Thursday, 24 December 2009


We wish all our visitors a Merry Christmas and hope that God will give you many blessings at this Holy Time and throughout 2010.

Hopefully tonight and tomorrow will be a faith-filled time of joy - gifts, family, and most of all the Holy Mass, God coming into the world through the actions of His priests.

Oremus pro invicem.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

General Idea of the Station

To get some idea of the Station I now include a general schematic layout and an excerpt from the relevant Google-Maps Page. These should help give an idea where things are are in relation to a slightly more famous landmark than the Railway Station.

General view of the Railway Station

Here we have a few general views of the railway station. At the top there is a view of St Peter's from the station platform, and thereafter three shots of the general view.

Here we see the tractor that this used in place of a shunting locomotive.

On the front you can see the apparatus used to push or couple on to the wagons. In the close-up on the side you can see the papal coat of arms in gold in the form of a seal.

The Station with a Goods Train, All Seen from the Doorway between Italy and the Vatican

Exclusive! Vatican Railway Station

The two dominant themes of this blog are of course trains and clergy and where do these two things come together in a better way than the Vatican City State Railway Station. Thanks to a senior cleric I was able to obtain access to the railway station area. The actual building of the station is now a duty-free shop (apparently with a good clerical tailors) but the tracks are still there leading from Italy into the Vatican. In the next few posts I will show some of the photos.

Don't get too excited.

Friday, 13 November 2009


I know that this blog has been a bit boring, photographically speaking. Not because of any technical problems, I've just been too lazy to take my memory card out of my camera. I now have achieved this great feat and so can display a variety of photos from SCRC outings. Maybe I'll post more on another occasion. These ones are all from the West Somerset Railway.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

First £1000 train fare

The BBC today reports that Britain's first £1000 rail fare has now been achieved. Congratulations to all involved! After all its not as if railway companies want people to travel by train. Customers, even first class ones with more money than sense in this case, just mess up trains. It would be far better if trains could be kept empty.

Wait a minute. Maybe railway companies could encourage people onto trains and make a profit by selling tickets to them. Nah, that'll never catch on.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Football Fan set on fire whilst dressed as a sheep on a train

This story on the BBC is certainly unusual. Its tragic, horrific, strange, and surreal all at the same time. Hopefully the victim will be okay and the perpetrator will be punished.

What interested me though was not so much the odd story but the image used by the BBC to illustrate it. They story is about an Arriva Cross Country train, which from the story appears to be the 0925 from Plymouth to Aberdeen (an 11 hour journey). Now the BBC photo might be accurate, but if so, I'd probably be ready to set someone on fire if I'd had to travel from Plymouth to Aberdeen on (what looks suspiciously like) an Arriva Trains Wales 156 rather than the more normal Voyager 220!

ps. Okay, maybe the BBC are right and this was a 156 for operational reasons, etc. This is a possibility. I think it more likely though that they just took the first photo they could of anything with "Arriva" on the side.
pps. Anyone not familiar with Scottish football shouldn't even think about why he was dressed as a sheep.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Arrivals Board

I thought it was interesting to see where our visitors are arriving from. Not surprisingly the vast majority come from the UK, especially Glasgow and then London and Edinburgh.

More surprisingly the next most popular location is Poland and then the USA, Ireland, and Italy. Amongst the top-ten there are also Thailand and Japan, neither of which I would have thought to be hotbeds of Scottish Catholic train enthusiasm.

Welcome, one and all!

Monday, 26 October 2009

World's Smallest Model Railway

A man in New Jersey has created the world's smallest model railway. The small oval of track, with working train, has been designed to go inside a model of a model railway shop that he is building for his layout. Cool! That's devotion for you: He deserves the Pro Ferrivia et Moderatore Pingui medal!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Thinking about Weymouth as we have been, I would be remiss if I didn't pause to honour Weymouth's most famous railway feature - not a dismantled line to Portland but the Harbour Tramway.

In the picture, from Google Maps, you can just make out the tramway sneaking along the quayside, almost like two long thin shadows, starting on the left and curving down to go under the bridge and then off to the right.

This branch was designed to allow boat trains to deposit their passengers directly at the liners at the quay, to save them from having to have their luggage and their own persons portered down from the main station. It lost a regular service in the 1980s as cross-channel sailings and longer distance cruises attracted less travellers. Whilst technically it could still be used today it seems that its days are over and that Network Rail won't stand in the way of removing it.

If you follow this link to Youtube you can see 33019 taking the Ocean Liner Express round the tramway in 1994. The best bits are seeing the police and railwaymen having to manhandle cars off the running line - I wonder if Health & Safety would let them now.

I remember reading about this branch in an edition of Railway Modeller when I was young and wanting to go and travel on it. I doubt I'll get the chance now!

