Kinbrace - observations in passing
I regularly look out for the southbound 'limited stop' train, which passes here shortly before 9:30. It is almost invariably punctual, vital as it is scheduled to intercept the first northbound working at Helmsdale, due here at 10:14. On the morning of the collision between the Landrover and the southbound train I saw it rounding the curve from Forsinard but went into the kitchen to make a coffee. There was a noise as if of some extra rail joints and it ran through, apparently as usual.
Returning to the sitting room, the first thing I saw was the crumpled Landrover facing the platform ramp and the battered (recently renewed) fencing southeast of the crossing; the driver's legs emerged from the offside door and he climbed out, apparently unscathed. Recollecting that railway rules don't encourage 'hit and run' I went to look and the unit had pulled up level with the southern section of my garden, where passengers were marooned for roughly 90 minutes until interviews could be completed and road transport secured for taking them forward.
May I be permitted a few positive comments on the outcome? First, the speed with which the emergency services attended, and presently the railway police. Never in my experience has the platform been so busy. Presumably the 'black box' recorder will have confirmed that the train speed was not excessive, while the crossing lights were found to be functioning normally.
Secondly, and to me the most remarkable of all, was the arrival of the helicopter Ambulance Unit - unnecessary as it turned out, but obviously a prudent move. It hovered briefly and, to my amazement, landed on the disused down platform, skilfully avoiding our numerous poles, lamps and the overhead hydro cables. Only just fitted clear of the undergrowth. Immaculately done!
The 158 unit was scored on both coaches, and a piece was gouged out of the leading corner of the rear vehicle, but the underframes appeared undamaged. In due course the unit departed empty, and the midday northbound train duly appeared. As the 10:14 had necessarily been held at Helmsdale with the line blocked, the midday southbound working due here at 13:57 had been cancelled.
By and large the railway emerged very creditably from this unfortunate incident. Not knowing, one only hopes the train driver and conductor were not too badly shaken. I remain amazed at how speedily the twisted fencing was renewed.
On a general point, at this fairly remote station there has been a notable enhancement of railway maintenance in the last 18 months, greatly appreciated, with daily defrosting of the platform edge in severe weather, snow clearance and regular weedkilling and grass trimming. I understand some additional planting is being negotiated. Any reasonable measure to improve station ambience reflects well on the railway and local communities.