Yes, in December 2017 I visited both Barry Links and Golf Street in the dark, took some awful photos, and didn't actually get the train to or from Golf Street. Such was the quality of the blog nearly 2 years ago.
The Edinburgh to Aberdeen line has quite a collection of little stations, especially between Dundee and Carnoustie. Of the 5 stations between the 2, 3 have an annual patronage that regularly falls below 1000 per year, 2 often fall below 100. Until 2019 they were served by only 1 train per day each way, but this was doubled to two per day at the May timetable change. This makes it possible to visit all three of them. I chose the evening because I have no way to get up to Carnoustie for a 6am departure from Golf Street. The only problem is that the evening departures come 40 minutes apart, which is tight for a proper visit of a least used station (I tend to allow at least an hour per station as a rule). However, I'd already visited Barry Links properly, so I allowed myself to do it in the 40 minutes.
I used 7 tickets for the journey, which required a lot of patience with the fairly awful touch-screen ticket machines that exist at Haymarket station (and indeed most other stations in the UK). But, I completed the transaction with plenty of time to spare, and decided to board a delayed service which took me as far as Dundee. It was a very crowded LNER service from London, so my timeliness (and their lack of it) didn't pay off that much. Instead of hanging around at Haymarket, I hung around at Dundee station, the one which had its station piano smashed by some absolute planks. I stayed on platform 4 for my train to Monifieth.
Monifieth is another station that lies along the Edinburgh to Aberdeen line which has a low patronage (below 10,000 per year). This doesn't qualify it for the list proper, and it is not of sufficient interest for it to be covered as part of the blog (frequent readers may remember stations such as Chathill, Angel Road and other stations which have an annual patronage well above the 1000 per year limit have been covered due to limited service or other reasons of interest – see individual blog posts for justifications). Balmossie station is about 1 mile south of Monifieth. The walk between the two is a very pleasant one: a tarmac cycle and walkers route runs along the side of the Tay estuary.
Of the three, Balmossie is the most inconvenient to navigate. The platforms are staggered: the down platform (towards Carnoustie and Arbroath) is directly east of the footbridge, but the up platform (towards Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh) is further east along the line. One has to walk up a mud track after crossing the footbridge to get to it. Although the platforms are pretty much wooden skeletons, they have all the basic facilities: benches, signs, bins and electronic departure boards. The up platform even has a wooden shelter (the luxury).
I had about an hour at the station, which I used trying to take pictures of the outside of the station without too many locals questioning my sanity, and taking pictures of the trains which passed occasionally.
My train onwards to Barry Links was showing as on-time, but was held at Dundee for a late-running express to Aberdeen. That meant it arrived 15 minutes late. Nobody got off, but I got on (slightly obviously).
Barry Links Station
7 minutes and 1 intermediate stop (Monifieth – remember that one?) later, I was deposited on the Barry Links platform along with 2 other people. The train departed, and the level crossing barriers remained down for another 5 minutes as other trains passed through. Some of the cyclists waiting at the barriers were getting quite irate by the end of it, something which I had no sympathy for as they could have used the bridge. They didn't and must have lost about 10 minutes.
Slight idiots aside, Barry Links station has 2 normal platforms, none of that skeletal stuff that Balmossie and (spoiler alert) Golf Street have. Its shelter is also an upgrade on Balmossie's: some metal and see-through plastic affair on both platforms. That must mean Barry Links has a higher patronage. But, it doesn't. Barry Links has been the least used station in Scotland for years (alternating with Breich) and has at times been the least used in the whole of the UK (it was for 2018). The signs, bins and electronic departure boards exist as expected. Except they don't. Someone has managed to get the departure boards the wrong way round, so my train onwards to Golf Street was advertised on the wrong platform. Top marks to Transport Scotland.
The 40 minute wait had been eaten down to 25 minutes with the delay, but increased to over 30 because the Edinburgh to Arbroath service that I was to catch to Golf Street was 6 minutes late. That meant I saw a few trains passing through.
Slightly too soon, my train to Golf Street arrived and I boarded (but only after taking a quick snap).
Golf Street Station
2 minutes down the line, the train arrived at Golf Street. Only the very front door was to open. Again, 2 people got out as well as me. They left, and I surveyed the station.
The station has very short platforms. They can just about fit 2 coaches on, so most trains have to use selective door opening (SDO). The platforms are skeletal (as alluded to earlier), with the same facilities. There is only one shelter: situated on the down platform. This seems very silly to me: more people are going to be waiting for trains at Golf Street to go to Dundee and further south/west rather than to go the 1 or 2 stops north to Carnoustie (1000 yards further along the line) or Arbroath.
I spent just over an hour taking pictures and doing some 'proper' trainspotting. During that time, the friendly Carnoustie locals had things to say about my existence. Well, 2 people (and I don't know if they were all locals). The first pair were in a car, and, once they saw me, said “it's not an actual station” as they drove off. I know this to be false for a number of reasons:
I may not be an expert in many things (or anything really), especially definitions and spellings of words (just check all the typso that I've made in the previous posts), but I'm pretty confident that I can identify railway stations.
The second was a man. He came out of a house I assume that he had a right to be in to make sure that I didn't think that I was at Carnoustie station. I thanked him and said I was just taking pictures of trains. Apparently a lot of people are idiots, because they think that the 8 signs that all have “Golf Street / Sràid a' Ghoilf” printed on them, they actually have “Carnoustie / Càrn Ùstaidh” printed, when this is clearly not the case. (Exceptions made if the person is blind/partially sighted, perhaps obviously.)
After a short intermodal service had passed through, I decided it was time to walk to Carnoustie station (the actual one) to catch my train home. This happened.
All three stations are hardly rural or remote. Therefore, their patronage could increase significantly if they got a reasonable level of service. An argument could be made that some are too close to other, more established stations. However I would only make that argument for Golf Street. Barry Links could have a more reasonable patronage (not that high, but not stupidly low) if it had a more regular service. Ditto with Balmossie. Perhaps my previous suggestion of introducing a shuttle between Golf Street and Barry Links (the stations being at either end of Carnoustie Golf Links) to transport the rich golfing lard-tubs about the links, could work. (It couldn't.)
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Author - Felix