Scottish Steam from the 1960s

Here are some c. 1961 never-before-published Scottish steam pics. Die-hard steam fans only, please. The rest of you, look away now.

On the topic of Scottish steam, I’ll be quite candid. Along with anyone else with an interest in Scotland and old locomotives, I’ve got plenty of ‘modern’ pictures of the usual suspects.

I mean pics of preserved locomotives: the Jacobite steam train on the Mallaig line; the pinewoody views of the Strathspey railway; the fine re-creation of a branch line at Bo’ness – as featured in my main Scottish railway page. And that’s all very fine.

Agfacolor CT18 35mm colour slides
Agfacolor CT18 35mm colour slides. Faded and dusty but worth a scan.

Hang on though…maybe you don’t need this preamble. Maybe you’d just like to see some 1960s steam in (faded) colour. Well, hurry on down to the foot of the page where there’s a gallery of A4s at Aberdeen.


Now, where was I? Oh, yes…pictures of railways from the old days when there was actually were, uhmm, real steam trains in Scotland? Well, that’s different. I haven’t got a lot. I was very young.

And I also blame my late father.Just at the time that the 35mm camera was becoming popular, he inexplicably bought a fold-out bellows style 120 format.

The camera – both retro AND useless

The lens must have been ground down from the base of an old jam-jar, perhaps. Camera-shake was built in. It was fixed-focus. And the bellows or perhaps the back usually leaked light.

It was, in short, not just retro but also all but useless though at least the negative size was bigger than 35mm.

However, as a very small but precocious boy, I tried it out, just at the very end of steam in my little home town in the far north-east of Scotland. Below are some of the results.

They have never been published before – and you can see why. They’re terrible! Except for a couple of pics taken later, 1965, to be precise, when I had bought a grown-ups 35mm camera.

But I still think avid steam enthusiasts will get an impression of what could be seen at one of the branch-line termini of the old Great North of Scotland Railway.

GNSR shares – or ‘haddocks’

In its heyday, this company made at least some of its money through moving fish, as quickly as possible, away from ports such as Fraserburgh, where these pics were mostly taken.

(In those early days of privately-owned railway companies, GNSR shares were apparently known as ‘haddocks’.)

If you’re not really into old black-and-white pics (or in this case, mostly black) you should look away now. Because from here on it gets pretty steamy……you have been warned. (Besides, you’ve got – what? – about 200 or so other pages to choose from – few of which mention steam locomotives in Scotland!)

Now, lads, (and it will be lads) having shaken everyone off except the die-hard steam fans, let’s get on with it……..

Scottish steam - Fraserburgh
Scottish steam – Class B1 61352 shunting at Fraserburgh, c. 1960
Railway into road - Fraserburgh
More than half a century later, compared to the pic just above. The site of the yard ‘throat’. (I believe`that’s what they call it.) At least the beach and dunes are the same. And the beach at Fraserburgh is one of the finest sandy beaches on the east coast of Scotland, IMHO.

Shunting At Fraserburgh

This B1 loco, 61352, was a regular, if I remember. This class was originally named after – can you believe it? – antelopes (until they ran out of antelope names). Oh, how I wanted to see one with an antelope name.

As a boy I became an expert on antelope names and hence can answer the trick pub quiz question ‘How many legs has a bongo?’

One named member of the class used to visit – 61242 Alexander Reith Gray – and he was definitely not an antelope but presumably had a London and North Eastern Railway connection. (Let me know, someone, will you?)

Can you believe it, someone did! Thank you to reader Nick Deacon who informs me that Alexander Reith Gray ‘was a director of the LNER in its later stages before 1948 and also county sheriff of Flintshire’. I appreciate the info very much.

The most interesting feature of this period piece above might be in the foreground though. Note the cotton herring-nets drying. The links – the coastal grasslands or common ground – were used for this purpose.

Sometimes these drift-nets were laid flat, sometimes draped over wires and fences. At the time, c. 1960(?), the town of Fraserburgh still had a herring fishery.

Scottish steam - J36 at Fraserburgh
Class J36 65227 at Fraserburgh c.1960, outside the engine shed. ‘Blue Spot’ fish vans in background
Former engine shed, Fraserburgh
Scottish steam – about 60 years later, the only identifiable feature is the former engine shed at Fraserburgh, on the left.

