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100 days – Day 39: Tramspotting

100 days – Day 39:   Tramspotting


This is rather sad…….


(from yesterday’s Scotsman)

TRAM fans will flock to Edinburgh tomorrow from at least as far as Berlin to sample the capital’s first fare-paying services for nearly 60 years.




German publisher Robert Schwandl will be among aficionados boarding the inaugural trams as the long-delayed project finally starts to recoup its £776 million cost.

Dawn will have barely broken over the Gyle shopping centre when an unknown number of the most eager passengers gather expectantly for the 5am departure to York Place.

Their enthusiasm is likely to gladden the hearts of city council officials who have endured the – some say self-inflicted –construction nightmare that has beset the capital.

But if there are glowing smiles aboard the first tram, the acid test for the scheme will come later in the day when more sceptical passengers take to the rails to pass their own verdict.

Mr Schwandl said he had been anticipating his visit for some time, as it would enable him to complete a new book on British trams.


Trams on Shandwick Place

He told The Scotsman: “It is a good excuse for a trip to Edinburgh, and we’ve been waiting for a long time to see this open.

“For 2015, I’m planning a Tram Atlas British Isles, and apart from important extensions still under way in Birmingham and Nottingham, Edinburgh’s tram has always been the one I had to wait for anyway before publishing such a book.


Vic Simons, a former British Rail manager, who is coming from St Albans in Hertfordshire for the occasion.

Mr Simons will be staying in a nearby hotel before getting a taxi to the Gyle for the first run.

He said: “It’s a big deal – the last new tram system was in Nottingham ten years ago.

“Edinburgh people will take to it and want extra lines, especially to Leith.”

Mr Simons, 68, who is also a director of tram campaigners the Light Rail Transit Association, said he had been bitten by the tram bug as a six-year-old in London.

He said: “I remember the feel of being on rails, but on a street, and gliding along while the rest of the traffic was much slower.”



Closer to home, Edinburgh solicitor Andrew Boyd, 66, plans to join the 5am queue to make amends for missing the city’s last tram in 1956.

He said: “It will be a historic occasion after all the troubles the project has experienced in the course of its construction.

“I travelled quite a lot on the old trams as a small boy, but they were not sleek and the track was not very well maintained.

“I will be making good an omission not to have travelled on the last one.






I’m reminded of the ” Heid Trainspotter”  (or just plain “Heid-banger” about whom I blogged on http://sandystrachan.wordpress.com

The West Highland Line is a Mighty Fine Line….. (unless you’re stuck with an “anorak” )


First he took off his camouflaged army surplus jacket and folded (!) the crumpled garment on the seat next to him.

He was wearing a jacket underneath with badges up and down the lapels, all of which seemed to be railway related. In the breast pocket was an armoury of ball-point pens & inside a veritable arsenal of different coloured Bics.

Underneath was a home-knitted sweater with a picture of “Thomas” on it (actually it didn’t have a picture – I made that up – but it was a tank top)


He then delved into his backpack and produced several sheets of schematic diagrams, a couple of notebooks and a tin of baked beans – all of which he placed on the table between us.

After a few minutes, he got out a Swiss Army knife and opened the can, before starting to eat them cold with a spoon which magically appeared from somewhere.

Half way through this “breakfast” – it was something like 7.30 in the morning – he burped loudly, showering the table and his charts with tomato sauce. He wiped this off the diagrams with his sleeve.

Eventually, he said “Hi, I’m Trevor”


“like Sandy (sic) Shaw the Eurovision mega-star? I love Eurovision. Been to some of the preliminary rounds. One day, I’m taking a train to wherever it’s been held. Do you like Lulu? Brotherhood of Man for me.” Then, as an afterthought, “Isn’t Sandy a girl’s name”

“Not so much in Scotland”

Me: “I take it you’re a train spotter?”

“Good God no – they’re sad w*nkers; I’m a student of railway infrastructure. What about yourself, what do you do?”

“A Minister”

“Do you believe in God?”


“I love the Bible, but with no disrespect, I’m a bit of an antagonist (sic)” I gathered later that he meant ‘agnostic’

he continued, “My favourite story is the one about God smiting the Good Samaritan. That’s a word you don’t hear nowadays, more the pity”

“Yeh” said I in reply.

“Hell”, I thought to myself, “I’m going to be stuck with Trevor the Tank Engine for miles”

“since you’re a man of the cloth, maybe you could answer something for me?”

“OK – I’ll try”

“Given that we’re going to be travelling through hill and dale on our journey, why did God put mountains in the way, causing umpteen navies to bore through them to make tunnels. A bit inconsiderate, surely?”

“Maybe God was setting a challenge or a test for the engineers”

“Why didn’t he do it himself?”

“That’s a good question – Oh, listen, that’s the whistle…. we’re on our way”

Trevor spent the entire journey ignoring the magnificent scenery.  Instead, he checked what seemed to be every point, signal and railway infrastructure as we passed on our way.

At one point he ejaculated (probably in both senses of the word) “Oh, oh, Jesus (sorry, Rev) – they’ve got that wrong”, pointing to his chart and thumbing through his notebook with tomato-stained fingers – wait till I’m home (in Essex) and, by Christ (sorry, Rev) I’ll be in touch with these cartographers – big big mistake there- major error!”

And so it went.  As I tried to catch a glimpse of the natural wonders outside the carriage window, his almost constant  logorrhoea about what to look out for next (re: pointless points etc)  virtually reached orgasmic proportions.



train west highland way

Eventually we reached Malaig

“I think I’ll have a wander around and worship at the ‘Altar of Bacchus” said I

“Oh is it his Saint’s Day in the Church of Scotland?”

“Do you want to join me?”

“That’s OK, thanks, I’ve got a tin of sardines in oil with me. I’ll just sit here on the platform bench and catch up with my Bradshaw and, anyhow, I want to do some calculations on the timetable – I’m getting off at Rannoch Moor on the way back and then on to Perth to connect with the night train south, getting off at Peterborough and on to March in east Anglia…..” (I’m not sure if that was an accurate reportage of his plans, but it was along those lines

And he did get off at Rannoch Moor station. And vanished into the night, but before he did he gave me a tin of baked beans – a kindly gesture, even though I didn’t have a tin opener nor a fork or spoon.

I then settled down – on my own – to read my copy of Herron’s “Law and Practice of the Kirk – a Practical Guide” – after all, you’ve got to keep abreast of the workings of the Institution.  And anyhow, I’d seen the scenery on the trip up


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