Accessing the train
Attributes of the train
It is perhaps logical that some of the oldest trains still operating on Britain’s railways, are used on the routes with the least frequent services.
The mass closures of railway routes in the 1960s and 70s cast a long shadow, hence there’s an element of ‘any train, is better than no train at all’ on the lesser used routes.
And as the Scottish rail routes with the fewest trains, also happen to be some of the most beautiful railway journeys on planet earth – those majestic Highland landscapes are sparsely populated, there may also be a school of thought that the journey matters more than the train.
Therefore these trains don’t have the ambience of the express trains typically used on longer journeys, though to be fair to ScotRail it has refurbished them recently, including fitting carpets to the floor and more comfortable seats - and providing more space for luggage.
The windows don’t rattle as much as they used to, but the ride on these trains can be fairly noisy, it takes a lot of effort from the engines to climb those hills.
Though no catering facilities are available on these trains despite the comparatively long journeys, so take food and drink on board with you.
In Standard Class the seating is a mix of airline style seats, which are comparatively cramped on these trains, plus some of these seats don’t line up particularly well with the windows, so they are definitely best avoided on these routes.
In contrast the table seats do line up with the windows and are generally more roomy – if you can find a spare table seat, taking these trains can be rather wonderful, as you’ll be able to make the most of the scenery.
First Class seating is not available on these trains.
Even if you have reserved it can be a good idea to be at the stations in Fort William, Glasgow, Inverness and Oban around 20 minutes before departure, so that you can be among the first passengers to board.
You won’t know if your reserved seats are table seats, but if you can find table seats which aren’t reserved (paper labels mark the reservations), you can occupy them for your journey.
When the conductor comes to inspect the tickets, they will realise what you have done and will remove the reservations labels from the seats you had booked.
What can elevate any journey on these trains are the levels of customer service provided by the conductors, in ShowMeTheJourney’s experience they’re happy to answer questions about the journey and point out the most scenic aspects of the routes.
Bike storage spaces must be reserved prior to boarding, many more additional bike spaces are now available on some departures on the West Highland Line.
This is one of more than 150 train guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.