"Blue Trains"

The Class 303 and 311 electric multiple units

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Before the Blue Trains entered revenue service on the 7th of November 1960 there was a weekend visit by the Southern Region Civil Engineering Students Association to Hyndland Depot on the 4th of September 1960 to inspect the new trains.
(Information and photo provided by Peter Tatlow).

The Class 303 units are just two years old when this photograph was taken in June 1962 at Carntyne. The unit is on an Airdrie to Helensburgh service via Singer calling all stops except Kilpatrick and Bowling. Although the trains have been electrified the same can not be said for the station lighting. The gas lights remained for some years.

This is Milngavie Station in June 1962 and the unit will soon depart for Springburn. On these trains a quick sprint up to the front coach is very worthwhile. See why in the next photograph.

The best seats in the house! The introduction of the "Blue Trains" offered a panoramic view of the line ahead, until now something only ever seen by drivers. In the 1980's, when the units were refurbished, this view was replaced by a boring blank wall. Is this progress? See next photo.

As mentioned above, this is the replacement view ahead. Retrograde progress indeed! After refurbishment some seating capacity was lost due to the 2 + 2 across arrangement. Fortunately this refurbishment was completed before the interior designers lost the ability to align the seats with the windows.

As originally built the accommodation for passengers was bright and modern with very comfortable if somewhat bouncy seating. This is again Milngavie in June 1962.

This is the interior of a refurbished Blue Train driving trailer. The original comfortable seating has been replaced with hard utilitarian seating. Just compare with above. It seems that when comfortable units are refurbished they become less pleasant for the passengers. The same happened on Southern Region when the 4CEP and 4BEP units were similarly treated. So called progress is not always for the better.

We are travelling eastbound and are approaching Anniesland. Fortunately we have secured accommodation in the best seats. July 1962.

Anyway, now to January 1968. The British Rail corporate blue colour takes over. Normally the yellow stopped ahead of the cab door but on this occasion the yellow continued to behind the cab. This is Motherwell.

It's August 1968 and a unit with the more common small yellow warning panel approaches Carntyne Station on a Helensburgh Central to Airdrie service.

Nearing the end of its journey from Airdrie to Helensburgh Central, a Blue Train approaches the junction at Craigendoran. At this time the double track main line was adjacent to the sea wall. August 1968.

A unit wearing the corporate British Rail blue is shown here at Springburn. Note that some of the world famous former locomotive construction complexes still exist in the background. The original panoramic curved windows still exist on the driving cabs. April 1969.

Back on the Airdrie line and this unit is on a Helensburgh Central to Airdrie service and is passing the site of the Beardmore Engineering Works. Photo taken in September 1975 from an abandoned railway overbridge.

Panning around and the unit is crossing Duke Street and is about to pass the site of where Parkhead North Station once existed. Some of the Beardmore Forge complex can be seen on the right. Part of the Beardmore site is now occupied by a shopping centre named "The Forge". Photo taken in September 1975 from an abandoned railway overbridge.

Rutherglen Station as it was located before the reopening of the Central Low Level line between Rutherglen and Partick. This unit is on a Glasgow Central to Motherwell service. October 1975

This is Gourock and a Blue train still sporting the wrap around panoramic front windows and glass partition behind the driver departs for Glasgow Central. January 1976.

Looking north across the River Clyde, a unit heads towards Glasgow Central. January 1976.

Having just departed Paisley Gilmour Street Station, this unit is passing Arkleston Junction where four lines become just two. Before electrification there were four lines all the way to Glasgow. February 1977.

This westbound service is at Gallowhill having just passed Arkleston Junction and is approaching Paisley Gilmour Street Station. February 1977.

This is Shields Depot and a unit is at rest. February 1977.

When the main West Coast main line electrification was completed in 1974, Blue Trains became active on the services to Lanark. Here a unit departs for Glasgow. April 1977.

