The above shot shows the evening Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness leaving Dingwall in August 1976. Apologies for the quality, the light was fading but as I expect you’ll realise, it was taken for its intrinsic interest rather than any intention of being an artistic masterpiece.
At the back of the formation are a 13T Highfit loaded with a cable drum and a Presflo; it was at this time that Stromeferry (Loch Kishorn) was being used as a construction base for oil platforms for Howard Doris and I believe that both wagons would have originated there. At this distance in time though, I’m a bit hazy as to how the wagons actually got onto the back of the train, which we’d just alighted from in order to step back onto the last Far North service into Inverness. They could have been there when we boarded at Kyle, although if so, why I didn’t take the photograph then is debatable; if they were attached at Strome Ferry, I don’t recall any shunt move (though I could have been asleep, it’s not unusual).
The rest of the pic is not without interest; the lattice post signal, goods shed with GUV in attendance and the opposing turnouts and diamond of the goods yard trackage.
In more traditional days, mixed trains had been characteristic of many Scottish branches (that said, it should be pointed out that the definition of a ‘mixed’ is complicated, and in earlier years such workings often included unfitted wagons and thus required a brakevan). The Kyle line, along with the Fort William – Mallaig section of the West Highland, had retained this propensity even in the diesel era, although by then the term ‘tail traffic’ is probably more appropriate as the freight vehicles were always vacuum fitted. Often this would be with plebian 12T Vanfits, but occasionally something giving a more unusual appearance would turn up. Indeed on the Mallaig line, 45T tank cars were conveyed into the early ’80s, and a shot in ‘Scottish Urban and Rural Branch Lines’ shows a fitted 16T mineral on the Kyle working.
Now neither 16 tonners nor Presflos carried the fabled ‘XP’ branding, although the Presflo’s 10’6 wheelbase should accordingly qualify it. But whatever, this is one of those subjects that modellers delight in trotting out the ‘official’ line on, often without realising what they’re scratching the surface of. Whilst there certainly were some very specific rulings around this subject, they did change over time, and there would also have been the usual host of exceptions, qualifications and ‘local arrangements’. Overall my feeling is that being too prescriptive about them without access to extensive official records is like trying to nail jam to the wall.
As one example, a factor that often crops up is the stated requirement for XP vehicles to be screw coupled, yet it’s an indisputable fact that in the early 1950s BR built many thousands of Instanter-fitted wagons which were nevertheless XP-rated. Having said that, the strict requirement is probably more focused on the necessity for the screw coupling on the coaching stock to be used if the Instantered wagon was next to it. By the late 1960s, the fast running of short wheelbase vehicles was under scrutiny anyway and particularly with rapidly changing patterns of working, I suspect the branding steadily lapsed into irrelevance.
My thanks to David Vinsen (Eggesford Box) for prompting me to dig this out from the hard drive and put it up. The blame for the associated ramblings however is all mine.