The Permanent Way gang on Rannoch Moor

Having left Maid of the Loch at Tarbet (yesterday’s post) back in August 1970, we stayed in a beautiful youth hostel on the banks of Loch Long and the following morning caught the train to Fort William from Arrochar and Tarbet station.

This was to be one of the best railway journeys ever. It was after the steam era and our train was diesel hauled. For the nerds we had an English Electric type one (class 20) in charge of the train. It was underpowered and went slowly affording time to see the surrounding bleak, wild and wonderful scenery.

I looked forward to crossing the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor. The tales of railway prospectors trying to pick a route almost beggar belief. Elderly men dressed in Sunday best set out to walk across the moor. The weather closed in and they got lost and separated. One of them banged his head on a rock and became unconscious. The brolly one of them carried proved no use at all in the wild weather. Almost amazingly, all survived and the line was built over the moor – still as remote a spot as you could wish for.

But railways need maintaining and during our journey across Rannoch Moor, a permanent way gang were at work. I could, of course, lean out of the window in those days to take a photo of them. The train was travelling at little more than walking pace.

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The men have stepped aside to allow the train to pass. It’s interesting to note the lack of hi-vis jackets. In terms of settlement or habitation, there is nothing.

Life has not taken me back to Rannoch since that day, but on a recent visit to Scotland we looked at Arrochar and Tarbet station, for old time’s sake.

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It would not have had any Gaelic back in 1970.

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