It was the train that offered up its own talent show for pupils.
The Scottish Region of British Railways introduced a specially designed train following the advent of commercial television in the mid-1950s.
It was first used on an Evening Citizen excursion from Glasgow to Blackpool and with this success the coach set was permanently fitted out.
The TV Train took schoolchildren from Scotland’s central belt to places in the north of the country.
Pitlochry was one.
During these trips, pupils could perform a song.
The train was fitted out with a studio in one of the carriages.
The single camera was transmitted by cable to elevated television sets and loud speakers in each seating coach of the train.
Another activity was a teacher presenting a tutorial to pupils.
The TV Train operated from 1957 to 1964 but was a victim of cost-cutting.
David Munro, author of The Time Jigsaw series, said his excursion to Perthshire on the TV Train in May 1964 proved the catalyst for a love of rail journeys.
“When Mr Miller, our schoolteacher at Granton Primary, told our class we were going on a trip next month to Perthshire, most of us had wide eyes,” he said.
“Previous visits to Edinburgh Zoo and the Botanical Gardens had been enjoyable, but within our city.
“The location in Perthshire was Pitlochry and a special train would take our class and those from several nearby district primary schools to the town.
“One of my inquisitive classmates asked: “What is special about the train, sir?”
“He was given the response: “The carriages have elevated television sets at each end. Our class is going to learn a song and everyone on the train will be able to watch them perform. The train has a television studio in one of the carriages.”
“As our class roll had 30 pupils, most of us would imagine the studio to be a fair size.
“However, Mr Miller stated the best six singers would take part.
“The Road to the Isles was to be our chosen song on the day.”
The TV Train talent show
David, who is a former Aberdeen resident, said tension within the class mounted prior to the trip “as to who would find fame being on television”.
“We had regular rehearsals within class and then the six were picked,” said David. “Yours truly being given the nod.
“On a sunny, mild midweek morning, complete with packed lunches, our class gathered at the school and walked in rows of two towards Granton Road station.
“It had been closed to passenger traffic two years earlier but opened for our special day.
“Indeed, a photographer from The Scotsman was present and his work appeared in an edition not long after.
“The steam locomotive and carriages arrived around 9.30am.
We walked back through several carriages and returned to our seats, but not before noticing admiring eyes from pupils who had witnessed our appearance on carriage television sets.”
“I reminisced of when, as an infant, I would stand on the same platform alongside my mother for the service to Princes Street station.
“Rather than take the number 19 bus to the same location, which was less cost and time, I would plead with her to take the train.
“We boarded a train with other 10-year old pupils already seated who had got on at Leith North.
“A short while later, the train made a stop at Craigleith station to collect more enthusiastic pupils and then headed for South Queensferry.
“As it crossed the Forth Railway Bridge, myself and others gaped out the windows at magnificent views.
“The almost-complete Forth Road Bridge could not be missed.
“One pupil revealed it brought you luck if a penny was thrown into the sea below.
“Another had an empty lemonade bottle worth three pennies if returned intact, but was refrained from throwing it out the window.”
Following the excitement of the crossing, the train steamed onto Perthshire.
The six chosen to sing made their way to the television studio, accompanied by Mr Miller.
David said: “Once we were composed, filming of our well-rehearsed song began.
“Soon, our presence on television was over.
“The anticipation which had lasted for several weeks ended in three minutes.
“We walked back through several carriages and returned to our seats, but not before noticing admiring eyes from pupils who had witnessed our appearance on carriage television sets.
“Not long before reaching Pitlochry, dark clouds appeared and it soon started to rain, so much so that when we arrived, some of our class did not get off!
“However, the remainder did and went about the town. No doubt why shopkeepers had smiles on their faces.
“As we departed Pitlochry, the sun reappeared.
“In all my years since, the Perthshire weather pattern has never failed to frustrate!”
The class was dropped off at Granton Road station and David went back home.
“Later that evening, when about to fall asleep, I looked back on an eventful day,” he said.
“My farthest journey by train had been an enjoyable one with fellow schoolfriends and teacher.
“Some have passed on but others remain.
“A love of travelling by train exists to this day.
“As a writer, I journey by rail to participate in events around the country.
“The West Highland line is a favourite.
“I am now on my fifth novel. Each has a Scottish theme set in the past.
“My experience of travelling around Scotland and places I stayed came in handy.”
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