt, along with older 303's whose sliding doors were wide open. No sign of vandalism inside, fortunately.

 In case we had forgotten that we were on a BLS tour, the catering staff were very orderly in their baked potato delivery; calling out order numbers in batches of ten on the PA. Many remains of disused lines were seen to either side as we ran down through Ayrshire. 66.147 crossed us at North Kilwinning, hauling (imported?) coal. At ICI Ardeer, someone was very determined that the sidngs should not be used; they had been taken out of use with a complex arrangement of steel bars bolted over the rails. We soon reached Saltcoats, where the grey-green sea looked even less inviting than the local women. Quite an achievement. 66.024 turned up again at the high level terminal at Hunterston, while we waited for some time for access to the low level. It was worth the wait; we reached the start of the fan of sidings (as it was) at OS 63/201537, stopping at a blockade of sleepers on the line. We were obviously close to the sea, as broken sea shells were seen on the ground on the North (landward) side of the track. The buildings at shore level looked even sparser than in the port publicity brochure. 37.418 gave a surprisingly subdued thrash back up the hill to the main line. We stopped briefly to let a Southbound unit pass, then crossed over to the High level terminal. I noticed that the track here was CWR, as opposed to the sixty foot lengths at Watsonhead. I also noticed a Jaguar S-type parked at the offices, so the terminal manager is obviously well looked after. We used #3 siding.

 A good thrash leaving Hunterston got a whole field of sheep moving fast (are you sure that wasn't just those on board having that affect on the sheep? Gary.), while use of the freight line to Kilwinning kept the passengers moist. A fairly relaxed grip was demonstrated here, with the first ticket check of the day. Some passengers bailed at Paisley Gilmour Street, where we had to discourage some local people from joining us. We took the dive under route at Shields Junction, known locally as the Burma Road. There were further surreal touches - a trolley and two chairs on a concrete apron, and an equally concrete sleeper tied to a tree. Gas Hill cheered many trackbashers by announcing that as this tour was in the black, there would be a BLS Scottish tour in 08/02 - destinations as yet unknown. 08.883 was required for sight at Polmadie; where there were also some  vividly painted 4-wheel vans.

 Some kind soul had routed us past Mossend, so I could get my 92 fix. 004, 011, and 015 were present. We saw much demolition in progress adjacent to the line in Whifflet. I fear that the internal shunter I saw there as recently as 1995, fussing over a single wagon bearing an enormous ingot, is not likely to be seen again. We missed out on the Mossend up loop to save the driver going over his hours. Then it was sharp left, sharp right, and straight through where Ravenscraig used to be. I couldn't see any blasted heaths; perhaps I was concentrating too much on the second bacon roll of the day.

Further lemmings bailed at Carstairs, where we reversed in a mere four minutes. I got back to Linlithgow 31 minutes after scheduled arrival at Falkirk High. The 37's must have been uncoupled fairly smartly; they passed us as we were discussing what pub to visit first.  My return trip had its moments. Having climbed the hill to Edinburgh Castle, I decided that the Festival was making Scotland's capital a bit too cosmopolitan. So I took the 11.26 for Southampton to Carlisle, clocking 66.141 on Kingmoor yard (at last! - a main line loco'). Having experience of Carlisle's chip shops, I got a sandwich lunch at W.H. Smith's on the station. Despite the useful level of crumpet at Citadel, I took the 13.19 for Euston to Warrington Bank Quay, where typical Lancashire weather was falling from the skies, and overloading all available drains. Hertfordshire Railtours' Pride of the Nation train rolled in behind 66.154 and 90.030 Crewe Locomotive Works; the latter with some vegetation adhering to its pantograph. It didn't seem to affect its performance on leaving, after the 66 was taken off. 60.001 and 071 were stabled on Bank Quay; the former being named after the RCTS, and being the only loco I know with a website address on its nameplate. I escaped Warrington on the 15.56 to Brighton. There were 5 gronks on Arpley, but none required; Crewe was also pretty dull, with acres of dead 37's and 47's. For once, a 66/5 was stabled close enough to the main line to read its number. It could have been 505, but it was too dirty to read! I changed again at Stafford, which was surprisingly busy with passenger trains; but 60.024 and 050 rumbled through with a Northbound steel train. I caught the 17.28 back home to Nuneaton.

Ken Strachan

Timing's (Booked & Actual)
(from Alan Sheppard)

Linlithgow [P1] 08.23d 08.25d
Craiglockhart Jn 08/45 08/46
Niddrie North Jn ??*?? 09.02 ~ 09.43
Powderhall Refuse Sdg (Broughton Rd. Bridge) 09.36 ~ 09.41 09.59 ~ 10.06
Craiglockhart Jn 10/32 10/35
Slateford Jn 10*35 ~ 10*50 10.37 ~ 10.52
Benhar Jn 11/22 11/24
Motherwell [P1] 11.43a ~ 11.45d 11.49a ~ 11.51d
Watsonhead Opencast (End of Line) 12.05 ~ 12.10 12.16 ~ 12.23
Motherwell [P2] 12/29 12/40
Cathcart West Jn 12/55 12/58
Maxwell Park 13/05 13/04
Shields Jn 13*14 ~ 13*22 13.13 ~ 13.15
Arkleston Jn (DGL) 13/29 13.26 ~ 13.35
Paisley Gilmour Street [P4] 13c33 ~ 13c35 13.36 ~ 13.38
Dalry 13/52 14/00
Saltcoats 14*02 ~ 14*13 14.16 ~ 14.17
Hunterston Low Level Sidings (End of Line) (1) 14.43 ~ 14.48 15.03 ~ 15.13
Hunterston Jn (Up Freight) 15.08 ~ 15.13 15.38 ~ 15.40
Hunterston High Level Sidings (No. 3 Road) 15.16 ~ 15.22 15.45 ~ 15.54
Dalry 15/38 16/23
Paisley Gilmour Street [P3] 15c52 ~ 15c54 16.41 ~ 16.42
Paisley (Up Goods Loop) 15*57 ~ 16*01 16/44
Shields Jn 16/11 16/55
Rutherglen East Jn 16/31 17/09
Langloan Jn 16/44 17/21
Mossend (Up Coatbridge-(booked Up Recp.)) 17/01 17/29
Holytown Jn 17/06 17/31
Carstairs (UPL @ 74m.24ch) ? 18.01 ~ 18.07
Carstairs [P1] 17.31 ~ 17.46 18.09a ~ 18.13d
via Wishaw ? 18/31
Motherwell [P2] 18.05a ~ 18.08d 18.39a ~ 18.40d
Coatbridge Central 18/18 18/51
Gartsherrie South Jn ? 18/54
Gartcosh Jn 18*27 ~ 18*35 18/57
Springburn (additional set-down) (2) (18.45a ~ 18.48d) 19.10a ~ 19.11d
Cowlairs West Jn 18*48 ~ 19*06 19/13
Falkirk High [P1] 19.25a 19.36a

(1) Timing sheet had "End of Line", we got to End of "Available" Line, which was a little further than suggested in review above, (but not much), as there was evidence of tracks to our right as we arrived. We did not, however, reach the point where the bunker was.
(2) Springburn set-down not included in timings, although the 'short platform instructions' had been arranged. The ticket letter gave times as 18.45a ~ 18.48d, even though 18:48 was given as the arrival time at Cowlairs West Jn.

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