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TITLE
Former train driver, Bob Simpson, 1997
EXTERNAL ID
NRM_NBNW_KL_DS080562
PLACENAME
Dornie
DISTRICT
South West Ross
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
ROSS: Lochalsh
DATE OF IMAGE
June 1997
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
Chris Hogg
SOURCE
National Railway Museum, York
ASSET ID
20048
KEYWORDS
railway
railways
Former train driver, Bob Simpson, 1997

The late Bob Simpson, retired train driver, aged 93, was photographed in June 1997 at the retirement home at Dornie by Loch Duich where he lived. Bob was the last surviving employee of the Highland Railway Company, which operated services on the Kyle line from 1871 until 1922.

Bob started his railway career as a cleaner at Forres, Morayshire, in 1919 then aged fourteen. His job was axed when several railway companies amalgamated in 1923 to form the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). He was redeployed to Inverness again as a cleaner. Cleaning locomotives was a dirty job and the cleaners were nicknamed the 'black squad'. After Inverness he transferred to the Kyle of Lochalsh and became a fireman in 1930. In 1939 he passed as a driver, a position he held until his retirement in March 1968 from British Rail after 49 years of service.

He was hailed as a hero in 1953 when he averted a tragedy just north of Stromeferry by stopping his locomotive a few feet before a landslip, saving the train from derailing and crashing into the waters of Loch Carron. The carriages were towed back to Kyle and the engine was hauled away by crane.

During World War II he drove trains on the Far North line becoming involved in special wartime assignments known as the 'hush hush' trains. On one occasion, just after the German Fleet had been scuppered in Scapa Flow, he drove a train from Inverness to Thurso, which had originated from London. He was joined on the footplate by an armed guard. En route to Thurso an incident occurred on the line near Brora that brought the train to a standstill. Suddenly armed troops surrounded the train and remained in position until the all clear was given allowing the train to proceed northwards. After this journey Bob was hospitalised with meningitis. When reading the paper a few weeks later he read a report that Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet had been to Scapa Flow to inspect the naval defences. Bob realised that this was the train he had been driving.

On the day of his retirement in March 1968 he brought the engine into Kyle station for the last time, where crowds of people had gathered to wish him farewell and a happy retirement.

On 3 November 1997 Bob Simpson was ScotRail's guest of honour at the centenary ceremony held at Kyle of Lochalsh station. Bob unveiled, and is commemorated on, the centenary plaque located on the station.

Background
Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.

'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.

We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:

Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.

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High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
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Former train driver, Bob Simpson, 1997

ROSS: Lochalsh

1990s

railway; railways

National Railway Museum, York

North by Northwest - The Kyle Line

The late Bob Simpson, retired train driver, aged 93, was photographed in June 1997 at the retirement home at Dornie by Loch Duich where he lived. Bob was the last surviving employee of the Highland Railway Company, which operated services on the Kyle line from 1871 until 1922. <br /> <br /> Bob started his railway career as a cleaner at Forres, Morayshire, in 1919 then aged fourteen. His job was axed when several railway companies amalgamated in 1923 to form the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). He was redeployed to Inverness again as a cleaner. Cleaning locomotives was a dirty job and the cleaners were nicknamed the 'black squad'. After Inverness he transferred to the Kyle of Lochalsh and became a fireman in 1930. In 1939 he passed as a driver, a position he held until his retirement in March 1968 from British Rail after 49 years of service.<br /> <br /> He was hailed as a hero in 1953 when he averted a tragedy just north of Stromeferry by stopping his locomotive a few feet before a landslip, saving the train from derailing and crashing into the waters of Loch Carron. The carriages were towed back to Kyle and the engine was hauled away by crane. <br /> <br /> During World War II he drove trains on the Far North line becoming involved in special wartime assignments known as the 'hush hush' trains. On one occasion, just after the German Fleet had been scuppered in Scapa Flow, he drove a train from Inverness to Thurso, which had originated from London. He was joined on the footplate by an armed guard. En route to Thurso an incident occurred on the line near Brora that brought the train to a standstill. Suddenly armed troops surrounded the train and remained in position until the all clear was given allowing the train to proceed northwards. After this journey Bob was hospitalised with meningitis. When reading the paper a few weeks later he read a report that Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet had been to Scapa Flow to inspect the naval defences. Bob realised that this was the train he had been driving.<br /> <br /> On the day of his retirement in March 1968 he brought the engine into Kyle station for the last time, where crowds of people had gathered to wish him farewell and a happy retirement. <br /> <br /> On 3 November 1997 Bob Simpson was ScotRail's guest of honour at the centenary ceremony held at Kyle of Lochalsh station. Bob unveiled, and is commemorated on, the centenary plaque located on the station.<br /> <br /> Background<br /> Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.<br /> <br /> 'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.<br /> <br /> We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:<br /> <br /> Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.