Toot toot

Published 18 March 2012

Caledonian Sleeper, seen from the West Highland Way not far from Tyndrum

I could probably fill a fair amount of the Sunday Pictures with ones that involve trains. I like trains. I’m not a trainspotter or anything. I just like travelling by train. There can be no finer way to get somewhere than by train. Why put yourself through the stresses and hassles of driving when someone else can do that for you whilst all you need to do is stare happily out of the window and admire the view.

Whilst walking too, I love seeing trains. They add something to the rural scenery. A tiny train crawling along the side of a large fell is a sight to behold. And can there be anyone who really don’t enjoy the view of a train creeping steadily over the Ribblehead Viaduct?

I have better pictures of trains taken whilst walking than this one. This one is actually not the greatest. But it’s what this photograph represents that’s the wonderful thing about it. It represents a memory that just makes me amazingly happy when I think back to it.

The story is simply. It was our fifth day of walking the West Highland Way. We’d got to Tyndrum the day before and the next day, needed to walk something like 20 miles to White Corries AND get there before 4:30 in order to get a bus.

So we did what any sensible person would do in that situation and set off early. (Ironically we ended up arriving at White Corries near Glencoe a whole hour earlier than we needed to be there.)

The West Highland Way was normally jam packed but for once there was no one about as we’d set off well before eight. As we left Tyndrum we walked near the Fort William railway line.

As we walked along in a sort of sleepy daze, we suddenly heard a loud hoot! For a moment I was confused. Thinking there may be a potential photo opportunity, I’d checked the timetables the day before and wasn’t expecting a train until around 10am.

But of course I’d got it wrong! For there was the Caledonian Sleeper on it’s way to Fort William! It had set off from London at 9:15 the night before and now it was right next to us; four coaches of people heading north.

There was absolutely no legitimate reason for the train to hoot – it’s a single track line and there’s no passing places. If you’re the driver of the Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William, the only reason to hoot is because you want to wave at two weary West Highland Way walkers! And wave the driver did! In fact, if you zoom in close to the photograph, you can just about make out their hand in the cab window!

As we waved back, there were waves from the seated and lounge cars! This was one very friendly sleeper train!

Toot toot! And good morning to you too!

And that’s why this slightly dull looking picture of a train is special. Why it’s now on this page. Because it means a lot to me. It evokes one of the best memories of walking the West Highland Way for me because, well it was so nice.

I don’t know who the driver of that train is, nor whether they make a habit of waving at walkers. I hope they do. Because it made waking up at 6am well worth doing.

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