Sunday, December 04, 2011

All aboard the Sleeper...

Arriving at Warrington Bank Quay station on Thursday evening I was treated to an uncomfortable flashback. A long dark journey in semi-reclined half-comfort ending in frozen dissatisfaction; locked for hours in a sub-zero carriage on Waverley station, skulking back through the snowdrifts to England in abject disappointment. Yes, one whole year had passed since my first attempt to take the night train to Scotland, and it was time to try it again.
For those of you who don't know, my parents retired to the Moray coast, which means during the winter, when they won't travel, I can go 4 months without seeing them. To combat this I have driven up, flown up, even invited myself for Christmas. This time it was the turn of the sleeper train to help me bridge the gap.
The Caledonian Sleeper had always fascinated me. The thought of waking up at your destination after a long journey is an alluring one, and the thought of catching any overnight service seems quite a romantic way to travel. Moreover the Scottish service rumbles along the same tracks as the famous Night Mail of Auden's imagination... what rail enthusiast wouldn't want to be 'puffing up Beattock' at some point in their lives?
Getting the train involved a trip south to Crewe. Boarding here meant a bed at midnight, and a good rest. It seemed perverse to travel south for 19mins only to be carried right back through Bank Quay on my way north! However the plan worked and I got a nice berth to myself from the Cheshire hub northward.
It proved somewhat tricky to settle off to sleep for any length of time as I kept being disturbed by the rattle and shake of the carriage. Lying down on a train you seem to feel the rattles and jolts more than usual, and at one point I awoke to a rhythmic squealing and lurching, convincing myself in my semi-conscious state that there was a fault in the carriage and we were going to derail! Eventually however I did drop back off and got a reasonable night's sleep.
Soon the wake up call at 7am alerted me to the fact that Aberdeen was approaching. This was accompanied by a coffee & shortbread, with Scotrail getting the customer service side of things perfectly fine and dandy this time around.
Overall it was a fun experience travelling up in this manner, and one I would do again if I could... which is lucky because in order to get home I need to catch the night train from Inverness to Crewe on Monday night.
So... I am half way through my few days in Scotland. My mum is feeding me within an inch of my life, I'm getting plenty of sleep and I'm managing to read some novels too! And there's the cool journey home to look forward to as well. What's not to love?!

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