The TV Train

David Munro

When Mr Miller, our schoolteacher at Granton Primary told our class we were going on a trip to Perthshire, most of us had wide eyes. Previous visits to Edinburgh Zoo and the Botanical Gardens had been enjoyable, but within our city.

This is a BR Publicity photograph designed to be handed out and used for promotional purposes. The wording on the back says roughly 'PR&PO British Railways Please Acknowledge'. This shows the TV train at Strathyre on 18th March 1962.
PR&PO British Railways (Douglas Blades Collection)

The location in Perthshire was Pitlochry and a special train would take our class and those from several other district primary schools to the village. When one of my inquisitive classmates asked, “What is special about the train, sir?”, he was given the response, “The carriages have elevated television sets at each end. Our class is going to learn a song and everyone on the train will be able to watch them perform.” Mr Miller went on, “The train has a television studio in one of the carriages.”

As our class roll had thirty pupils, most of us would imagine the studio to be a fair size. However, Mr Miller stated the best six singers would take part. ‘The Road to the Isles’ was to be our chosen song on the day.

Prior to the trip scheduled for the 11th of May 1964, tension within the class mounted as to who would find fame being on television. We had regular rehearsals within class and then the six were picked. Yours truly being given the nod.

On a sunny mild midweek morning complete with a packed lunch, our class gathered at the school and walked in rows of two towards Granton Road station. It had been closed to passenger traffic two years earlier, but opened for our special day. Indeed, a photographer from the Edinburgh Evening News was present and his work appeared in an edition not long after. (A scene where the class walked down a steep path to the platform.)

The steam locomotive and carriages arrived around 9.30am. I reminisced of when as an infant, I would stand on the same platform alongside my mother for the service to Princes St station. Rather than take the number 19 bus to the same location, (less cost and time) I would plead with her to take the train.

We boarded a train with other ten-year old pupils already seated who had got on at Leith North. The train made another stop at Craigleith to collect more enthusiastic pupils and then headed for South Queensferry. As it crossed the Forth Railway Bridge, myself and others gaped out the windows at magnificent views. The almost-complete Forth Road Bridge could not be missed. One pupil revealed it brought you luck if a penny was thrown into the sea below. Another had an empty lemonade bottle worth three pennies if returned intact, but was refrained from throwing it out the window.

Following the excitement of the crossing, the train steamed onto Perthshire. The six chosen to sing made their way to the television studio, accompanied by Mr Miller. Once we were composed, filming of our well-rehearsed song began. Soon, our presence on television was over. The anticipation which had lasted for several weeks ended in three minutes. We walked back through several carriages and returned to our seats, but not before witnessing admiring eyes from other pupils at our appearance on carriage television sets.

Not long before reaching Pitlochry, dark clouds appeared and it started to rain. So much so that when we arrived, some of our class did not get off! However, the remainder did and went about the village. No doubt why shopkeepers had smiles on their faces.

As we departed Pitlochry, the sun reappeared. In all my years since, the Perthshire weather pattern has never failed to frustrate! Our class were dropped off at Granton Road station and we filtered back to our respective homes.

Later that evening when about to fall asleep, I looked back on an eventful day. My farthest journey by train had been an enjoyable one with fellow schoolfriends and teacher. Some have now passed on but others remain. A love of travelling by train remains to this day. As a writer, I journey by train to participate in events around the country. The West Highland line is a favourite.

The Time Jigsaw - David Munro's blog

The Scotsman Publications website has a photograph of children arriving at Granton Road station to board the Television Train to Pitlochry on the same occasion.

The advent of commercial television gave the Scottish Region of British Railways an idea. The Television Train operated from 1957 until 1964. A small 'studio', with a single camera, transmitted by cable to two 17in b&w monitors and loud speakers in each seating coach of the train - a closed circuit. The viewing coaches were open with four passengers to a table.

It was first used on an Evening Citizen excursion from Glasgow to Blackpool and with this success the coach set was permanently fitted out. The train ventured further to London, Wales and Cornwall. Latterly it spent much of its time on scenic Scottish lines being used as an outing for school children with a running commentary on the journey accompanied by a printed window gazing guide.
- EC

Related links

Granton Road
Forth Bridge