4SRKT and the Move to Oblivion

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4SRKT

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No, not a bad Harry Potter rip-off, but a terrifying tale of woe and intrigue nonetheless.

It was meeting time in Scotland again and time for our customary skip bashing trip over Rannoch Moor; out on the 18:21 unit ex-Glasgow Queen St, back on the seated sleeper from Rannoch. All tickets booked ages ago and my mate was already in Scotland having driven north on Wednesday. I caught the 09:02 S&C working ex-Shipley on Thursday morning after taking the boys to school and headed north on the 158+153 combo with a sense of anticipation.

At Carlisle the 11:47 Pendolino to Glasgow was running 26 down, but I had some flexibility in my schedule, which had allowed a lunch break at Glasgow before some local track bashing. I forfeited lunch and ran for the 13:30 380116 to Ayr which I rode to Paisley Gilmour Street. An OK train although a bit of a rough rider I thought. Not really an improvement on a 334 comfort-wise. I walked across Paisley which has a surprisingly grand town centre I was pleased to note. Not so grand around Canal station though, where I picked up a 156 on the 14:00 back to Central for the first bit of new track of the day. At Central I descended to the grim depths of the low level station, which felt like going back in time to the early 1980s. Had a 303 rolled in it would have completed the dank image for me. A 320 rolled in instead on the 14:27 to Larkhall, taken all the way for new track on the branch. The curve att Haughhead Jn is about as tight as I've ever been over, and the residents of the new, 'executive' housing built next to it must have a high tolerance for screeching. Either that or they're driven mad by it 4 times an hour. Back to Hamilton Central over a surprisingly lovely stretch of railway. We crossed the Clyde high up on a viaduct and the water was furiously boiling away along the rocky bed looking like beer being swished into a glass from a hand pulled pump. I got lunch at Hamilton (Gregg's £1 baguette :)) before boarding more York quality stock in the shape of a 318 on the 15:33 to Lanark via a Grand Tour of Lanarkshire. No problem with this though, scratching off Mossend South to Mossend East, Holytown to Wishaw, and Cleghorn to Lanark. Lovely jubbly! There was a most peculiar carry on at Lanark, with part of the station sealed off by the Police, and a pair of shoes standing in the middle of the adjacent car park with a thick white chalk line drawn around them like they belonged to a murder victim. I decided to get out of view before a film crew turned up and I got caught doing a bit of illicit line gricing on the national news or something. Straight back to Argyle Street via the direct Shieldmuir run (no new track though) and checked into the Premier Inn on George Street.

Not before I'd paid a visit to M&S though. Earlier in the day (at Larkhall) I'd discovered that I'd suffered a total and catatrophic zip failure in the trouser department. Things were getting drafty in the old 'Southern Region' and the prospect of spending an evening in the West Highlands with a gale blowing around the Trossachs was not appealing, not to mention the embarrassment of having to sit through a meeting the next day without proper 'security' down below. Got a new pair for £15 and changed into them in the hotel room. Visited the Aldi handily located next to High Street station and bought 11 bottles of beer plus some sandwich ingredients and crisps, before catching a 334 one stop to Queen Street where I met my mate in the Wetherspoons. I was surprised to see a 334 on a short Springburn > Dalmuir working when I had a 318 on a much longer Lanark run, when from a normal's POV the 334 must be a better proposition. I wasn't complaining of course; give me a York EMU any day over all the other stuff out there.

I had time for a quick half before we boarded the 18:21. I had foolishly left my bottle opener at home but had had the foresight to 'borrow' one of the spoons from the Premier and with some difficulty was able to get the tops off a couple of the bottles with it. This method does make the cap fly off at the speed of a bullet, so it's a good idea to aim it away from other pax. Our reserved seats weren't at a table so we found a group of no-show reservations around a table and moved all our stuff over to it. A huge problem then occurred when it came to open the next bottles because we couldn't find the spoon anywhere. We searched high and low for it but couldn't uncover it at all. Several of the other pax were helping out by this time, trying to find suitable edges for us to prize the tops off, and eventually one was found on a edge of a sort of raised platform between two of the seat backs. Excellent. The trip proceded nicely with the weather grim some of the time, but plenty of wonderful vistas much of the rest of the time. After Arrochar and Tarbet the guard made an incomprehensible speech about something or another. The word 'weather' was mentioned, but as that was everybody's main topic of conversation it was hardly remarkable. Certainly nobody on board batted an eyelid at what he was saying so it didn't seem that it was of any import. This man REALLY needs to go on a course in how to speak into a microphone. Giving out what turns out to be very important gen in what might as well be an obscure foreign langauge is worse than pointless.