Fraserburgh Engine Shed

(Two pictures here) The then and now picture here shows a surviving railway structure. In the colour pic, that’s the original loco shed on the left (though re-roofed). The turntable would have been around the level area, bottom centre (also pictured on this page).

The B & W pictures – the shed is just out of shot, left – show some of the 0-6-0 Class J36 that found their way to Fraserburgh. 65227 would have been about where the crate is, above the digger on the right.

The station yard, with its fish vans, has been completely obliterated in the intervening years!

These J36 locomotives were truly ancient even by 1960, the design itself going back to 1880! One named member of the class – 65222 Somme – wandered to Fraserburgh from time to time, recalling the fact that several of them were shipped to France during World War.

Again, it’s the other details that are worth remarking on: note, in both the b & w pics, the lines of ‘blue spot’ fish vans – vacuum-braked (I think) stock used for the fast transport of fish away from the port and off to southern markets.

Turntable and J36, Fraserburgh
J36 65303 at Fraserburgh, with 2-6-4 Standard tanks also in picture around the turntable.

(Of the pictures here) J36 65227 further up the page at least has the sun behind me, though the shutter speed was, as ever, shaky. 65303 (above) has the sun behind it – so that was an early morning and I must have cycled down before school.

The bunkers of Standard 2-6-4 tanks are also just visible, right, as is the turntable – all long gone. The engine shed door is just visible on the left.

Standard 2-6-0 at Fraserburgh engine shed.
Standard 2-6-0 at Fraserburgh engine shed.

(Pictured here) Truly an awful picture! A Standard class 2-6-0 (otherwise unidentified) outside the shed.

The J36 pictures above were taken looking down from the sleeper fence behind the loco in this picture.

The engine shed itself is the only railway item that survives today, a half-forgotten memory of long-vanished Scottish steam.

Next and pictured here, I found a picture or two taken at Ferryhill sheds in Aberdeen (the big city in the south of my childhood, to me, at any rate).

It shows, in steam, Class D40 4-4-0 ‘Gordon Highlander’; in the fancified green paint job it received after it was withdrawn and preserved after a lifetime wheezing up and down rural branch lines in North-East Scotland.

You can see it today, not at the new Museum of Transport in Glasgow, but in the Scottish Railway Exhibition at Bo’ness.

'Gordon Highlander' - Scottish steam at Ferryhill shed
Preserved GNSR loco ‘Gordon Highlander, Class D40, in steam at Ferryhill depot, Aberdeen.

And a footnote for the real aficionados – is that not the front end of a ‘Lizzie’ next to it on the left? The Princess Royal class were scarce visitors to this side of the country. Probably on ‘the postal’ if I recall. In fact, I think it was 46201 Princess Elizabeth, coincidentally also preserved.

Stanier Black 5 44997 at Ferryhill Shed.
Stanier Black 5 44997 at Ferryhill Shed.

Probably a few years later, well after the Black 5 pictured above, I got a chance to sneak around Inverurie loco works one Sunday – though it was almost too late for any Scottish steam loco photographs…

Scottish steam - J38 at Inverurie Loco Works
J38 class 0-6-0 65914 at Inverurie loco works, autumn of 1965

What a difference a proper camera made back in the 1960s.

Above is J38 65914, based at Thornton Junction shed, possibly on its last visit to Inverurie loco works, photographed on an autum Sunday as I crept about, heart-in-mouth, trespassing, looking for steam engines. There were next to none.

Note the tarpaulin over the front end of a diesel numbered D61-something-something. In fact, I’m so proud of the fact that this photo is more-or-less in focus that I’m going to show the other side of the same 65914 below.

The going-over rosebay willow-herb makes me think the date was September 1965. (That’s the plant – below – that is obscuring the tender wheels.)

J38, Inverurie Loco Works
J38 at Inverurie Loco Works, autumn 1965, almost in the last days of Scottish steam.

A Colour Photo Gallery of A4s

– Sir Nigel Gresley’s best-known design.

Wait though, all was not quite lost. Nearly at the very end of steam in Scotland I started to use colour film. I had to travel to Aberdeen to find steam locos and I was just a youngster at school. 

