The Irvine Welsh book title is derived from a scene where two of the main characters, Begbie and Renton, meet an old drunk in the disused Leith Central Station which they are using as a toilet. The drunk asks the two boys if they are “trainspotting”. I guess this is meant to be amusing on several levels, the prime one being that that there are no trains. The station closed to passenger traffic in 1952 and although it was retained as a diesel maintenance depot, this too ceased in 1972. The station has been demolished but the frontage retained. These sorts of facts appeal to an ex-trainspotter. I have never got beyond the first twenty minutes of the film and have never felt inclined to read the book – not so much a soap opera, more a dope opera. I mention this only because I have found myself hanging around Mallaig station waiting for steam trains to arrive these last couple of days. It takes me back.
A trip to the local Heritage Centre provided some more appealing facts. The station was originally much grander. The platforms were covered, a turntable was located in a siding, roughly on the site of the current seashore car park and, a separate line used to run down to the quay to enable loading direct from the fishing boats. Without the turntable, the Jacobite must swap ends at Mallaig and reverse back to Fort William.
Mallaig still thrives but it has much less to do with fish. There is a constant supply of through traffic/people on the ferries to/from Skye and twice a day in the summer, the steam trains disgorge carriage loads of visitors. This must work wonders for the local traders, at least in the summer months: