Steam and Rails

As I mentioned in my previous post, in the 1950s we had our own branch railway line. When I say it was our own, I mean there was a station in our village which we could actually see from our front window. My mother hated so much to waste time that she often refused to leave the house until the signal had gone down at the signal-box by the Tay Bridge, which usually meant the train was on its way through the tunnel from Newport, the next village along the north coast of Fife. I was so traumatised by this behaviour on her part that I now insist on being at the station at least an hour before the train is due to depart, something which is probably equally annoying to my own family.

There was a network of small branch lines all over Fife in those days, and at one time you could get on at our own station and travel right round to Elie, which we did sometimes in the summer. It was a bit more tortuous getting to my grandmother’s in Dunfermline, but you could still get there by train, only it involved changing at Dundee and at Thornton Junction and usually having to wait there in the cold for ages. For some reason I remember it always having been dark when we travelled to and from Dunfermline, although I suppose it must have been light sometimes. The west of Fife was very industrial at that time and the trains would wend their way past coal mines.

Of course all the trains were steam-powered, which made them romantic, smelly and dirty. You can only get this effect nowadays by taking a trip on one of these small heritage lines that have sprung up everywhere. I realised when I tried this not long ago that travelling by train hadn’t been altogether pleasant in those ‘good old days’.

Looking at pictures of London in the 1950s I noticed there were trolley-buses as well as the usual kind. I have a feeling the trolley-bus was a mode of transport mainly enjoyed by people in the south-east, whereas we grittier Scots (as well as the perhaps even grittier Northerners) had trams instead. You had to be gritty to ride on a tram, especially on the top deck of one of the Dundee ones. It was almost impossible to stand up while the tram was going round a corner. You would be flung around all over the place.

Of course there were cars around in the 1950s too, but fewer people had them and the roads were a lot quieter. There weren’t so many rules, and some people drove without ever having passed a test. Most people depended on public transport to get around.

The Tay Bridge
We could see the Tay Bridge from our front window.

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