Still, I found these 35mm slides and have tried to retrieve their faded condition – not always successfully (damn you, Agfacolor…)

Black 5 leaving Aberdeen 3rd Sep 1966
Black 5 leaving Aberdeen 3rd Sep 1966. Mount label states ‘1.30pm to Glasgow’.

According to the yellowing labels, the picture here and some pics in the ‘Class A4’ gallery below were taken on the 3rd September 1966 – pretty much at the end of revenue-earning steam traction on the Strathmore line from Aberdeen to Glasgow. 

Certainly ‘Bittern’ and ‘Kingfisher’ were around that day at Aberdeen Ferryhill shed – which was a Saturday – and I see their official withdrawal dates were the 5th of the same month.

I see one of the mount labels mentions Bittern leaving Aberdeen on ‘last trip south’. 

And they were the very last two of the class to be withdrawn. As it turned out Bittern was preserved, Kingfisher scrapped.

Scottish steam history in a little plastic slide-box

Hmm. More history here than I was expecting in that little orange plastic box that has survived for so long in a trunk! (Admittedly, along with many other wee plastic slide-boxes.)

There is a little mystery re the pics of ‘Lord Faringdon’ – given a 24th August official withdrawal from service. I lived 50 miles from Aberdeen and I was at school – so I didn’t get to ‘the sheds’ that often.

Did I picture that loco on a different occasion? I only started using colour film in July of that year…or was this A4 still in steam a week or two after the ‘official’ withdrawal. Someone out there will know!

A4 Kingfisher, Ferryhill Shed, 3 September 1966
A4 Kingfisher, Ferryhill Shed, 3 September 1966
A4 Bittern at Ferryhill
A4 Bittern at Ferryhill
A4 Bittern leaving Aberdeen
A4 Bittern leaving Aberdeen – probably for the last time. 3rd September 1966.
A4 Bittern arriving Aberdeen
A4 Bittern arriving Aberdeen
Bittern and Kingfisher at Ferryhill
Bittern and Kingfisher at Ferryhill. Over-exposed? Definitely – yes, I should have dropped the aperture by two stops…regrets, I’ve had a few…
A4 Lord Faringdon on turntable at Ferryhill Aberdeen
A4 Lord Faringdon on turntable at Ferryhill Aberdeen. Date not known precisely but between July an early Sep 1966. See main text.
A4 Lord Faringdon, turntable, Feryhill Shed
A4 Lord Faringdon, turntable, Feryhill Shed
Preserved A4 Sir Nigel Gresley leaves Aberdeen 20th May 1967.
Preserved A4 Sir Nigel Gresley leaves Aberdeen 20th May 1967.
A4 Sir Nigel Gresley at Ferryhill, Aberdeen
A4 Sir Nigel Gresley at Ferryhill, Aberdeen. 20th May 1967 (probably – if not, it was 1966!)
A4 Sir Nigel Gresley coaling at Ferryhill, Aberdeen
A4 Sir Nigel Gresley coaling at Ferryhill, Aberdeen
A4 Sir Nigel Gresley arriving at Aberdeen
A4 Sir Nigel Gresley arriving at Aberdeen

As for the blue ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’, I see a faint date on one slide – 20th May – but no year.

However, the Sir Nigel sequence is on Perutz film (whatever that was) and I am inclined to think this must have been 1967 – since I stuck with Agfacolor CT18 for some time at the beginning of my colour film usage.

I can now confirm the date as 20 May 1967 thanks to a Ferryhill shed video on YouTube. (It stops just at an interesting moment – I’m sure I’m in that crowd by the coaling plant!) Anyway, Sir Nigel in preservation is still going strong.

Scottish steam and Agfacolor slides

Anyway, as I say elsewhere, Agfacolor CT18 has not stood the test of time. I know we look on the past sometimes with rose-tinted spectacles but I didn’t want the rose-tint built in. 

And that’s quite enough Scottish steam for the moment. I mean, what will people think…….? Mind you, in those days, there were an awful lot of trainspotters – and even anoraks were novel.

More steam train pictures in preservation and much much later (mostly at Bo’ness) on the link below. Note to self – must scan some more old stuff!

OK, still here…well, on the page all about did-you-know things about Scotland you can find out where the longest ever single span masonry arch was constructed. It’s a railway bridge in Scotland still in use. Now that is kinda ‘nichy’.

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