When I started this series of posts about the route from Carlisle to Stranraer I divided the line into three sections. In some ways the sections were chosen by the junctions at Castle Douglas and Newton Stewart, serving Kirkcudbright and Whithorn respectively. In others they represented the different geographical settings that the line passes through from the billiard table farmland of Dumfriesshire into the uplands of Kirkudbrightshire with their lochs and moors. This final section sees the line returning to farming countryside though there is a significant amount of forestry as it passes through Wigtownshire to the west coast of Scotland. Although the land is flatter beyond Newton Stewart this section of the line still has a few solid climbs though the majority of the hard work for locomotive and crew comes when travelling the eastbound direction, for example between Stranraer and Castle Kennedy but we will be facing that particular grade as a descent near the end of our journey.

Departing Newton Stewart we see the remains of the Whithorn and Garlieston branch on the left and the small shed that provided locomotives for the branch – The shed is still there to be seen on satelite maps, finding new life as premises for light industry. Passing under the Old Military Road (there are quite a few of these in Scotland) the crew find themselves suddenly facing a vicious 1 in 68 grade which eases after a short while to 1 in 86 as the line climbs to Glasnick. During the climb we pass through areas of forestry and some scenarios for the line remaining open see it used to carry timber – a trade that the modern day railway is involved with on remaining lines in other parts of Scotland. Breasting the summit the line then descends on an easier 1 in 100 grade before levelling to cross the River Bladnoch. The crossing point once occupied by the railway is now used by the re-aligned A75 although the original road and bridge still crosses the river further upstream. The line climbs briefly after the river on a gentle grade to reach Kirkcowan where the station is situated a little to the west of the town. There were permanent way sidings here and presumably some agricultural freight.

44922 reaches the summit of the 1 in 63 at  Knockishee after departing Glenluce.
44922 reaches the summit of the 1 in 63 at Knockishee after departing Glenluce.
From Kirkcowan the line climbs gently before levelling to pass through an area of flat moorland and cross Tarf Water before once again climbing to a summit at Knockishee where the descent to Glenluce begins. The line here follows another Old Military Road and also the Lady Burn until it reaches the town. The initial grade on this descent is 1 in 63 which really gets your attention as a prompt application of some brakes is desirable to prevent the train from exceeding the speed limit of 60mph. Of course, travelling in the eastbound direction the gradient starts from Glenluce at 1 in 100 and steepens to the 1 in 63 at the summit; just as well it’s only a short climb because it’s a real tester for steam locomotives and crews! Glenluce handles a mix of general freight as befitting a station serving a moderate sized town.

Leaving Glenluce the line crosses Water of Luce on a viaduct that remains in place before descending towards the next station at Dunragit. Before we get to Dunragit we pass Challoch Junction where the Ayr line joins the line to Stranraer from the north. This route to Stranraer remains open to freight and passenger traffic with services from Glasgow so we’re now back in some form of reality. We also find colour light signals here in place of the semaphores and the AWS (automatic warning system) actually works too though I usually treat it like a satnav – not to be trusted once we’ve left the west coast mainline 😉 Dunragit is one of those classic British stations where the road crossing is obstructed while a train is in the station – it was a common design feature and is probably a result of so many stations being constructed when road traffic was much lighter and generally consisted of horse and cart. To the west of the station is Dunragit Oil Terminal which has ceased to exist. Dunragit also had a creamery to the east of the station, now sadly closed though the buildings remain and you can still see the trackbed of the siding that served it.

D5308 calls at Dunragit in the rain.  This is a Class 27 but D5308 was a Class 26 - fewer horses and no headcode box ;-)  So a number like D5348 would be more correct!   The type could have worked the route from circa 1962.
D5308 calls at Dunragit in the rain. This is a Class 27 but D5308 was a Class 26 – fewer horses and no headcode box 😉 So a number like D5348 would be more correct! The type could have worked the route from circa 1962. Note that the stationary train is obstructing the level crossing.
Dunragit… what a delightful name for a station that is. I’m sure Sir John Betjeman would have loved it! Railway stations usually have names taken from the community they serve and they form a catalogue of Little Britain – those strangely named glimpses into the nation’s soul. Railway modellors have often referenced the ancient naming policies of the companies in a humourous way. A couple that spring to mind are… ‘Much Wittering in the Marsh’ and the classic GWR advice on one model station to ‘Change for Theworst’ – purporting to be somewhere in Wales! Checking out on Wikipedia I understand that Dunragit was derived from Din Rheged meaning “Fort of Rheged”, the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged which existed in northern Britain between the 5th and 8th centuries. There’s also a link to King Arthur but even my credulity is getting stretched at that point. I suspect that the closest thing to King Arthur would be a Steam Special to Stranraer with preserved Southern Railway King Arthur Class 777 ‘Sir Lamiel’ on the front! However the link to a very different Kingdom of North Britain exists – many of the steam loco’s and some of the diesels that worked the line were built by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow as were so many steam loco’s that served on lines throughout the British Empire.

