Susan Morrison: Halcyon days of rail travel have truly hit the buffers

Once, people who travelled on trains were known as passengers. They got off at stations with proper names, such as Waverley, Falkirk Grahamston, Glasgow Central. On the train there was a guard who kept the peace and collected the tickets.

Friday, 4th May 2012, 1:00 pm

But now, probably at the behest of some plooky youth with a degree in Customer Behaviours and Transport Marketing, we are no longer passengers. Oh no, we have been reclassified as “customers”.

Let’s just get this straight, people. We are not customers. A customer is a person who buys a three-piece suite or a packet of wine gums.

A person who buys a ticket to ride is a passenger, a word reeking of the romance of travel. It might just be a jaunt to Burntisland, but that ticket is a distant cousin of the Trans- Siberian to Ulan Bator, the Blue Train to Cannes or the Orient Express. There is drama and excitement in travel, some of which is even captured on YouTube these days when passenger revolts lead to Big Men chucking stroppy youths off at Linlithgow. Like to see Hercule Pernod deal with that one.

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Order was kept on the train by a guard, not a “train manager”. The guard had the power to behave as all guardians should and carried authority in every line of their being.

For many years, when my mum and dad looked after my mad old aunty in Dunoon, we battered up and down to Gourock on the train from Central. The guard was a formidable woman who was the proud owner of the last beehive hairdo on the west coast. Her name, I think, was Ella (it’s what my dad called her, anyway) and she required most of the output of the Elnett hairspray company to keep a construction as dizzying as anything a Spanish architect could dream up in place.

Back then, the train up to Glasgow frequently played host to warring factions from incoming navies, sworn enemies of the high seas or, as we call it today, Nato.

Bother would simmer on the pier when they came ashore heading for the sophistication of the Savoy Disco in Sauchiehall Street. Tensions soared if the French were involved, which I tend to find is a general rule of life.

Things would hover on the edge of kicking off until Ella would appear under the tower of varnished hair and all would go well quiet on the Western Front. She was not a train manager. She was Ella, Guardian of the Train. No manager in history has ever fixed a glittering eye on a testosterone-fuelled laddie dazzled by the promise of a senga-strewn dancefloor and snapped “sit doon” and expected to be obeyed.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, we bought tickets for stations called Waverley and Helensburgh. Not EDB to HLC. There’s no romance in initials.

Ferry best of luck to limo drivers on Dunoon trip

Emirates is offering to collect its Scottish first-class passengers up to 140 miles away from the airport in a shiny big car. Well, that brings Dunoon on to the radar, so good luck with that stretch limo.

CalMac pulled the car ferry last year leaving just the wee Western Ferries boat – a grand wee vessel, but I suspect may just be shorter than your average limo. And seriously, I’d pay good money to watch a limo take on the Rest And Be Thankful.

Dunoon is no stranger to the car-eating capacity of a treacherous twisty road. In the 1960s, we used to amuse ourselves by watching American servicemen based at the Holy Loch hauling their Chevvies and Buicks out of various hedges as they jammed in the narrow back lanes.

They brought their monster cars over because, at that time, Scotland regarded the Hillman Imp as a fit and proper automobile for a family. Well, a Scottish family, which even then took up less space than your average American.

I don’t want to mocha big deal of it but replace bins before it’s too latte

When Waverley, or EDB as it says on the online ticket system, is finished, I’m sure it will be just glorious, but please could someone replace the litter bins?

We all know why they were removed in the first place, but your modern terrorist appears to have moved on from the more traditional plant-and-run-away approach.

On the other hand, your average teen traveller is capable of spontaneously generating a trail of trash bearing the names of Starbucks, Caffé Nero and McDonald’s.

Clean up . . if you find the right part

Spring has definitely sprung and that can only mean one thing – underneath the bed needs hoovering. This will require the crevice tool being fitted. It’s a known fact that crevices need hoovering at least once a year.

This means actually finding the crevice tool which, funnily enough, has a habit of slipping down and hiding in crevices, buried safely under the layer of stoor and the Christmas cards you swore you posted . . .