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Memories of working almost 45 years on the railways will be kept on track for retired train driver Ian ‘Ivor’ Campbell.
As a keepsake of his time with British Rail and then ScotRail, colleagues presented Ian from Dalmally with a painting of the first engine he ever drove.
Work friends from as far away as Aberdeen and Derby gathered at the Corran Halls earlier this month to wish him a long and happy retirement.
The specially-commissioned painting of a Class 27 disel engine by railway artist Vincent Sweeney is now taking pride of place in his front room.
Ian, nicknamed Ivor after the engine, was working in a garage at Loch Awe after leaving school when a customer who worked on the the railway at Crianlarich mentioned they were needing more men.
He applied and got the job, starting out on the tracks. ‘We were laying tracks here, there and everywhere, but my first Sunday was at the Horseshoe Viaduct and it was blowing a blizzard. We couldn’t see each other. I had misgivings that day but stuck it out and a year or so later started as a co-driver, as a second man so-called in those days. I’d run the steam boiler to heat the carriages,’ he said.
There have been many changes over the past decades of his long-haul – Ian was sad to see Oban’s old railway station demolished, the newer trains are too plastic for his liking and not as comfortable as the previous engines, he says.
The first engine he ever drove was the Class 27 diesel loco. ‘I’m yet to see anything better for up here,’ he said.
Early shifts for Ian, who drove the Glasgow-Oban route, started at 3.15am to be ready for the first train out at 5am. When Glasgow Queen Street was short of drivers, he would take on the Mallaig route as well.
Despite going up and down the same tracks every day, he never got fed up of the view – watching daybreak arrive and enjoying the sunsets.
‘Times when the snow came were a whole new ball game. We were stopped at Crianlarich once when the points got stuck, by the time we were on the move again one foot of snow had fallen. I’ve seen that route in all conditions.
‘When you pass Cruachan station about 600 to 700 yards, the sight of Loch Awe spreading out before you is one I never tired seeing, but there’s too many to mention along that route – it was like going on a mini tour of Scotland every day,’ added Ian, who drove the train bringing Princess Anne to open Oban’s new auction mart. He also had the young princes William and Harry as passengers when they travelled to see their grandmother Frances Shand Kydd who lived on Seil.
When Covid allows, Ian hopes to get a ticket to journey on the Irish version of the Royal Scotsman tour train.
‘I’ll be an awful backseat driver no matter who’s driving, saying break now, take power now. I’ll be doing the trip for them,’ he said.