The First Unit!

The driver route-familiarisation runs on the SAK were supposed to start on the 31st March 2008, but after being cancelled two days running , they actually started on 2nd April 2008. For work reasons, I hadn't been able to get either of the previous days off, so it was pure luck that I was out and about to film events on the first day!

After a long wait in the middle of Alloa, 158721 made history in a small way by becoming the first unit to reach Alloa at 11.08am (BST), and in total it made nine return trips throughout the day. And here are my pictures of it!

1. Alloa station a few minutes before 158721 arrived - this platform has never had a passenger train in it, although that is about to change


2. 11.05am - I heard a train horn in the distance soon after taking this picture.


3. At 11.07am 158721 came into sight under the station bridge and entered the station siding.


4. A closer view of the first unit as it approaches the Waggonway bridge...


5. ...and then runs into the station platform.


6. 158721 ran right down the platform, arriving at 11.08am


7. Here is a zoom version of the previous picture.


8. The driver of the unit chose to take it almost to the inner end of the platform. This of course may be necessary on a regular basis as a full six-car set will fill the platform.


9. 158721 set out back to Stirling at 11.27am.


10. A view of the first return working as it heads out of the station siding.


11. The second run of the route learning unit reached Alloa nearly an hour after it's first departure, and is seen here approaching the centre of Alloa as it passes the former Alloa Central Junction.


12. The second run passing through what was once the westbound platform of the old station at 12.23


13. The second run on it's way back to Stirling at 12.31.


14. Another view from the station bridge of the second run departing.


15. I then moved to the new footbridge at the former Alloa West Junction and took this picture of the third run arriving at 1.01pm


16. 158721 heading into Alloa for the third time.


17. I moved to the next overbridge in the Stirling direction and got this excellent picture of the third run heading out of Alloa at 1.12pm.


18. Due to traffic on the road, I was a bit slow in crossing the road and since the unit was accelerating as it went past, it was quite far away when I took this picture of it heading to Cambus!


19. As can be guess from the pictures so far, my plan for the day was to keep moving west, and thus this next picture, taken at the Cambus LC, is a distant view of the fourth run heading to Alloa.


20. This picture illustrates the difficulty in trying to take digital still images with my left hand and trying to film with my camcorder using my right hand. Not only was my attempt to get a good close up image of the unit approaching the Cambus LC a failure, but I managed to forget to press the button on the camcorder and thus haven't got any usable camcorder footage to capture a substiture image from!


21. I did however get a barely passable picture of it after it had passed over the level-crossing.


22. Next stop Blackgrange, where I fared much better and got not only this excellent picture, but an equally good piece of camcorder footage to match.


23. My next stop was a small local road on the south side of the line just outside Causewayhead. However despite a good location, My left hand managed to to hit the button to switch the digital off rather than take a picture. By the time I had switched it on again, the unit had passed me (heading east for the fifth time), and all I got was this picture!


24. I moved the short distance to the Watherside (or Ladysneuk Road) LC and fared better with a shot very similar to the one above taken at Blackgrange.


25. Even this close to Stirling 158721 was moving at a fair speed, and the next shot I managed to take shows it receding fast round the Causewayhead curve.


26. My next location was a spot I had wanted to try out at the back of the car park for some houses on the Causewayhead Road, which is actually just out of sight in the last picture. However I once again didn't do well when it came to pressing the button on my digital camera at the right time, so this picture is actually captured from my camcorder footage of the unit as it heads for Alloa on it's sixth run.


27. Once the unit had passed me I did manage to take a usable digital photo, which shows the unit in the distance against the magnificent backdrop of the Wallace Monument on the the top of the Abbey Craig.


28. Once the unit was out of sight I took a 'personal needs break', and both for practical reasons and because it is a good filming location, I return to the same place to see 158721 return from Alloa. Alas I still wasn't snapping good pictures with my left hand, so here is another camcorder still of 158721 just about to pass me on it's way back to Stirling station for the sixth time.


29. Another 'vsnap', using the camcorders excellent zoom capability, shows it heading round the last of the Causewayhead curve with Stirling Castle in the background. If only I had got a higher resolution picture like this with my digital camera! However there will be no shortage of chances to do so from now on!


30. At this end of the SAK, the time it took for 158721 to reach Stirling Station, reverse, and reach me on the way back was quite short, and I barely had time to drive round to the riverside area of Stirling to film it heading out to Alloa for the seventh time over the 'Forth Viaduct (S&D)'. It's another vsnap by the way, as I again managed to switch the digital camera off when trying to take a picture!


31. Of course, the upside of being at one end of the route-learning runs was that I had plenty of time to sort myself out while the unit did the return trip to Alloa, so I was completely ready for it when it came back, and managed not to mess up with the digital camera this time!


32. 158721 leaves the SAK, running 'wrong line' into Platform 6 of Stirling Station. When the passenger service starts the units on it will have the option of running 'right line' into platform 9, but since this unit is reversing to go right back to Alloa instead of onward to Glasgow, it needs to use the duo-directionally signalled platform 6.


33. Journey's end. 158721 slows to a stop in Stirling Station.


34. A different view of the unit sitting at Stirling station. Ironically this view also shows a Class 170 sitting in Platform 10, waiting to depart on a service that would have come from Alloa if the line had been ready a few months earlier. the track under 185721 is noteworthy as well - the following weekend the track in Platform 6 was replaced by concrete sleepered track using the rails lying ready in the fourfoot of platform 9.


35. Another run to Alloa sets out, the eighth of the day.


36. 158721 traverses the throat of Stirling Station...


37. ...and heads off down the SAK once more. This is of course another vsnap, as my digital camera does not have nearly as good a zoom as my camcorder!


38. Having seen, filmed, and photographed 158721 at good locations all along the line, I could easily have stopped for the day, but there was nowhere specific I needed to be so I chose to head back to the location I used earlier just outside Causewayhead and have captured this nice image from the camcorder footage of it returning to Stirling for the eighth time. The bridge in the background carries the A91 over the SAK by the way, but that is no help at all in finding how to get to this location!


39. I continued to haed back towards Alloa, but had completely forgotton that the traffic gets heavy after about 4pm, and this delayed me so much I was only able to get one distant and alas worthless picture of the ninth working to Alloa of the day. However it wasn't a big loss and I then had time to go back to the outskirts of Alloa to get a couple more esnaps. 158721 heads out of Alloa...


40. ...and passes me on it's ninth run back to Stirling.


Given that the ninth run headed out of Alloa at about 17.10, which was when the last booked working of the day was supposed to arrive at Stirling before heading back to the depot, I was sure it wasn't coming back, so I gave up at this point and went home.

However I had taken 68 digital 'esnaps' (some quite unusable of course), and over 24 minutes of camcorder footage (quite respectable given that 158721 was often going quite fast when passing me) so it had been a very, very good day!

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