[Its a sign I'm getting old - 1994 seems just like yesterday, and yet when I look at the cars, etc., this video seems so dated]


I was watching television the other night when I cam across this fascinating programme "Railway Walks" in which the presenter goes for ramble down disused railway lines. In that particular episode she walked from Weymouth out to the Isle of Portland* following a line that, whilst carrying passengers, was mainly designed to take the famous Portland stone down to harbour or to the yards for transshipment off to building sites. Portland stone was famously used for St Paul's Cathedral and the Cenotaph, although perhaps this blog should mention it being used in the London Underground HQ at 55 Broadway, London.

This programme was part of a series, but only this current episode is available on iplayer, I think it was a repeat to fill space in the schedule. It would be worth watching if it appears again in the listings.

* The Isle of Portland is connected to the mainland by a spit of land, so the trains don't have to fly!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Railway Songs

With the mention of Kenny Roger's Gambler in an earlier entry I couldn't help noticing how many railway songs seem sad.

There's Kenny's other favourite "The Green, Green Grass" which mentions
"The old hometown looks the same
As I step down from the train
And there to meet me is my mama and papa
And down the road I look and there runs Mary
Her golden lips like cherries
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home."
And you might think that's cheery until you listen to the rest of the song and realise that he's dreaming and when he wakes he will remember that he is about to face the Death Sentence.

I can also think of "Midnight Train to Georgia" which isn't the world's cheeriest song, although at least they go back to live happily ever after.

On the other hand I've never seen Starlight Express but according to the wikipedia entry that seems to have a happy ending. And we cannot forget "Chatanooga Choo-Choo" - that's quite cheery (and you can even go to Chatanooga and stay in a Holiday Inn Railway Carriage!)

If anyone has any ideas feel free to add them in the comments

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Menchy

As we say where I come from "we got a menchy"* on another blog. At this rate we'll soon be famous.

Hello to anyone visiting from laodicea! I notice that their website address is ex Laodicea. Whilst they may claim some Latin root for this, it is well known that the Romans derived the word "ex" from the common usage of railway photographers who often caption their photos of the 8.15pm from Glasgow to Stirling as "2015 to Stirling ex Glasgow" - for years I would read this and think that it meant that the train had used to go to Glasgow but had changed it mind and decided to go to Stirling instead!

I notice that the bloggers over there caption us as "frivolity" and "levity" - we are entirely serious, trains are too serious to joke about!

PS. the esoteric patristic references are an uncommon problem - a bit like snow on the line, but caused by people spending too much time with Fr Fortescue's Lesser Eastern Churches.

PPS. I know that many people claim that you cannot spend too much time with Fr Fortescue's works. We are not entering into that argument here.

* In case this derivation is unclear to those not from the West of Scotland, its an affectionate contraction of 'mention'.

Friday, 9 October 2009

E.M. Forster

Okay, so he's no Awdry, but E.M. Forster's not a bad writer and so today we turn to him for a quotation:

Railway termini. They are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return

Sometimes these days it seems as if we have lost the romance of railway travel that Forster conjures up. When we think of trains too often its the functional and banal, the commute to work, the means of travel rather than the end. We need to rediscover the excitement of railways, the opportunity they offer to travel and discover, to see the world in a relaxed way impossible by car or by air. There's amazing literature based on railway journeys.

[Not all journeys that produce artistic successes are great, Kenny Rogers' Gambler only comes about because of how boring the journey is:
On a warm summers evenin on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin' out the window at the darkness
til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak
Well, not everything can be fun]

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Reverend Mr Awdry

A great quote from a man whose legacy will never be forgotten:

Railways and the Church have their critics, but both are the best ways of getting a man to his ultimate destination

"Awdry, Revd W." The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. Ed. Elizabeth Knowles. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. The Open University. 8 October 2009

Railway History & More on Hamaxosticus

Obviously we have recently been considering the Latin for railway. That naturally leads on to a consideration of the history of railways. The Oxford Dictionary of World History says that horse powered wagon-ways were used from the 16th century. In the 1500s and much later the use of Latin was still common in certain fields, including administration and science, which may well have been interested in the early railways. Whether they were or not, and what vocabulary they used, is something that I'll have to leave to experts, I don't have the software or the reference books necessary for searching this, although the Latinists who invented hamaxostic(h)us might well have done this.

The first steam engine on rails is believed to have been built by Richard Trevithick in 1804, and even then men of science may well have discussed it in Latin, and the word "railway" in Latin must have been used by Acta Apostolicae Sedis from time to time in reference to Papal journeys, the Vatican Railway Station, etc. I am sure that the word "hamaxosticus" is well considered and attested.

After typing yesterday's entry I had settled down to read "Outside the Empire: The World the Roman's Knew" by NHH Sitwell and there came across the following:
"The Sarmatians are often mentioned in Greek and Latin writings under the general name of Hamaxobii or Hamaxoeci, both of which terms mean 'waggon-dwellers'"
One day you've never heard of hamax- the next day you're falling over them.

