We worked a Postal train to Carlisle leaving Perth at nine o'clock in the evening and arriving in Carlisle about one o'clock in the morning. We would return to Perth with a Postal train which had a coach with seated compartments for passengers. The train carried few passengers as it left Carlisle about two o'clock in the morning. One morning a Carlisle Driver, Fireman and Guard stepped on the train and settled into a compartment. When we left the station I went through and asked them where they were going. "Mossend", said the Driver, "to work back a train to Carlisle."
As Mossend was almost three hours away I said, "If you want to sleep, I'll waken you when we arrive there." "We NEVER sleep," was the indignant reply. They woke up at Stirling, 30 miles past their destination with no hope of getting back. It doesn't pay to be so arrogant!
Manuel was a Spaniard who used to work as a sleeping car attendant. He was a walking disaster just like his namesake in 'Fawlty Towers'. He spoke english very badly and when he did speak it was usually incomprehensible. One night I worked the London to Inverness sleeper train from Carlisle to Perth. About 4 o'clock in the morning we stopped at a small station. I stepped out on to the deserted platform - nothing stirred - silence, then suddenly a coach door was thrown open, and a dishevelled portly gentleman wearing a raincoat over a pair of pyjamas was pushed on to the platform. Manuel then appeared struggling with a heavy suitcase. He looked at me and said, "Dunblane, Si?" I said, "Dunblane, NO - Cumbernauld, Si!". With a mutter he pushed the dazed and dozy gentleman back on the train. He had woken him up about an hour too soon!
In the 1980's the A9 trunk road between Perth and Inverness was being upgraded to either a dual-carriageway or the road widened. A good part of it runs close by the railway. One day we left with the 4.30pm train from Inverness to Glasgow working it as far as Perth. We arrived at Blair Atholl station to be told that a large boulder had crashed on to the railway line blocking it completely. Between Blair Atholl and Pitlochry the line runs through the Pass of Killiecrankie. This is a narrow gorge with the River Garry at the bottom, the railway line running above it on the slopes of Ben Vrackie with the A9 road higher up. Apparently the road-makers had been blasting rocks to widen the road when a large portion of rock had rolled down the mountain-side to land on the track. This had happened only 15 minutes before we arrived. It was a beautiful late summer's afternoon and fortunately the Blair Atholl Hotel stands next to the station. Most passengers were understanding and made for the hotel bar after I assured them that I would call for them when a decision was reached as to what was to happen. One male passenger however was very abusive. He harangued me incessantly, blaming me in particular and British Rail in general for the delay. A crowd of passengers stood by while he ranted and raved until the Driver came to my rescue. He tried to reason with the man but to no avail. Exasperated he asked him what he did for a living. He named a well-known Construction Firm. "You stupid B******", roared the Driver, "it's them that's building the road - it's YOUR Company that put the boulder on the line." Because of the blockage a north bound train was standing at Pitlochry and eventually Buses were hired to transfer both Train Crews and passengers between the respective trains. We finally arrived in Perth at midnight instead of 7pm. At least the passengers were merry!
The best type of train that I have worked was called a 'Push & Pull'. It consisted of a Class 47 Diesel, one First Class and four Standard Class coaches with a Guards van and Driving Cab at the rear. The benefit of the train was that it was complete and could be driven from the powerful diesel or the driving cab. In 1985 Portlethen station, south of Aberdeen was opened and shortly after I worked a 'Push & Pull' from Glasgow to Aberdeen. For some reason, unknown to me my Driver had to leave the train at Dundee and a young Dundee Driver substituted for him driving from the diesel. We left the station with me unaware of the new Driver. Approaching Portlethen I switched on the P.A. system to announce the station. We didn't stop, we went right through at speed heading for Aberdeen. On arrival the Driver came to me and said, "approaching Portlethen I saw a man sitting on a bench on the platform. He stood up as we arrived and sat down as we left and it was then I realised we should have stopped!" Luckily there were no passengers on the train who had wanted off there.
Scotland is a country where you can have the four seasons in the one day. The Perth to Inverness route typifies this. Sun, rain, sleet and snow can occur on the one journey. One Easter Monday we left Inverness in the rain, at Aviemore it was sleet, passing Dalwhinnie we encountered a violent snowstorm only clearing at Blair Atholl. From Pitlochry to Perth it was a beautiful warm sunny day. I went home to find my wife sunbathing. I told her that I had just come through a snowstorm and she didn't believe me!