The Ultimate Trainspotting Spot?

Bookspotting at HaymarketA sunny day, and a hour’s meeting stolen in between trains on the journey to St Andrews.

We sit on the cafe terrace above Haymarket station, discussing ebook interoperability, hybrid diesel/electric trains, Beeching and (the demise of) branchlines. Below us, the range of franchised trains roll in, halt, and then continue on their journey. One of my companions explains to our overseas visitor the intricacies of Scotrail, East Coast mainline, Virgin, CrossCountry. Behind my sunglasses, I close my eyes and imagine my two-wheeled way into the countryside.

These ten days have the following travel schedule: Glasgow-Stockholm (including the magnificent Arlanda Express)-Glasgow-Birmingham-University of Birmingham-Brimingham-Glasgow-Stirling-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Leuchars-St Andrews-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Glasgow-Stirling-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Glasgow-Bearsden-Glasgow. Important to pay attention to platform announcements and the display panels.

I don’t remember in every station to check out the closest bookish locations, as indicated the Bookspotting app. But in Haymarket, there’s a moment before the next train to find myself in literary terms. The Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod Office is, slightly oddly, the closest location (relating to former-Bishop-now-writer Richard Holloway), but also featured are Caledonian Place (home to Davie in Irvine Welsh‘s Trainspotting) and 160 Bruntsfield Place (Muriel Spark‘s birthplace).

Good job the train is perfect for reading…


Training for the Train

On the train, a man has several A4 pages printed up with differently patterned dots. He runs his pencil along each line, occasionally striking through one of the sets of dots.

Is he teaching himself Braille, but visually? Is this a new form of Sudoku, fending off Alzheimers?

The trolley arrives. Everyone shakes their head, and the trolley passes on. But the attendant notices the pages of dots, and addresses the man: ‘Are you going for train driver?’

‘Aye,’ he replies. ‘I went for it last year and I passed all the tests, but I failed one part of the interview. I’m doing it again, but they’ve changed it, and so I have to do it all again.’

She nods, and passes on.

‘So what is that?’ Central Belt Shuffler asks.

‘It’s a concentration test, to be a train driver. It’s got nothing to do with driving a train, but you have to do it.’

He goes on to tell me about the challenges of becoming a train driver, and how they seem keener on taking people from offices than existing train staff (a man who used to be in insurance; and then a marine biologist who ‘wouldn’t be told’ because he had a degree).

The train arrives. ‘Good luck.’

‘Thanks. I need it.’