"railways, history of" A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. The Open University. 8 October 2009

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


Funnily enough, "railway train" was not a word that commonly occurred in ancient Rome and so the Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary doesn't actually contain the word "hamaxosticus" nor "ferrivia" which is the modern Latin for railway. Lewis and Short does though contain "hamaxa, -ae", "a wagon" from which the modern word is obviously derived, itself transliterated from the Greek.

When L&S is lacking then as Catholics we turn immediately to the Holy See website and its lexicon recentis Latinitatis which gives us "hamaxostichus" for the Italian "treno". Hamaxosticus without the 'h' is also attested on-line (e.g. at Glossarium Anglico-Latinum) and just looks nicer, with the 'h' it just looks too Greek!

I hope this explains our motto to any classical Latinist who is lost in confusion in the face of hamaxostic(h)us.


At the side of the blog you can see our logo, obtained via the amusing and useful It consists of a train under the initials of the Scottish Clergy Railway Circle and above our motto: Hoc est saeculum hamaxostici - that is to say, "this is the age of the train".

[BR + Sir Jimmy Savile KCSG, what more could one want]

Friday, 2 October 2009

Metropolitana Romana

J.P. Sonnen on Orbis Catholicus blog provides an image of an old metro carriage at Anagnina, terminus of Metro A of the Roman Metropolitan. This is a common sight for many as Anagnina is the station for Ciampino airport and for heading out to the Castelli (Tivoli, Frascati, Grottaferrata, etc.) on the Cotral Buses, although it should be noted that mainline trains run out to Frascati, Viterbo, etc. as part of Rome's FR regional railway system.

[Once upon a time one could travel through the Castelli on the trams of STEFER however the late 50s and 60s saw the end of the extra urban tram routes outside Rome. They don't look too comfortable in the photos on the above website but Cotral buses aren't too great either. It also used to be possible to take a tram/train out to Alatri and Fiuggi on a line that also passed through parts of the Castelli - once again 'development' saw that line fall out of use, although you can still see the track by the side of the road if you drive out of Rome towards Frosinone, as if a train could pass by at any moment. I remember driving out that way for a day-trip from the College. It was a really awful day at the beginning - rain was pouring down and puddles were almost a foot deep in places. However as we left Rome it got better and there alongside the road we could see the tracks alongside the road - it was really eerie, as if the railway had just stopped one night and never started again, which is basically what happened if you read the Italian site above. It was a ghost railway].

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Papal Visit

The BBC and the press are reporting that our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI will visit the United Kingdom next year. The itinerary is still to be arranged but it seems likely to be London, Oxford, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. I wonder if His Excellency Francis Campbell the British Ambassador to the Holy See could be persuaded to ask Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to give her fellow octogenarian Monarch (and I suppose they both profess to be Heads of Churches*) a loan of the Royal Train - what better way to see the UK than by train? We could gather at all the stations and level crossings for his blessing.

* I only state this with ecumenical sensitivity - no Catholic would actually say that the Queen is head of a church [its not a church and the Queen, not being a bishop, couldn't be head of it if it were] and presumably Anglicans would deny that the Pope is head of a church, at least within the Queen's realm [at least that's what the Act of Supremacy affirms]

Monday, 21 September 2009

Treno Deragliato

There was train derailment in Milan recently, and thankfully the train was empty and the driver was only slightly hurt. The pictures though are quite dramatic. The train was on a raised section of track and on derailing some of the carriage tumbled off the parapet. Had the train been full it could have been a disaster; empty it makes great photos.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Bad News & Good

It has to be a shame to see the Glasgow Airport Rail Link cancelled. The Airport needs a rail link to ensure future growth and it seems foolish to be cutting capital expenditure rather than trying to cut the Government's operating costs (its not as if the Government doesn't waste money). I'm sure though that they thought this through, and some of the budgeting seems fanciful. According to one report the cost of moving a fuel farm has increased from £5 Million to £30 Million. That's a lot of bad estimating.

There is good news as well though. Tom Harris MP reports that Glasgow Central won Station of the Year and First Scotrail won passenger operator of the year. Congratulations to them.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament has a system whereby anybody can launch a petition and the MSPs will look at it and talk about it (although there's not much evidence that they've ever actually done something about it) and as priests we are very interested in this because there are always petitions to try and encourage things the Church is opposed to (gay marriage, abolish Catholic schools, etc.) or, less frequently, petitions to support goods things the Church supports (save St Margaret's Hospice, for instance). Whilst searching through all these bad & good things one also comes across railway related petitions, hence why it gets a mention on here.