From Dunragit we descend gently to Castle Kennedy station – having discussed names it behoves me to say that the Clan Kennedy have their homelands around here and that the Castle Douglas of Dumfriesshire also references a local clan. It’s also interesting to note how many of the local towns along the route reference churches… Kirkcudbright, Kirkcowan, Crossmichael. Everything here speaks of the past and some sort of permanence which the railway didn’t quite achieve – perhaps it was too recent? Anyway, I digress once more… The descent from Castle Kennedy towards Stranraer is quite steep – 1 in 86 for much of the time – and care is needed to avoid busting the speed restrictions which culminate with a 20mph restriction over the points at the junction. On our descent towards Stranraer we pass a forlorn signal box with boarded up windows – a faded sign proclaims Cairnryan Junction. A short distance further and we pass the remains of Cairnryan junction itself. The line to Cairnryan was constructed by the military during WWII along with a port at Cairnryan to supply naval vessels from the weapons plants along the line. After the war the tracks were lifted.

Jubilee 45588 'Kashmir' stands in Stranraer Town station with a short passenger service for Carlisle.
Jubilee 45588 ‘Kashmir’ stands in Stranraer Town station with a short passenger service for Carlisle.
At Stranraer the line divides – on the left is Stranraer Town station and the stub of the line that went to Portpatrick where passengers and mail originally crossed to Belfast via the shortest route. To the right the line travels out along the breakwater to serve the harbour and the vessels carrying freight. Portpatrick declined as a port almost at the same time as the line was built so essentially all passengers and freight have long been handled by the railway via Stranraer Harbour station – a slightly longer sea journey.
78039 departs Stranraer Harbour with an early morning train of Irish cattle fresh off the boat and bound for a farmer at Glenluce.
78039 departs Stranraer Harbour with an early morning train of Irish cattle fresh off the boat and bound for a farmer at Glenluce.
Therein lies a modern tale for in 2011 Stena Line moved its operations to a new port at Old House Point to the north of Cairnryan, so there is now no direct rail connection with the ferry services. Currently that now means a bus ride to Ayr for passengers looking to use train services to Glasgow and Carlisle. The remaining train service to Stranraer from Ayr has been reduced since the ferries moved and only one platform remains in use at Stranraer leading to fears of the loss of the service altogether.

Finally… A glimpse of another ‘What might have been’ – 66094 shunting log wagons at Newton Stewart whilst 66028 prepares to depart with a load of logs for Stranraer and onward shipment to Ireland.

66094 and 66028 at Newton Stewart.

It’s not surprising that I should turn to trains for this challenge given my interests in that area.

The 1C30 service for Cambridge gets a move on through Alexandra Palace under the watchful eyes of rail enthusiasts – it’s running a couple of minutes late at this point in the journey…

365508 at Alexandra Palace

Go to any mainline station and you’ll find people running to catch a train! These two ladies are hurrying to catch the Birmingham train on platform 13 which will soon be on the move…

On the Move at Euston

A more relaxed image of a bygone era. D8060 on the move with a train of oil tanks between Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie in Kirkcudbrightshire, southwest Scotland, in a scene from the early 1960’s. The line closed in 1965 but lives again as a route on Train Simulator…

DD8060 near Dalbeattie

You can read about the Weekly Photo Challenge at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/on-the-move/

I must apologise for my recent lack of posts – normal service is about to be resumed 🙂 The causes of my absence from the blogosphere can be summed up as preparing for two major software deployments at work and a mystery issue with the home pc. The latter has kept me very busy over the last couple of days.

