scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

The "Jellicoes" by Roger E. G. Read

Read Part 1


While the travellers made the most of the break of journey, the stock was taken into a bay platform at the northern end, where the third class sleeper, and the necessary additions, coaches and vans, would be waiting. From that moment there was much activity in and around the "Jellicoe," with Military Police enforcing the special security regulations so that the platform took on quite a "frontier" air.

Towards half past ten, the bustle and confusion would die down, and with the second portion backing down into the opposite side of the same platform, the first portion of the "Jellicoe" - for so the London train had now become - would stand awaiting the "right away." By now the latter was back at its maximum formation, ten to not more than 14 vehicles, though seldom much short of the higher figure. At the head would be a Class "5" 4-6-0, carrying on its cab side the distinctive automatic tablet-exchanging apparatus of the Highland. It was 10.30 p.m. when the first special pulled out, followed by the second train half-an-hour later.

On the first "Jellicoe," unless the load was at its maximum, it was usual to manage without a pilot to Inverness, save for assistance from Blair Atholl and Aviemore up the "big banks," and it was from there that the southbound arrangement of two Class "5s" in tandem would apply. The lighter second portion required only to be assisted over the Grampians. Both sections took the Slochd route from Aviemore. The next change of locomotives was made in both directions while the trains were standing on the avoiding line at Inverness, which forms, in effect, the eastern side of that station's unique triangular lay-out.

Making the same regular stops, tackling the short, sharp climbs in which this section abounds, and stirring the echoes on the longer and steeper climbs from Bonar Bridge up past Lairg and from Helmsdale up to "County March" summit, the latter a lonely part of Scotland indeed, the two trains would finally come to rest back at their starting-point by the Pentland Firth, at 7 a.m., and 7.30 a.m, respectively. The London "Jellicoe" thus had taken 21 hours from Euston, 2½ hours less than in the opposite direction, and about that difference, small though it was, the troops always had much to say!

Modern stock was used, and as the Movement Control organisations of the three fighting services knew in advance the strength on their quota for any particular day, reasonably comfortable travelling was assured. Standard L.M.S. 3rd Class restaurant cars were adapted as "canteen coaches," though I once caught sight of one of the one-time Caledonian Pullman 'diners' that had been pressed into service. They were staffed by the Salvation Army, who worked untiringly in providing hot suppers, breakfasts and teas, if need be, to every man on board the train.

Travel by those specials had a very distinctive character. Its interest was accentuated by the fascinating changes of scene, and, on the old Highland metals, acoustically by the galloping rail-joint rhythms from the old 30ft. rails, not forgetting the interest that always clings to express workings over single track. All things considered timekeeping was remarkably good.

One final memory is of a sight at Perth when the driver of the 10.30 p.m., with 13 vehicles behind his tender, was required to come off and add another! His face was a study and as for his language . . .! By enginemanship of the order of that on Yeovil in the recent locomotive exchange, he and his mate won through to Blair Atholl unaided, though no doubt they had some anxious moments, toiling up the 1 in 80 to Kingswood and on the 1 in 85 through Pitlochry. This journey was typical of the grand wartime job done by "Jellicoes".