Glasgow has a considerable railway system, probably the best outside London. Every so often I walk through Central Station and I think about how many of the stations on the big departure board I’ve actually been to. It’s quite few. I’ve been to London Euston and Manchester Airport, Edinburgh, Stranraer, Ayr, Largs and Lanark, amongst others, but not Neilston, Newton, Larkhall or Milngavie. I took a picture once of the board, intending to go to every destination on it, but I just haven’t got round to it yet. I seem to remember Birmingham New Street was on the board as a terminating station and I’ve still not been to Birmingham, despite being told it has great museums.
Most embarrassingly up until recently I had never been to Gourock by train. Gourock is a town by the Clyde and it is where the trains that go my way end up. All I knew about it was that it had an open air swimming pool, a prom and ferries to Dunoon. One beautiful Saturday afternoon, I decided to go there, just to scratch that itch. I rocked up to my local station and a Class 314 train rolled up. I call them ‘rollerskates’. They don’t tend to have much elegance and I seem to have been on more of them since Scotrail announced they were taking them off. Anyway, class 314 away and absolutely everywhere is improved by sunshine. The train crossed rolling fields at Arkleston and into Paisley where the roof crosses and trusses were reflected on the buildings and the floor with the bright sun. The train was fairly busy, mostly with families, and later as we neared Greenock some kid was singing about someone called Sally and their various stages of life, which steadily got more tragic. She might have ended up a zombie, as I recall.
It being Saturday, there was quite a bit going on outside the window, including football at St. Mirren and Morton, which was strange being by a football ground when the game was on and not being there. There was also rugby later nearer Langbank. I am on this route fairly often and going past Paisley Gilmour Street felt strange. Going past Bishopton was downright revolutionary. The M8 was to the right and the airport soon came into view. Later the urban gave way to a great view over the Clyde to Dumbarton and Bowling, Ben Lomond and the Argyll hills, crannog posts sticking out the riverbed at low tide. It is one of my favourite stretches of railway in Scotland and it was familiar up to Greenock, where the line divides with one branch off to Wemyss Bay, the other unfamiliar towards Gourock. Old stone walls rose high at Greenock Central and the wonderfully named Fort Matilda had suitably old-fashioned railway buildings.
Then came Gourock. The station was all glass, giving great views to the Clyde that sat behind it. The route to the Dunoon and Kilcreggan ferries led along the platform under a glass canopy, not as nice as Wemyss Bay but still all right in the sunshine. Gourock sits on a point sticking out into the Clyde where it turns down south. I left the station and walked along the front. It was rather lovely, sunny but cooler than Glasgow being that bit closer to the sea. There were quite a few others walking along and I walked most of the way to McInroy’s Point, stopping at regular intervals to stand, stare and take photos. The views were great towards Cowal, Kilcreggan and Helensburgh. I always say that north of Dumbarton is where Scotland really begins and that was really evident looking north over the Clyde from Gourock. The bit I was in was quite fine, though, with flowers, yachts in the water and on the lampposts. The open-air swimming pool wasn’t open yet but I saw where it was and I could see ferries going back and forth to Dunoon. The high street was all right, a few local traders mixed in with the usual supermarkets, charity shops and off licences.
I was back on the train home about an hour later, just in time to get Partick Thistle fans heading back from Cappielow and guys from Greenock heading out on the piss in Glasgow. My earphones were in but the Partick Thistle fans were actually all right, quite civilised as you would expect from the mob who gave us Kingsley, the only football mascot designed by a Turner Prize winner. The train, unsurprisingly, was a class 314. Scotrail did promise they were taking them off, honest. They even mention on social media when they do their last run. Anyway, the views were still beautiful in the sunshine in reverse, my book was even better and I ended up back home, glad to have finally reached the end of the line.
Thanks for reading. Loose Ends returns next week.