We all have different people who influence our lives in many ways. Today my grandfather passed away after 84 years on this little rock hurtling about in the universe. I can safely say, I don’t believe I would have nearly the interest in trains and railways, or be a model railroader without him. Some of my earliest memories are of going to Scotland and Ireland in the summer and spending big chunks of it with my grandparents. I never did all the things that are stereo-typically Canadian in the summer like playing sports or going to camp. More often than not, our summer was a trip to the UK. Arrive in Scotland, head to Northern Ireland for a week or so with my dad’s family, back to Scotland, dad would go home to work, and my mom, sister and I would stay on in Scotland. These summers are something I cherish, because I got to spend time in a different country, maybe not crazy different, as it always has felt a bit like being home when I go anywhere in the UK, but worlds away from southwestern Ontario farm country in Chatham where I was born and grew up. As my wife can attest, before my grandparents moved down to England to be close to my aunt to help care for them, I shed a tear when we left their old house for what was almost certainly the last time for me over all the happy memories of vacations spent there during my childhood.
So, back to why I love trains. While my Grandfather wasn’t a railroader (he was an Ambulance Driver for the Scottish Ambulance Service), he had a couple of old Tri-Ang model trains, and a small stationary steam engine, and if my sister and I were good, they would come out in the evening a few times over the course of a summer visit. Getting to play with his trains was something that I very much remember looking forward to, and it would eventually lead to me getting toy trains at home in Canada to play with. He also had great books on trains and railways that I was able to look at, and I was further encouraged by other relatives who passed on old railroad magazines for me to read while I was there (or at least pore over pictures and imagine going somewhere being Flying Scotsman or Mallard).
My grandfathers Trainset, now safely in my storage locker here in Canada. Aside from the double ended Aussie locomotive, I always imagined this was the CPR Canadian.
He also took us out to their location station at Lenzie (on the main Glasgow-Edinburgh line) in the evening to watch trains go bye. Those were good days. Diesel Multiple Units, early InterCity HST125’s, and locomotive hauled coaches all mixed in. I learned to know a train was coming by listening for the high pitched whine of the track as a train approached the station at speed from around the corner.
Summer 1988 at Lenzie Station with my sister and Grandfather watching trains go bye (pretty sure this is 1988 based on my Chattanooga Choo Choo hat).
When he and my grandmother would visit us in Canada, we managed to wind up a train ish places as well, as trips to Tennessee for Country Music stuff lead us to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and places of that ilk. He was also responsible for convincing my dad to build my first layout, a good old 4’x8′ plywood pacific in our basement in Chatham.
My grandfather looks on at my first layout in progress. Green carpet sheet over a 4’x8′ plywood sheet, with track nailed right down to the plywood.
My first trip on a train hauled by a Steam Locomotive was with my grandparents at the Bo’Ness and Kinneil Railway about an hour from their home in Scotland. I remember being so good and begging that we go for a visit before we had to go back to Canada. Guess it worked as we went there in both the summer of 1986 and 1988!!
With my grandparents at Bo’Ness in 1986. Nice toothy grin on me.
I love to travel, and for all the places in the world I want to go that I haven’t been too, more often than not when time and money have let me go on vacation, my travels have taken me to the UK to see family, even if only for an evening passing through as part of a longer trip to go to school or just travel/be a tourist. As they’ve aged, the long trip to Canada ceased to be one my grandparents could make, so the only way to see them was to go to the UK. I last visited the Newcastle Upon Tyne area where they live now to see my grandparents in January 2017. I’m glad my last memories of my grandfather are happy when he still had his health, but I’m devastated that I couldn’t go “home” with my Mom this week to be there for her, my aunt, and my granny as they’ve dealt with him slowly leaving us.
With my grandparents in January 2017. I’m never winning any awards for being a sharp dresser.
More than ever I’m looking forward to a trip back to see my granny and give her a big gentle hug, but I already miss my grandfather knowing that we can’t both be stubbornly right about whatever we were discussing again.