The Hamilton Circle was also electrified in 1974 and electric services commenced between Motherwell via Hamilton to Newton and Glasgow. Barncluith Tunnel near Hamilton was single tracked to accommodate the electrification. May 1977.

Craigendoran and this unit now displays the GG logo, that is the Greater Glasgow Passenger Transport Executive (GGPTE). The driving cabs have now been rebuilt with flat reinforced glass to give greater protection to drivers. That this is necessary is a sad reflection on our society! January 1978.

Craigendoran, the pier is abandoned and boat trains no longer terminate here. This was before single tracking of the line to Helensburgh Central and the excuse of "points failure at Craigendoran due to high tide and high wind" was used as a failure of service to Helensburgh. Again this is January 1978.

January 1978 at Helensburgh Central. The former goods yard area in the background will soon be occupied by a two level car park and a supermarket, firstly Fine Fare, then Somerfield but now the Co-op. The unit is in the standard BR corporate blue livery with modified cab windows.

Just like Helensburgh, the line to Balloch was once fully double track. This train has just departed Balloch Central and is passing the location where Balloch Station would be relocated when the line was reduced to single track. January 1978.

Not many photographers are about today. This service from the Clyde Coast is about to arrive at Glasgow Central. January 1978.

We are on what was the Glasgow to Paisley Joint Line which was before electrification a four track route. This eastbound unit is passing Cardonald Junction. Due to capacity difficulties a centre third running line has been reinstalled necessitation all the poles to be relocated to the outside of the running lines. September 1978.

This unit is approaching Newton Station where rationalisation removed the signal box and resulted in a single lead junction to access Newton Station, with fatal consequences. Unlike Bellgrove where a similar incident occurred, this error was rectified with the installation of extra track work. September 1978.

This scene was taken shortly before the closure of Bridgeton Central to public passenger services. May 1979.

The North Bank electric lines are still much as installed in 1960 with the exceptions of Balloch Central to Balloch Pier and High Street to Bridgeton Central. One unit has now been repainted in the standard British Rail blue grey livery. Bridgeton Central, May 1979.

This is Bridgeton Central and it would not be open to the public for much longer. On the opening of the Argyll line passengers were transferred to the other Bridgeton Station, formally Bridgeton Cross which had been closed in 1964. May 1979.

Bridgeton Central Station and some units await a call to service. July 1979.

Bridgeton Central Station and a units awaits a call to service. July 1979.

Bridgeton Central Station and a units awaits a call to service. July 1979.

The line from Bridgeton Central joins the Airdrie to Queen Street Low Level line at High Street. Here a westbound service approaches its first intermediate stop at High Street. July 1979.

This is Dalmuir and this westbound service has arrived via Yoker. The construction work on the left is for a new turn back line for services on the still to be opened Argyll line. July 1979.

This eastbound service is approaching Dumbarton Central. January 1981.

Glasgow Central in June 1981. This unit carries the Greater Glasgow Trans Clyde markings and is returning from working a Cathcart Circle service.

This unit is approaching the new Rutherglen Station on the Argyll line. In the background can be seen the partially demolished Dalmarnock power station. The tall chimney was soon to be brought down by a spectacular explosion. July 1981.

Dalmarnock Station on the Argyll line was one of the few station to have two complete refurbishments in recent times. The first was in 1978 for the reopening of the line and then in 2014 for a nearby sporting event. July 1981.

Not all Blue Trains had a long and happy life. This July 1981 scene depicts one such unit that has been withdrawn after collision damage. In the background is Shields Road depot.

We are now on a footbridge over the Clydeside Expressway at Kelvinhaugh Junction as a westbound service passes. In the background can be seen Queen's Dock North in the process of being filled in. The Queen's Dock site will eventually be the location of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. July 1981.

This is Bellgrove as an eastbound service approaches. Note that the original station building on Bellgrove Street is missing. Like most structures in Glasgow constructed of wood, the arsonists have been active. The structure on the platform subsequently received a similar fate. February 1982.

