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Life of a Speyside stationmaster who devoted working life to the railway

By Chris Saunderson

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NEARLY half a century of dedicated service to the railway service in Moray has been documented by the son of a Speyside stationmaster.

Charles Grant,who was born in Lossiemouth in 1895, enjoyed 48 years continuous service in the rail industry.

Speyside Stationmaster Charles Grant.
Speyside Stationmaster Charles Grant.

He served his apprenticeship at Lossiemouth Station before being promoted to stationmaster at Nethybridge,where he remained for six years.

He was at the station in Aberlour for 14 years and then spent 13 years at Craigellachie.

His son, also Charles, has recounted some of the highlights of his father's career over his five decades, which culminated in his retiral in 1961. He died in 1990.

Born on June 1, 1895, the youngest of five brothers and two sisters, Mr Grant didnt like school and aged just 13 joined the fishing fleet as a deck hand.

However, he soon realised that life at sea was not for him and joined the Great North of Scotland Railway in 1915 as a passenger clerk at Lossiemouth.

One of the unusual features of the station was the ringing of a ship's bell to announce the departure of a train. When the station was closed in 1964, the bell was salvaged and remains in the local fishing museum.

Mr Grant became stationmaster at Nethybridge, with his father Henry and brother Harry both also employed on the railways.

He was appointed stationmaster at Aberlour in 1936, a busy station at the heart of the whisky industry.

Aberlour had a large orphanage and sometimes children would arrive by train.

Mr Grant jr said: "As many were sad, scared and hungry, he comforted them with tea and biscuits until they were collected by the authorities."

Memories of days gone by on the railway.
Memories of days gone by on the railway.

Although he was not a gardener, Mr Grant kept the platform immaculate with floral displays assisted by staff.

After the outbreak of war, Mr Grant was exempt from service as he was in a reserved occupation but he joined the Home Guard and trained with them as his railway duties allowed.

The station was taken over by the military as the remnants of the 51st Highland Division, defeated at St Valery on June 12, 1940, arrived back on Speyside to regroup.

"With only a skeleton staff, comprising a clerk, signalman and a porter, he managed to maintain all passenger and goods services while accommodating troop trains and supplies despite the intense stress of the situation," added Mr Grant.

The war had taken a toll on his health and Mr Grant suffered a heart attack in 1946. He was prescribed rest and was off duties for nine months.

He was promoted in 1950 to stationmaster at Craigellachie. It had three platforms, two of which served the route between Elgin and Aberdeen whilst the third was for the Speyside branch line. He was also responsible for nearby Dandaleith station which he visited daily by walking.

A Life Remembered, A Speyside Stationmaster by Charles Henry Grant..
A Life Remembered, A Speyside Stationmaster by Charles Henry Grant..

With the stations in whisky country, quite often the footplate crew would visit the local pubs. On one occasion Mr Grant deemed a crew were unfit to continue their journey to Aberdeen and reported his concerns to head office in Aberdeen. However, rather than being supported, he was told the train had to proceed and he was summoned to an enquiry in Aberdeen for delaying the train.

Neither his union official or the foot plate crew attended and instead Mr Grant was charged with exceeding his authority and causing the late arrival of the train in Aberdeen.

Mr Grant jr claimed British Rail was in fear of the reaction from union if it disciplined the footplate crew, so chose to take no action and warned his father about his conduct.

"I still fail to understand why a good and loyal railwayman, with decades of unblemished service, should have been penalised for carrying out the basic rule of passenger safety."

Mr Grant retired in 1962 and was honoured for his devoted service by staff and fellow railwaymen at a ceremony at Craigellachie Station.

With the onset of car travel, and lorries carrying more freight, a proposal by Dr Richard Beeching in March 1963 proposed closure of much of the railway network, amounting to 5000 miles of track and 300 stations.

A Life Remembered, A Speyside Stationmaster by Charles Henry Grant is a moving tribute.
A Life Remembered, A Speyside Stationmaster by Charles Henry Grant is a moving tribute.

The Speyside line and its stations closed, with the last service train between Craigellachie and Boat of Garten on October 16, 1965.

The final train on the Speyside line was a circular journey from Aberdeen to Aviemore and back on November 2, 1965. Crowds thronged every station and vantage point along the way. There was a stop at Craigellachie where passengers enjoyed a drink at the Fiddichside Inn.

"Father did not attend this sad event, preferring to remain at home enjoying a wee dram of Scotland's finest with his memories in his heart."

Mr Grant jr, who now lives in Shrewsbury, said his book had originally been intended as a couple of pages for a railway journal.

He hopes it will provide a "window into the varied and unseen role of a rural stationmaster".

If you would like a copy of the booklet, Mr Grant can be contacted on 01743 243133 or by email at aeham39@gmail.com

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