The computer problem was unusual – hit the power on switch and nothing happens… Well, not for some minutes anyway! The problem was obviously related only to the power section of the machine since once it deigned to fire up everything functioned correctly. I had a suspicion that the problem was dirt/dust in the switch contacts. Our elderly house is notoriously dusty; sit still longer than 5 minutes and you too can become slightly greyer 😉

At this point I decided upon a Man’s solution to the problem… Here was a great excuse to replace the machine with a new one! The old machine struggles with the full version of Train Simulator 2014 – I have to turn off the TSX and run it in a window otherwise it slows up. For the uninitiated TSX provides very realistic rain on locomotive windows and a few other weather effects besides. This doesn’t mean that the old machine is a slouch though – it has no problems running Call of Duty Modern Warfare to a very good standard. It’s just that when you’re driving something that travels in a smooth manner like a train any minor framerate issues become very obvious. So I ordered a nice new HP Envy 700 with an Intel i7 processor and AMD Radeon R9 270 graphics card.

Then it was time to break out the vacuum cleaner and remove the old machine from the workstation. Whilst the desk itself is clean, the area round the back (where nobody can normally get to) has enough dust to populate the set of a creaky mansion in a horror movie! And when I pull the computer out of its cubby-hole I find that the air vents are masked in dust. The Dyson makes short work of this collection of who-knows-what particles and streamers some of which look suspiciously alive and also deals with the muck in the rats nest of cables behind.

By this time I have decided where the old machine is going – down to the pristine front room and under my Son’s desk. You see, a plan is forming in my mind as I work. So I vacuum the outside of the machine throughly to remove any remaining exterior dust. Note – you must never vacuum the inside of a computer as vacuum cleaners can create huge amounts of static electricity which will fry the CPU – use a compressed air spray instead.

Changing the PC is a chance to rationalise the cabling – no mouse and keyboard cables required as these are now wireless. Do I need the Seagate Free-Agent to back up key files? – Probably not. Very few of my files are mission critical – only my photographs have that status and they’re stored on a portable Seagate drive, so the Free-Agent goes. That’s another rationalisation of cables and fewer places for dust to collect in future.

Those of you who have upgraded PC’s before will know what a chore it can be but, for those who haven’t, here’s a list of the actions I needed to do after firing it up :-

Install Canon Printer Drivers from disk and connect Printer.
Uninstall McAfee Security – A personal dislike… Download Avira Internet Security Suite and load that instead.
Download and install Spybot Search & Destroy – good for dealing with tracking and advertising cookies/code.
Download and install Steam – essential for a variety of games including railworks 🙂
Download and install Simsig – Signalbox game which most of you would find boring 😉
Download and install Microsoft Office Professional 2013 – I prefer to use Outlook for my emails and calendar and I also find most of the other applications useful. (I did consider OpenOffice but that wouldn’t give me Outlook).
Install Canon EOS Solution software from disk for my Canon cameras
Install FujiFilm Finepix software from disk for my Fuji X-E1 camera
Download and install Adobe Lightroom 5.4 for photo processing
Install from disk Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 – thought about upgrading but decided not to as I have a current version of Lightroom.
From the Steam application, install Train Simulator 2014 and Plants vs Zombies (My Good Lady will kill me if I forget that one!)

I’ve probably missed a couple in all that but, with many installations requiring a restart to complete, the work took most of the weekend with breaks to watch the Grand Prix.

So what happened to the old PC? – it’s now installed on my Son’s desk and fires up immediately some of the time so I may have to take it for a repair. Apparently it is a known problem and may be possible to resolve by a reset of the power supply – I’ll try that first. Anyway, Alasdair gets his own computer for the first time which means he can do things like his MyMaths homework at his desk instead of in my office 🙂 I dug out an old monitor and bought a new Cat6 Ethernet cable to connect it to the HomeHub and he’s up and running. We’ll uninstall a few things that he doesn’t need from the machine over the next week or so. We had originally intended to get him a mid-priced laptop for his schoolwork but instead he’s got a very capable PC complete with Microsoft Office Professional 2007, Adobe Photoshop and a 2TB hard drive! It might be secondhand but it’s much more capable than he could have expected had we gone down the original route. I will probably connect up the Free-Agent later so that he can back-up his key files too.

Finally a small confession – I didn’t pay full price for the HP PC as I get an employees discount from BT. And I certainly didn’t pay the £389 for Office Professional 2013. £8-95p via BT and the Microsoft Home Use Programme for employees! So I could afford to be extravagant 😉 Many large companies are able to offer similar discounts as a result of being major users of the suppliers mentioned.