Walking to the shops and I hear a thundering beside me. I look up to see a metal juggernaut of a machine speeding past above me and it invokes feelings of wonder.
Sitting in Edinburgh Waverley this time and these same machines are coming and going at an amazing rate. Trains to Aberdeen here, Glasgow there and the Highlands further over there.
As I walk from my platform to a coffee shop, I pass the central group of platforms and I stop for a moment and look at them. What I see there is not just a few trains waiting to leave, it’s the whole of Scotland lying in front of me with the ticket gates serving as portals to far greater things.
Where do these gates lead?
Scotland is a unique country. From top to bottom, the nation contains some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain, is steeped in fascinating history, has its own resurgent language and – in my humble opinion – is the UK’s shining example of democracy.
One of the things always at the forefront of my mind when it comes to Scotland is travel. I have seen so much of the Celtic nation, enough to know that it is remarkable, beautiful and a must-see.
With places like George Square and the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow, to the castle and heart of Scottish democracy in Edinburgh. From the hills, rivers and coasts of the Isle of Arran – dubbed Scotland in miniature – to the snow-capped mountains of the Cairngorms or even Gretna Green – the village famous for runaway marriages from England and Wales, Scotland has it all.
A marvel of a nation, steeped in some of the toughest yet most fascinating history in Britain, Scotland’s journey through the past was not one without difficulty.
Why the railway gates are so important
As someone who doesn’t drive, I am somewhat limited in how I travel. Hiking and cycling have allowed me to explore the Scottish Borders as well as other rural and mountainous areas and national parks, but when it comes to travelling across the nation to these places from home or to Scotland’s bigger, more urban areas – putting on the boots or bicycle helmet just doesn’t cut it. I need help.
And there it is, assistance right in front of me in the form of a train.
I stand briefly at the ticket gates for platform 15 in Edinburgh Waverley, soaking in my surroundings before going through and jumping aboard a train bound for Perth.
Over 40 miles from Edinburgh, all the experiences I would go on to have in Perth, all the new sights I would see and things I would learn would not have been possible had it not been for me getting the train there. To even get on that train I had to catch another from the Borders.
The endless symbolism
The nation’s railway stations, and especially the ticket gates onto the platforms, symbolise a gateway into Scotland itself, with travel across the nation made possible by passing through them and boarding the trains.
But when sitting on the train, more sights invoke more symbolism. I look at other trains leaving the city of Edinburgh and I imagine where they’re going, whether they’re heading to Paisley or Aviemore or Tweedbank. I look at the people inside and wonder where they might be going and what wonders might be awaiting them at their destination – be it visiting friends or family or going to and coming home from work.
I look at the lines, the network of tracks and sleepers intertwining with each other and branching off to other lines. I think about how this network links up the villages, towns and cities of Scotland and unites the country under one transport network, bringing communities together in a remarkable feat of engineering.
But most importantly, I think of how our ability to explore our nation and come together with other communities would not be possible if we weren’t able to get on trains in the first place and how the railways across the nation have become, both for me and so many others, the gateway to Scotland.