torsdag 19. august 2010

On being Carstairs

Carstairs was an odd place. A village with no other raison d'etre than The Railway.

Even the famous secure mental insitution is a little outside the town at some hill or other. Like Windscale, it had probably changed it's name to some grassy knowle or other.

Carstairs had been a place I had spotted from, the trouble being the impressive speeds acheived by non stopping services. One claim to fame was the point set at the south end of platform 1, which was by reports, the most maintained point on the whole of SCr because it was on a cant that took trains at what seemed like at least 90mph.

There was a definiative Carstairs atmosphere: the stillness, the festering. Despite the signal box and the strategic importance of the junction, the station supported no populace but was just a passing through kind of place. Most people were probably glad of the rest from sitting in mark Is being hurtled down beattock northwards.

Me and Rupert took ourselves up to the local pub once, where I had probably my first ever half pint. I was 16 and almost 6 foot so could pass off. On the way there we could feel that the whole village was a sleepy backwater, which the 20th century had bipassed all but for the electrified railway.

There were some dreadful festers there: usually caused by delays or by covering two portions for neither of them to produce: that was the game, yin and yang: no pleasure without pain. You could get on most any train going north from Mossend, and it was a good place to pick up a few more "roarer" miles or get the gen on what was dropping on at Mossend in order to plan a bail later.

Before the neds would just go up to mossend office with their orange vests onand get a tops print out, we used to have to go down to Carstairs to cover these "portions" on summer ADDEXs and timetabled services. In 1985 I don't think we bothered.

The other thing that happened there was some degree of marshalling because of the abundance of track bed! There was a loop through to edinburgh along the marshalling point, 4 or 5 tracks in general, northern ballast marshalling point and the triangle towards the loony bin, which I once saw a train reversed on for some unknown reason. Think it was the royal scot and the 87 had failed.

The biggest drop at the junction did in fact not even stop at the platform every time! The northwards motorail would have a loco change here which was done up on the far right hand side track north of the station. in 82 to 84, this regularily produced 40s and pairs of 20s for some reason. 40s had been reallocated following their displacement from inverness/aberdeens in the late 70s and 1980. However they refused to die in Scotland, turning up on ancillary services like Mails, portions, motorails and track maintainance. Also many retaining boilers, they could cover winter Dundees etc and the mrk I duel heats on the Stranrær route.

16 wheels were however, resolutely banned from Glasgow central: I seem to remember seeing a class 40 there in 1979ish but too many derailments on the torturous points put an end to peak and whistler arrivals, probably in the 70s but by policy maybe 1980.

I was surprised in later years that the Carstairs route was chosen for the extension of ECML services to Glasgow. Fine with the electrification: no tunnels or NIMBYs to speak of ! But it was a drag to get there.

There were actually a couple of 303 services which originated there, and perhaps there was a lockerbie/Moffat stopper which also ran, I fail to remember but will maybe come upon a 303 move out of the place following a 47/4 "Producing" on an otherwise hottly anticipated "portion".

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