At this point I got my coat down from the luggage rack where I'd put it when we swapped seats, an lo and behold found the missing spoon in the pocket. The train was going very slowly at this stage, taking it veeerrrry gingerly indeed. We arrived at Ardlui only a few minutes down though, to find the 6-car southbound unit waiting for us. One crew change later and we were off. The new guard said in a very clear and confident voice that the Mallaig portion would be terminating at Crianlarich due to a freight having derailed near Tulloch. I immediately realised that this would mean the sleeper would be trapped at Fort Bill and would be caped. Uh-oh. If Mr Mumbler had been on his much-needed remedial microphone course last week instead of tomorrow (in case any ScotRail HR people are reading this), I would have been armed with this gen when we needed it, rather than about 90 seconds after it ceased to be of any use at all. We would have been heading south back to Glasgow rather than being on a total Move to Oblivion. I explained our plight to the grip who of course had no idea what to do about it! At Crianlarich we detrained onto the platform along with about 30 other people and about 300,000 midges all intent on dining heartily on the big meal ScotRail had dumped in their midst. Good news of a sort came in that the guard told us that the southbound train had not in fact left Ardlui but would head back to Crianlarich once our train had cleared the section because the line was now shut between Ardlui and Arrochar! WTF?? It never rains but it pours. This would mean about 70 unhappy punters would be needing ScotRail to get them back to Glasgow and we would be able to join them in whatever contrivance was procured to move we poor sods. All four cars of the train we had arrived on went off to Oban, and we went off to the bar in the Crianlarich Hotel. We had more drinkies and I strolled back up to the station a bit later on to find a lot of despondent people hanging about and a lot of happy midges everywhere. The poor buggers from ScotRail were trying to organise enough taxis (late in the evening in a village of about 100 inhabitants a good 30 miles from the nearest 'town', using that term loosely) to take all these folk back to Glasgow before they were eaten alive, and I retired to the hotel to report this to my mate and a couple of other passengers who had also given up the unequal struggle for existence in the midge infested outdoors. It was about ten o'clock by this time, and we reasoned that it wouldn't be possible for about 15 taxis to sneak up to the station without us spotting them through the window of the bar, so settled in with some very pleasant Scottish-brewed beer to wait.

By eleven o'clock the idea of a lengthy taxi ride with bladders in a state of instability did not seem a good one. We did what we had been building up to for a couple of hours and threw in the towel. We enquired about the availabilty of a twin room and secured one for £69. More beers and we retired shortly after taxis started to arrive at about half eleven.

The next morning we awoke refreshed but a bit stinky because all our gear was in the Premier Inn in Glasgow. All I had was a rucksack containing three remaining bottles of beer and an OS map, and my mate literally had the clothes he stood up in. After a shower and an enormous breakfast I then set off to investigate how the f*** we were going to get out of there. There was a Citylink bus from the stop opposite the hotel at 12:28 to Glasgow. Hmmmm. Not much good that to get to a meeting in Airdrie any time that day, never mind starting at 09:00 as planned. At the station there was a bus idling but nobody around to ask, so I surmised that they would run the 156 in from Oban and transfer the passengers onto the waiting vehicle. So it proved, and we were there just in time after my mate had checked out of the room without clearing my stuff out of it first. Thanks. There was a TV cameraman there filming the glum looking queue, which I didn't welcome as I hadn't been able to contact the wife to let her know what had happened and didn't really want to end up starring in some stock footage of weather-related railway chaos on every news network going. Next problem was tickets. Since ScotRail had provided taxis at some ludicrous time the previous night there was no obligation to carry us on this bus. However we somehow managed to bluff our way into the last two seats on the bus using two advances for yesterday's seated sleeper from Rannoch to Ardlui, plus a battered Stathclyde Daytripper ticket, also dated Thursday. The guy didn't look entirely convinced by this but clearly didn't want any extra hassle so let us on. Thank the lord for that. It was interesting to see this journey from a different perspective, lower down by the shore of Loch Lomond, but the bus was hot, cramped, crowded and with a screaming baby thrown in, so it was with some relief that we bailed in front of Queen Street station some five minutes earlier than the train's booked arrival time, despite a really slow run in from Dalmuir along the Dumbarton Road, past some of the grimmest places I've ever seen. The bus running all the way rather than dropping us at, say, Helensburgh for a local working was very good news because getting out of the barrier with the previous day's Daytripper could have been interesting.

Next task, liberate our gear from the Premier, 30 minutes after we've supposed to have checked out, without getting charged for an extra day. This mission accomplished we strolled to High Street station to get a train to Airdrie, where we were picked up by a colleague and taken to the depot. The rain was so heavy in Airdrie that we were totally drenched in the 50 yards from the station to the bridge under which we took shelter while waiting. What on Earth is going on? Will Scotland have been completely washed away by the time I next go there? We called it a day after about an hour, anxious to get home before the next natural disaster was visited upon us. We were very fortunate to be driving home as the queues of hundreds of people snaking out of Glasgow Central station, along Gordon Street and round the corner down towards Argyle Street suggested that all was not going to plan with other train services in Scotland. Pausing only to dine at Tebay Services we got back to West Yorkshire in good speed, very glad indeed to be closing the door on this sorry chapter.

We are now a laughing stock at work. Luckily the funny side was seen by everyone from the Ops Director down, and there is a bit of a history of ludicrous things going wrong when we have our jaunts (lost tickets, sleeping in preserved delivery vehicles, passports and laptops left behind, public nudity, people on trains nearly dying on top of our stuff when we have to catch a plane, that sort of thing), so this just adds to the legend.

From being one of my favourite rock solid can't-possibly-go-wrong moves, this evening Rannoch thing has turned into my worst ever Move to Oblivion in 41 years on the rails. I think it will be a good while before I do it again.
 
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Techniquest

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Crikey, that can't have been much fun at all. Glad I wasn't there, I'd have been more than fuming with those midges (luckily never had that problem when I've been on the WHL)!
 

4SRKT

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It was pretty stressful really all around. Not too bad once we'd made the decision to jack, but waking up the next morning and realising that we were in the wilds of FK20 rather than in G1, and with a severed railway line in the way, caused the stress to start up again!

I wasn't too bothered by the midges at the time, although my mate was being eaten alive. I'm covered in lumps and itches now though :mad:
 
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