Strabathie Light Railway
(Blackdog Light Railway; Murcar Railway

Summary
The Strabathie Light Railway was not a tramway as such, but an industrial railway which transported raw materials and finished products, as well as the company's workers; the latter were carried in ex-Aberdeen District Tramways Company horsecars, modified and re-gauged to 3ft 0ins. Although it allowed the local golf club (Murcar Links Golf Club) to run a railcar on a portion of the line - from 1909 onwards - it was nevertheless still a railway.

Initial passenger services were operated solely for the benefit of the owning company's workers (Seaton Brick and Tile Co Ltd), and were steam hauled; drivers would have worn typical steam footplate attire, whilst conductors were probably not needed in the way that they would have been for a public service, as travel was provided free of charge. When the service was extended to include the golf club's members (at weekends), the club provided an 'attendant'; surviving photos are rare, however, from the example shown below, it seems highly likely that they wore informal attire (jacket, muffler and the fashionable headgear of the day), the sole badge of office being a cash bag. When the golf club began running its own services using a petrol railcar, this was operated by a driver-cum-attendant, who again wore informal attire.

Although a single photograph has survived which shows a driver in a uniform (taken between 1919 and 1921), it was devoid of insignia (including a cap badge) and appears to have been a 'one off'. All subsequent photographs show drivers in informal attire, so it was probably bought for this particular driver (possibly war surplus given the date). Given that drivers changed fairly frequently over the subsequent decades, buying a new uniform for each incumbent would probably not have made financial sense.

I am indebted to Gordon Pirie for providing all the photos below, and for the background information. For a detailed history of this unique line, see Gordon's: 'The Strabathie Light Railway'; Railway Archive No 17, Lightmoor Press (2007).

Images

Drivers and conductors
Strabathie Light Railway
A photo of Murcar Links Golf Club members, purportedly taken on the opening day, Saturday 5th June 1909. Although of poor resolution, it shows a figure (back row, right-hand end) who is wearing a cashbag strap, and who is in all probability a train attendant (conductor), a post the club were contractually obliged to fill. Photo courtesy of Murcar Links Golf Club, with thanks to Gordon Pirie.


Strabathie Light Railway Thomas Sim and railcar
Driver-cum-attendant Thomas Sim, pictured at the railway's Bridge of Don terminus sometime between 1919 and 1921. Photo courtesy of the Sim family, with thanks to Gordon Pirie.


Strabathie Light Railway Thomas Sim
A blow-up of the above photo showing Thomas Sim. He is wearing a smart uniform, which is seemingly devoid of insignia. This is the only photo depicting a uniform (perhaps war surplus), which suggests that it was a one-off.


Strabathie Light Railway railcar driver
Railcar driver-cum-attendant - photo undated, but probably taken in the 1930s or 1940s. Apart from his cashbag, he is wearing completely informal attire (jacket, trousers and waistcoat). With thanks to Gordon Pirie.


Strabathie Light Railway Driver Jim Fiddes 1948
A photo of driver Jim Fiddes ringing his departure bell, in informal attire and without insignia of any kind. The photo was taken for a newspaper article, which appeared in October 1948, so doubtless Mr Fiddes had ample wanrnng, and was therefore probably able to don his 'Sunday Best'. Photo courtesy of the Aberdeen Bon Accord and Northern Pictorial, with thanks to Gordon Pirie.


Strabathie Light Railway Driver Jim Fiddes 1948
Another shot of Mr Fiddes taken on the same day. Photo courtesy of the Aberdeen Bon Accord and Northern Pictorial, with thanks to Gordon Pirie.