Scottish Railway Stations
Thank you to Jim Dunnett, now living in Somerset, England, for
sending me his memories (below) of life at Altnabreac Station,
Caithness, in the far north of Scotland.
"My first school was that at Altnabreac
right next to the station.
We used to live in a railway house at
Clashaig, about a mile north of Altnabreac station, just by the
first over-bridge on the right of the railway. The other occupants
of the semi-detached house were the Altnabreac signalman and his
railway ganger father.
The house no longer stands and the whole
area is now covered in bloody pines!"
"There was another such dwelling about half
a mile south of Altnabreac, housing two railway families (as I
recall) and another single dwelling a few miles past oor wee house
in the Scotscalder direction.
All our groceries etc. had to come from
Halkirk by train and had to be collected from the station.
Occasionally all the family would go for a
weekend to Halkirk in our Austin 7 car. I really don't know
why we didn't take the train! The road trip took hours and the
roads were awful. They still haven't improved much although there is
now a bus service between Altnabreac and Halkirk."
"I remember Sir Archibald Sinclair, the
owner of the Lochdhu estate using the station.
The station would also take letters for
delivery to the GPO in one of the towns
In those days the station sported a passing
loop, a water tank and a signal box in which I spent many happy
hours with our neighbour the signalman.
We had a stationmaster, a porter and as I
recall more than a few permanent way maintenance staff. One of their
tasks was to patrol the railway with a sledge hammer to replace any
of the missing wooden keys that were inserted between the shoe (?)
and the rail. This 'patrol' had to be done over all of the line
It being a single-track railway, we had a
block token system with an automatic tablet changer for the faster
trains which fascinated me and which worked very well."
"I only ever remember the Ben class
locomotives; I think we had left before the introduction of
the Class 5s which replaced them.
I well remember the fish specials which
used to carry herring from Wick to the south as well as very long
trains of cattle wagons carrying sheep from the large agricultural
auction marts in Thurso and Wick.
I only just remember the 'Jellico'
passenger trains which I think were something to do with the forces
movements. Here I may be mistaken - I remember them but that
may have been when I lived near Georgemas earlier.
The Jellico and the fish-trains were the
fastest non-stopping trains we ever saw on that line."
"My father was a railwayman. He drove
one of these little covered 4-wheeled trolleys with a little trailer
which were common on that part of the railway network, back in the
days of the Ben locomotives.
They were so light that they could easily
be removed from the line by the driver to let a train pass.
There were 'parking
places' for these trolleys, basically very short sidings (10 feet or
so of track) at right angles to the main track, but not connected to
it by points or anything like that.
The trolleys were used to transport the
gangs of railwaymen, their tools and spare wooden keys. They
were powered by a small petrol engine (I should think) and had a
weird mini-turntable with two rails to hold the trailer mounted on a
Dunnett, Somerset, England: 26 November 2005
Scone, Perthshire, Scotland
Tom Brown replied:
"Jim Dunnett mentioned two railwaymen's
cottages, half a mile south of Altnabreac Station.
My late Mother in Law was born in one of
these cottages in 1911. She grew up, went to
Altnabreac School to age 14, then went south to near St Andrews to
work in service.
The family name was Munro. Her
father, Murdo Munro, was a linesman on the railway. The family
in the other cottage, I think, were called Hendry.
My wife and I have been to the cottages
(Badenean, I think they were called) a few times in recent years.
We find it to be a very interesting area, and so peaceful.
Any more information on these topics
would be very welcome."
Tom Brown, Scone, Perthshire, Scotland: April
Reply to Tom
If you'd like to send a
reply to Tom about the subjects that he mentions above, please email
me, then I'll pass on his email address to you.
Stubbs, Edinburgh: April 12 2014
Scottish Railway Stations
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