Trainspotting …

The Irvine Welsh book title is derived from a scene where two of the main characters, Begbie and Renton, meet an old drunk in the disused Leith Central Station which they are using as a toilet. The drunk asks the two boys if they are “trainspotting”. I guess this is meant to be amusing on several levels, the prime one being that that there are no trains. The station closed to passenger traffic in 1952 and although it was retained as a diesel maintenance depot, this too ceased in 1972. The station has been demolished but the frontage retained. These sorts of facts appeal to an ex-trainspotter. I have never got beyond the first twenty minutes of the film and have never felt inclined to read the book – not so much a soap opera, more a dope opera.  I mention this only because I have found myself hanging around Mallaig station waiting for steam trains to arrive these last couple of days. It takes me back.

A trip to the local Heritage Centre provided some more appealing facts. The station was originally much grander. The platforms were covered, a turntable was located in a siding, roughly on the site of the current seashore car park and, a separate line used to run down to the quay to enable loading direct from the fishing boats. Without the turntable, the Jacobite must swap ends at Mallaig and reverse back to Fort William.

Mallaig still thrives but it has much less to do with fish. There is a constant supply of through traffic/people on the ferries to/from Skye and twice a day in the summer, the steam trains disgorge carriage loads of visitors. This must work wonders for the local traders, at least in the summer months:

K1 Class Locomotive 62005

62005 swapping ends at Mallaig

Black 5 45212 arriving at Mallaig

A mixed-traffic locomotive designed by Sir William Stanier in 1934

Keeping a clean machine

Black 5’s, as they were known by enthusiasts, totalled 842 by the time the last was built in 1951.

45212 about to swap ends



  1. rabirius · September 8, 2019

    The locomotive I like very much.

  2. Su Leslie · September 9, 2019

    Love the b&w. Take away the high-vis vests, and these could be historical shots.

    • northumbrianlight · September 9, 2019

      Many thanks Su – ah yes, the plague of the gilets jaunes. When everyone wears one, they sort of lose their effect 🙂

      • Su Leslie · September 9, 2019

        Agreed. 🤨

  3. Pit · September 9, 2019

    I love those old steam engines – absolutely.

    • northumbrianlight · September 10, 2019

      Wonderful machines aren’t they – is there the same appreciation/ renovation initiatives in the US?

  4. J.D. Riso · September 11, 2019

    Love these, Robin. Such nostalgia in these images. I’ve watched the film- some unforgettably horrific scenes in there. The book is incoherent. I like your version much better.

    • northumbrianlight · September 11, 2019

      Thanks Julie, glad you like the traditional form of trainspotting 🙂 I never even attempted Mr Welsh’s book. My eldest (now 40+!) will no doubt have a view/explanation. I will pass on if it’s coherent 😉

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