So once again, my grandfather, Cammy and I ventured out in the car. This time to Dunkeld. Up the A9 we went, before turning off slightly before Dunkeld and Birnam station, on to the road which heads back to Bankfoot to park on the layby. Already, from this viewpoint there is a small opening in the trees where you can view Southbound trains attacking the bank at Birnam. But it wasn’t favourable to me and Cammy. We decided to walk, through Birnam Woods, hoping to find a better photo spot.
Armed with our cameras and my rucksack full of bottled water and snacks, we headed off in the direction of Dunkeld station. Getting underneath the railway via a small pathway was easy enough, but the path suddenly ended and we were then on to hilly terrain. Hilly, wooded, forestry terrain. So wooded, we found the teddy bears having there picnic!
But past the picnic, we had no clue what we were actually looking for. I had earlier seen a video on YouTube a video of a previous steam trip down the Highland Mainline having been shot from within Birnam Wood, but this was a wild guess as to where it would be. Every tree looked the same! Tall and ever so in front of the lens. Eventually we crossed back under the railway, and walking alongside the A9 ( On an actual gravel path, oh how our feet were saved! ), we arrived at the Home signal for Dunkeld and Birnam station. It wasn’t exactly the photo we had hoped for, and I’m glad I had now left a lot of time before the train was actually due to pass. Back we walked towards the car, and then further along the road we parked on. The line at this point was climbing higher and higher above us, and it wasn’t looking too good. And the day was very warm too, and walking with all this kit on our backs was definitely becoming a strain. Cammy decided to lighten the load on my back however, by robbing me of a bottle of water to quench his thirst!
We must have walked about 2 miles from the station at this point, along the winding road to where we came under the railway again, and found a car parked up on the side of the road. Another railway enthusiast to the rescue! A quick chat, and then when we mentioned our search for a photo spot, he pointed to the ‘embankment’ alongside the railway bridge, claiming there is likely to be a good viewpoint up there. Now I say embankment…..this was actually a near vertical climb of ground which eventually climbs higher than the railway, much higher. And we had to tackle that just for a photo and video? I found Cammy questioning that when we were half way up the climb. It sounds so much easier typing this than it really was. All hands and feet were on the deck, but we persisted up this cliff. It felt like a cliff, and when we reached the gentler sloping land at the top and looked back down, the view was certainly like a cliff. We did struggle, at times we would lose our footing, and Cammy resorted to using his tripod as an extra effort to gain balance and grip on the climb. But it wasn’t to have been without sacrifice.
One of our own fell.
The bottle of water had gone.
But now we were on slightly easier ground to climb, we could actually stand upright and walk up the hill. Which we managed to with little difficulty compared to the cliff climb. But then our jaws dropped, and not just because of the view from the top. Up here, there were seated ready and waiting, two considerably older gentlemen! I mean, how? There was me and Cammy, practically sweating all we had in us just to get up this climb, and here were two guys who certainly would not make the climb! How? We needed answers!
The view was amazing however, we were looking right down on to the railway as it curved up the climb through Birnam Woods, and we could see right down the valley. There was a light haze filling between the hills, making a very atmospheric setting.
And as we stood there at the top of the hill talking away, observing down on the scene, there echoed the unmistakable sound of a Stanier hooter through the valley. The obligatory silence fell as we awaited the Great Britain IV. After a few minutes, steam could be seen above the treeline, and the exhaust beats of both No. 45407 and 44871 reverbed around us as the engines came in to view. They certainly were working hard, but sadly, the heat of the day made most of the steam almost untraceable in a photograph. However, I still hold it in high regard as a nice photograph.