This is Springburn. At this time passengers from Glasgow to Cumbernauld were required to take a Blue Train from Queen Street Low Level to Springburn and change onto an awaiting diesel multiple unit for the rest of the way to Cumbernauld. July 1981.

It's March 1982 and we are at Springburn. The unit is now in the blue grey livery with the Greater Glasgow Trans Clyde markings. The background has changed significantly in that the factories have now been demolished.

The original servicing depot for the Blue Trains was constructed on the site of Hyndland terminus station. It is May 1982 and here a Class 314 unit supplements the original Blue Trains. With the opening of the new maintenance depot at Yoker, this site was abandoned and is now occupied by flats.

We are at Gourock and the rusty rails and absence of activity is due to a national railwayman's strike in July 1982.

This is Bowling and an eastbound service from Helensburgh to Airdrie speeds through. With few exceptions only Balloch services stop at Bowling. Note the substantial station building and the signal box, now alas all gone. August 1983.

This is Craigendoran and the line to Helensburgh is now only a single track line. The West Highland line passes behind the soon to be eliminated signal box. May 1985.

Despite single tracking of the line between Craigendoran and Helensburgh Central previously carried out, the staffed ticket office and passenger waiting room remained. The unit has just commenced its journey to Airdrie. This is Craigendoran in May 1985.

Public transport now has a new operator in the Greater Glasgow area, Strathclyde Transport. The Blue Trains have now become Strathclyde Red and Black Trains along with the former Glasgow Corporation buses in matching colours. This newly repainted Blue Train is approaching Helensburgh Central in May 1985.

This is Craigendoran and the efforts of the single trackers are very obvious. The new track layout is somewhat bizarre and this is definitely not the place to have a SPAD (signal passed at danger). You will pay the ultimate price! May 1985.

Looking towards Helensburgh at Craigendoran Junction the evidence may still be seen of the double track that once existed between the two places. May 1985.

Before the North Bank resignalling took effect there were a significant number of signal boxes in use. In January 1986 we see a westbound unit in the new Strathclyde Transport colours at High Street East Junction signal box.

This westbound unit is approaching Bellgrove Station. At this time Bellgrove had a signal box controlling a double junction on the line to Springburn. January 1986.

At Bellgrove, resignalling and rationalisation removed the signal box and introduced a single lead junction on the Springburn line, with fatal consequences. January 1986.

East from Bellgrove the Airdrie line passes over Duke Street. The lines in the foreground are out of use as these lines were part of the Parkhead Forge complex. January 1986.

This eastbound unit is passing the remains of the bridge abutments that once carried the line from Dalmarnock to Balornock Junction. January 1986.

Looking east from the same location, this unit is passing the site that was once Parkhead engine shed. At this time orange pegs were marked out as if some thought was given to diverting the main lines through the Beardmore bridge thus allowing Duke Street to be widened from two to four traffic lanes. This has not happened and instead a new power supply facility was built on this alternative alignment. January 1986.

This westbound unit is passing Parkhead North signal box. At one time a double track line diverged here and joined the Bellgrove to Springburn line at Haghill Junction near Alexandra Parade Station. January 1986.

This westbound unit is passing Parkhead North signal box. January 1986.

Viewed from the site that was once Parkhead North engine shed, a westbound unit passes. January 1986.

This is Springburn and this service has departed for Milngavie. January 1986.

At this time there was still a substantial signal box controlling the Springburn Station area. January 1986.

This Springburn to Milngavie service is approaching the site that was once Garngad signal box and station. January 1986.

This Springburn to Milngavie service is passing the site that was once Garngad signal box and station. January 1986.

A Springburn to Milngavie service approaches Alexandra Parade Station. January 1986.

Having departed Alexandra Parade Station the next stop will be Duke Street Station. The formidable bridge or tunnel carries Alexandra Parade over the line. The crossover was used to give access to the line to Parkhead North Junction on the Airdrie line. January 1986.

From the westbound platform at Duke Street Station a Springburn to Milngavie service approaches. The bridge in the background carries Cumbernauld Road over the railway. January 1986.

