Carnoustie is a town of about 12000 people about 11 miles north of Dundee. It is served by three railway stations: Barry Links, Golf Street and Carnoustie. So why does it feature for this least-used stations blog? Both Barry Links and Golf Street, despite being near settlements and being at either end of the famous Carnoustie Golf Links, they both have annual usages in the 2 or 3 figures (Barry Links is the least-used station in the April 2016-April 2017 statistics with only 24, while Golf Street is slightly higher at 102). When I booked the tickets for this trip, the 2015-2016 statistics were the most recent available, where Barry Links was the least used station in Scotland, but Shippea Hill was still in its position of 12 per year. It now has 156 because nutters like me visit. I'm waiting until the April 2017-2018 period strikes so that the fame has worn off and the vanity project that is All the Stations' usage has been flushed through.
So, to the map: All the stations between Dundee and Carnoustie look like normal, local stops. The intercity services pass through, as does the sleeper. The map is not geographically accurate (no shit), but other than that, nothing is amiss. No mention that 3 of the 5 stations only have 1 train per day in each direction (the 3rd is Balmossie, which I will cover at another point). To visit these 2 wonders, I had to cheat very slightly. I bought a single from Edinburgh to Barry Links, and one from Golf Street to Edinburgh. But, because of the way the trains work, I couldn't use my Golf Street to Edinburgh ticket from Golf Street. I took advantage of the easement by boarding at Carnoustie proper. (There is no difference in price so I didn't defraud ScotRail out of anything.) Remember the rules: The ticket has to be bought to/from the station, the ticket has to be used for travel and I have to actually visit the station. I'm being a true politician by operating by the letter (not quite the spirit) of the rules. I will be re-visiting Golf Street by train when I do Balmossie at another time.
Getting to Barry Links
Having suffered the long and crowded run in a 3 car 170 (I can really see why ScotRail want longer and faster trains on the Aberdeen and Inverness services) up to Dundee, I waited for the local service to arrive. The two positives of that journey was that I got a seat and the guard noticed my unusual ticket: “Did you read the papers yesterday?” he enquired with a chuckle.
“I did, yeah. But I booked this weeks ago.”
“You should get a badge or something.”
The young lady who sat between me and the guard (I was by the window) was suitably baffled. She got off at Leuchars.
Having boarded the local service from Dundee up to Carnoustie (calling at all stations), I listened as the guard requested everyone to alight from the front coach only at Balmossie, Monifieth, Barry Links and Golf Street. Proper least used station stuff. At Balmossie, a father and daughter got on, who proceeded to get excited about going to Barry Links. “How many people used Barry last year?”
“Yeah, and most of them were us!”
Gits. They (and some other random rail enthusiast) were the 4 people to get off at Barry Links, thereby displaying the pull of the least-used station status. In 1 day Barry Links saw one sixth of its annual patronage.
Barry Links is the least special of the stations I have done so far. The family buggered off in one direction, while the random rail enthusiast and myself walked around and took photos. There is a reasonable volume of rail traffic on the main line to Aberdeen. The level crossing was going up and down frequently.
I was enjoying filming the trains while the other person was impatient (there was a long lag between barriers closing and train passing) and thereby missing the filming opportunities. He then walked off towards Carnoustie leaving me. I walked around alone, admiring the 2nd failure of signage in as many trips (this time advertising trains north to Arbroath even though services terminate at Carnoustie. Despite being the least-used station, it still has the lovely SmartCard reader.
Having spent about 20-25 minutes, I decided I'd better walk to Golf Street. I took a slight detour to spot the MoD road to a rifle range near the station. I didn't actually walk down the road, because a very imposing sign told me politely but in no uncertain terms to sod off or get shot.
This station is about a mile down a path alongside the Golf Links from Barry. It is quite a nice walk in the dark. The imposing features of the trees, bunkers, and the unexpected stream lead to a pleasant stroll. It was right by the line, leading to some wonderful filming points if there had actually been some light. Next time, I will do this in high summer.
Getting to Golf Street, I fell instantly in love with the station. It is utterly wonderful. The panels of the platform move bend slightly when one steps on them, the elevation from the road is wonderful, and that provides some great opportunity for filming (again, light and camera permitting).
Golf Street is also the location of the spookiest thing that has even happened to me at a railway station. As I was wandering around taking pictures, all the station lighting was turned off. The orange-bathed platforms became dark, with the only source of light being the street lights. But this was way too dark for my camera to pick up, as you can see in the before and after pictures (below). This made filming firstly a class 43 HST (London to Aberdeen) and then a class 66 (southbound) very difficult. But the atmosphere was incredible. It was the best feeling. I also felt as if I owned the place. Golf Street is “my station”. My favourite place.
The shelter is placed in the worst possible position: on the Carnoustie-bound platform. Yeah. For all those people who will wait for the 1 train per day to take them half a mile up the line to a bit south of the town centre. And for £1.20. I doubt the conductor would even ask for a fare. It takes all of 1 minute. Although the timetable allows 4. 4?! For half a mile? That's timetable padding at its worst. In reality, virtually every timetable allows an extra few minutes at the arrival station so the TOC can say it arrived on time. On top of the 5 minutes of leeway already allowed. Gits.
Observations & Notes
These two stations show that under use can occur anywhere. Even Chathill, which is located virtually in the middle of nowhere has hundreds of times the usage of these two stations, for the same level of service. But, it is no doubt that their patronage could be increased if more trains stopped. A 6am service southbound followed by a 7pm return is not great, even for peak hour travellers. Who wants to get into work for 6:30?! So people all use Carnoustie. Which has a usage of over 110 thousand people per year. Which, when combined with Golf Street and Barry Links, produces an overall usage rate of the entire Carnoustie area of just over 110 thousand people per year. I mean, the 2 stations are at either end of Carnoustie Golf Links for goodness sake. Surely they would be well used if ScotRail introduced a shuttle service between the 2 to transport the rich lard-tubs from one hole to the next so, God forbid, they had to walk anywhere.
Even with Golf Street's proximity to the Golf Links' main buildings, the signs at the hotel point people to Carnoustie (main) railway station, not the much closer Golf Street. This is the painful thing: the stations are useful and could be so much better used, but they are strangled by a painfully low service. And until their figures rise, the Department for Transport (DafT) and ScotRail see no point in increasing the service. And the figures won't rise until the service increases. In the May 2018 timetable recast, there are plans for a new Dundee to Arbroath local service, which will increase the service level and Broughty Ferry and Monifieth. But what about Golf Street and Barry Links? Will they get the hourly service too, or will they be left with the current, pathetic deal?
Note the referral on the map to Golf Street Halt. It's quite an apt description of the piddling little structure. Adorable nonetheless.
I finished at Carnoustie, enjoying the existance of such wonders as a big waiting shelter, ticket machines and the obligatory blue train plant box that seems to adorn every Scottish station except those in the borders region, Golf Street and Barry Links. Heck, even some minor hamlet in the Highlands with a population roughly equivalent to the usage of Golf Street has that thing sitting on a platform (I've not checked them all so don't quote me on that).
I predict that Golf Street will become the lesser used than Barry Links next year. Many, many enthusiasts and other weirdos like me will buy tickets to the station, slightly fewer of them will come, but I bet very few will discover Golf Street or make an effect on the figures for the station. It is unlikely people would do both stations in a day (unless one does the 6am-7pm wait somewhere) and even if they do visit the station, will there be a ticket sale? I doubt it. They will all hop off at Barry Links, leaving Golf Street untouched for me to own. My beautiful, deserted Golf Street.
Author - Felix