When we lived in Wormit, we had a very good view of the local station, from which the booking office and waiting room building has now been moved to the steam railway at Bo’ness in West Lothian, and of the main Aberdeen to London railway line. There was a water tower across the road from our house where engines would take on water in the middle of the night and then let off steam, something that was almost guaranteed to wake up anyone who was staying with us and give them a terrible fright.
At times we would become trainspotters and spend ages at the window with little books full of train numbers to tick off – no draughty station platforms for us! We saw all the well-known steam engines of the time, such as ‘The Flying Scotsman’ and ‘The Mallard’ from our front windows.
On one occasion there was a bad railway accident in the station. My brother and I had just gone to bed when there was a tremendous crash outside. We rushed to the front windows to have a look, and saw a steam engine lying on its side in the station, having crashed just as it came out of the tunnel – there was a bend in the track at that point. My father went over to the station to help and returned with some people from the train who were quite shaken up and waited in our house until they could get transport back to Dundee, where the train was supposed to be going. It was quite upsetting to find out later that there had been some fatalities.
We used the train a lot – my father went to work on it every day, and for several years in a row when we were children we went on holiday either to St Andrews or Elie, in each case travelling the whole way by train round the coast of Fife. All these lines are now closed. I’m not sure that it’s progress being able to drive the whole way instead!