“If a line were to be built it would have to be by spanning the valleys with stupendous viaducts and piercing mountain heights with enormous tunnels; deep cuttings would have to be blasted through the rock; and mile after mile of high embankments would somehow have to be piled on soft peaty moors.”
So says the WCRC leaflet available in Fort William, quoting the title of “The History of the Midland Railway”, first published in 1876. While Victorian diction and flamboyance with the language might be something worth quoting, WCRC are indeed proud to have an award winning service on one of the most scenic lines in the country; indeed the world. Ian Riley’s Black 5’s were the motive power for the trains this week, the K1 that I came to see and much adore, having returned south for maintenance. 45407 and 44871 were very much up to the task, being some of the best maintained examples of steam on the network. Even the locomotive owner was there, enjoying the atmosphere and working with the team on the train; while modesty not seeking the limelight he might deserve for owning, running and maintaining such fine locomotives, the track record of which many engine groups are more than envious to have.
Having made the trip to Scotland, it was great to see such a train in action amongst such great scenery. The amount of people watching the train came from far and wide and it was obvious of the importance the service had for the tourists and the local economy. While some enjoyed the spectacle of visiting an area, renowned for featuring a Wizard and a film others enjoyed the heritage aspect of seeing a British steam train from days past.
The Jacobite is world renown – its route, setting, friendly staff and the train itself make for a brilliant combination and lifetime experience. Perhaps the author of the History of the Midland Railway writing 137 years ago was more prophetic than he realised and I am sure would be impressed to find engines of Midland lineage working the line, alongside others, all these years later.
The leaflet ends quoting the book, “However, great the obstacle, they had simply one of four courses to take – to go over it, or go under it, or to go around it, or to go through it; but go they must.” Paraphrasing that seems the greatest tribute I can give to this sense of shared history and achievement. Today they had four options to take, they went over it, they went under it, around it and went through it. But go they must, Ian Riley and the WCRC team led, and I being proud and happy of my interest; followed.