One of the live petitions at the moment is calling for the re-opening of Blackford railway station, near Gleneagles. I know that one of our members has a great interest in this area - I hope that he has signed up for the petition.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Life Amidst the Ruins

Today saw the opening of an exhibition of pictures of Monte Cassino and other parts of Italy taken in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Exhibition, at the Mitchell Library, was opened by the Abbot-Ordinary of Monte Cassino, the Right Reverend Pietro Vittorelli OSB (pictured), who spoke about the Christian roots of Europe. He was joined by Archbishop Conti of Glasgow and the Consul-General of Italy in Edinburgh, amongst others.

What is interesting from our point of view is that the exhibition contains images of railways, including Milano Centrale, the Italian-Swiss frontier, and Swiss railways, taken by the photographer on his travels between Scotland and Italy. The exhibition, which is free, runs until the 30th September. The Mitchell Library is just accross from Glasgow Charing Cross station.

Summer Break: Trivia?

We've been busy over the summer (trainspotting naturally) and so haven't had time to keep the blog up to date.

It takes so long to prepare and fire up the steam engine for the blog - I must consider moving to a more modern diesel or electric one.

To pass the time until the next update (soon hopefully) how about some trivia. Clergymen may well be famous for their interest in trains but some other famous people like trainspotting as well. We all know how much Pete Waterman likes trains (remember he was the producer that brought us Kylie & the Locomotion), but did you know that the composer Dvorak (the one from those Hovis adverts) was a trainspotter as well? On the BBC they provide this quote "I'd give all my symphonies if I could have invented the locomotive!" Now that is a man after my own heart - anyone can be a good musician and composer (look how many of them there have been), but only a genius could invent trains.

PS. I know that some members of the circle will be a trifle upset about linking Dvorak with Hovis so how about calling it the 2nd Movement from his Ninth Symphony instead.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Class 380

By chance a member happened to be in Glasgow recently when he saw a sign on a public information screen advertising a mock-up of the new class 380 being displayed at Glasgow Central. By rushing over he was able to visit it and view the new generation of Scottish electrics. Apparently, it doens't look much different from the previous generation. Ho hum. 


Recently professional business took a member to Aviemore for a Conference. The Circle had of course visited Aviemore not that long ago to visit the Strathspey Railway and during this Conference there was the opportunity to visit that Railway again. I declined this opportunity though and instead visited the Cairngorms Mountain Railway. This is a funicular railway up a mountainside. It is a tourist attraction, there is no real purpose other than visiting. It leads to a visitor centre from which one gets a (very windy) view over the mountain but one cannot actually exit the visitor centre, so as to protect the environment from humans (if only we could so easily protect humans, especially unborn ones, from humans!). Whilst in Aviemore we also had the chanec to see various Class 170s going through with passenger services as well as the occasional diesel hauled freight.     

Friday, 20 March 2009


Recently a member was, by chance, changing trains at Hyndland station when he noticed one of the Network Rail Class 31s (like the one in the picture, which was taken from the web. For those who know, that's obviously not Hyndland) with one of the Civil Engineer's test trains stopped in the loop, which then headed off towards Partick, being driven from the driving van in the front carriage. A most unusual visitor to our rather boring suburban railway scene. 

Model Rail

Belated news that the members visited Model Rail Scotland 2009 in the middle of February. The SECC was positively crawling with priests - at least six (that's six times the Diocese of Moosonee in Canada's diocesan priests!) of us were there looking at a wonderful selection of model railway layouts. The ingenuity and technical abilities of those involved always surprise and delight the audience, how can they re-create in miniature such realistic panoramas? One comes away inspired to take up railway modelling once more, unfortunately then one sees the prices on the models. They've got a bit dearer than they were when we went to seminary! It seems that even a moderate layout would cost nigh on £1000 and could get much much dearer. Unfortunately we just can't afford it.  

Friday, 6 March 2009

Clydebank, Cumbernauld and the Campsies Railway Company Limited

The Company apologises for delays to the updating of this blog. This is due to snow on the line and equipment failure. Normal services should be resumed shortly.


(ps. There is no truth to the claim that certain members of the Company are opposed to the the whole concept of "updating")

Saturday, 17 January 2009

New Year Luncheon

The Circle gathered today for its New Year luncheon beginning the exciting programme of activities for 2009. To preserve the railway theme we met outside Glasgow Queen Street station (although our liking for railways was somewhat dampened by the 2009 fare rises - another 10p on my return ticket to Glasgow) and then proceeded to the nearby North British Hotel (or the Glasgow Millennium Hotel as the current owners insist on calling it). There we had an enjoyable lunch and discussed our plans for the year ahead. We agreed that our next activity would be a visit to Model Rail Scotland in February followed by some Railway related films.

After lunch we retired to Glasgow Central station for a short tour and discussion of yesteryear there, after which we took coffee in one of the station's many refreshment rooms and watched the typical Glasgow scenes unfold outside the windows. 

A pleasant day was had by all.