12 November 1998
Keith Tyler puts forward some excellent ideas for promoting business on the North line (issue 11, page 8) but I winced at his ideas for encouraging motorists to opt for the train. "What", asks Keith, "do they do with the relatively short time they save by driving anyway?" The answer is - an awful lot, because they save an awful lot of time. Indeed the time savings can be measured not in hours, but days.
Days? - yes, because it is impossible to make a day return trip from Caithness to Edinburgh or Glasgow by train, and pointless to make one to Aberdeen, as shown below, whereas you can drive to these destinations, spend several hours there for business or other purposes, and still get home no later than when the last train from Inverness arrives.
|Earliest arrival from Wick at
|Last departure for same day arrival at Wick
No, if we are to convince motorists that they should take the train our No.1 campaigning priority has to be - to misquote the Prime Minister - acceleration, acceleration, acceleration. And while it may be difficult to persuade some people or agencies that this should be done for social, environmental and natural-justice (compensating for roads spending) reasons rather than narrow "business case" accounting criteria, it will be a lot easier than trying to convince any thinking person that Highland train services are, or soon will be, a serious competitor to the car.
D - 64319 Pfungstadt-Eschollbrucken
8th October 1998
News of your special to Thurso and Wick has been reaching me since the end of last month. Regretfully I cannot participate, I wish you well and a commercial success.
I was with HR 103 when she came north on the SLS/RCTS special so long ago, but have a very special memory of what was almost certainly the last passenger working north.
The following is extracted from my notes, but they were not properly written up till some time afterwards. I hope that I have it all right, can anyone improve on the facts therein?
December (Saturday)  Salzcraggie We had gone south on the 09.00 train from Thurso and had been walking on Ben Griam Mhor in bad weather and had not heard the afternoon north-bound train pass and had commented on that. The weather was so poor that we moved the airbeds and sleeping bags into the shelter on the platform itself. There was no easy access across the river and we expected to be undisturbed and disturb no-one. Later, while almost asleep, in the still of an evening with clear skies and little wind we heard the sound of train barking out of Helmsdale and up the Strath. We got out of the sleeping bags and on to the platform to see it storm through into the night. A sight and sound not to be forgotten. We understand that the 11.25 ex Inverness left steam hauled 4.25 hours late. It spent an hour at Rogart detaching the dining car and arrived in Wick some 9.25 hours late, Sabbath breaking.
Which was it? 44785 or 45117 seems likely.