DC to AC. This is the approach to Hadfield on what was once a Manchester to Sheffield main line. Electrified in the 1950's at 1500v DC, the line was cut back to Hadfield in 1981. The Class 506 DC units lingered on a couple of years then the remaining Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield and Glossop via Dinting lines were converted to 25Kv AC. Some Class 303 units provided service for a short while. May 1986.

Blue Trains in the Pennines! After the premature demise of the 1.5 Kv DC Trans Pennine Woodhead line in 1981, all that remained was the passenger service between Manchester Piccadilly to Glossop and Hadfield. This portion was eventually converted to 25Kv AC and some Blue Trains provided service for a short time. May 1986, Hadfield.

Things are seldom quiet at Glasgow Central Station. Here we see a simultaneous departure of two Blue Trains. February 1989.

This scene at Westerton shows an eastbound service passing Milngavie Junction and signal box. At this time a double junction and double track existed all the way to Milngavie. The single tracking of such a busy commuter railway defies all logic. June 1989.

This is a service to Lanark on the West Coast Main Line near Fulwood. June 1989.

At Ayr in July 1994 and it was most unusual to see a Class 303 arriving.

Ayr on a Blue Train. Not something passengers could do very often. On this occasion, an extra influx of passengers for the "Golf Link" service to Turnberry required additional trains. At Ayr, passengers transferred on to Class 156 units for the onward journey to Girvan. This is July 1994.  

This is Craigendoran, where the West Highland line diverges from the line to Helensburgh Central. This unit is still in the Strathclyde Red and Black livery of Strathclyde Transport but is now wearing the logo of the current operator, Strathclyde Passenger Transport. This is April 1998.

This scene at Bowling was made famous at the inauguration of the Blue Trains by a painting by Terence Cuneo. In the painting a westbound Blue Train passes a steam engine on the left and the Erskine Bridge is still way in the future. This is now 1999 and the unit carries Strathclyde Transport livery but has Strathclyde Passenger Transport decals.

Seen here in what is probably the most respectable and dignified colour scheme of all the train operating companies, no graffiti yobs posing as graphic artists let loose here, the Blue Trains have reflected many changes over the years. This is again Helensburgh in June 2001.

We now come to the final colour scheme carried by the illustrious Blue Trains, the Carmine and Cream livery of Strathclyde Passenger Transport. This is the 08:00 departure from Helensburgh to Springburn, via Singer, in June 2001.

A comparison of units, 30 years apart in construction, providing service on North Bank electric lines. On the right a Class 303 Blue Train in Strathclyde Passenger Transport colours poses beside a Class 320, still in Strathclyde Transport livery, awaiting departure from Helensburgh on morning services to Glasgow and beyond, June 2001.

About to depart Bowling on a June Sunday in 2001 is a Blue Train resplendent in the latest colours of Strathclyde Passenger Transport. Some 318 units have now appeared on the North Bank lines and are starting to usurp the 303's from their home territory of the last forty two years.

A typical Autumn evening in Helensburgh, damp. The first Blue Train, set 303 001, is leading on the 18:24 Helensburgh to Springburn service on the 26th of September 2002. By the way, the purpose of the cone is to warn of a piece of broken platform edging.

It's Monday the 30th of December 2002 and the last two surviving Class 303 units arrive at Helensburgh Central on their last public appearance. The end of 42 years of service has finally come. Photo by Calum McMahon. 

Illustration of a ticket for the final public run of the Class 303 Blue Trains. 30th December 2002.

On Monday the 30th of December 2002 the last two Blue Trains (303011 and 303088) were retired from regular service.

After withdrawal this Class 311 unit was on display at Summerlee Industrial Museum in Coatbridge.

This unit did not suffer the indignity of refurbishment and the remains of the original seating was still present.

A complete three car unit may still be viewed, now under the care of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society at the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway at Bo'ness. This scene is in October 2016.

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