WHEN you come face-to-face with a wall of deep snow, there’s only one thing to do.
Point your massive snowplough train straight at it and clear the line.
Scots train driver Claire Douglas was one of a team of drivers heading up the snowplough specials in Direct Rail Services operation to clear-up after Scotland’s recent whiteout.
Her 105-tonne engine cut a path through snow-blocked tracks.
“In my 10 years as a train driver it was the worst winter,” Claire said.
“I cleared the Winchburgh, West Lothian to Dalmeny in South Queensferry line and then moved on to North Berwick.
“You could feel the snow crunch as you edged forward at 5mph. All you could see in front was whiteout.
“As I finished and left the cabin I looked down for steps, but they had disappeared in built-up snow, swept aside by the plough device on the front of the train.”
As well as snowplough duties Claire drives freight trains of food, the equivalent of 36 HGV lorries in length, south to Carlisle as Direct Rail Services has the contract for Tesco.
Claire, 40, based at Motherwell, became a train driver after someone bet her she would never pass the stringent test.
“I was a conductor and the drivers used to say I could never take the wheel.
“So I learned – and passed with flying colours.
“Now I drive passenger and freight trains including the 950-tonne shipments of food.
“But one of the best things about my job is crossing the Forth Bridge, on my regular Fife circuit jobs.
“I am scared of heights but the views over the Forth are stunning.
“The toughest part is driving in thick fog up the east coast to Inverness.
“It takes every last bit of concentration.
“You are constantly watching, signals, speed, braking distances, gradients and trying to avoid aquaplaning in torrential rain.
“People joke about leaves on the line but they do make driving tricky.”
The plushest part is driving the Northern Belle luxury train, with its Orient Express standard Pullman coaches.
“I have taken it from Manchester to Edinburgh. Only a few get to drive it and I was lucky to get picked,” she smiles.
The saddest aspects of the job are the suicides. More than 250 people kill themselves every year in the UK by stepping in front of trains.
Claire had only been a train driver for six weeks when a man stepped in front of her engine.
“I felt so sorry for him and his family but realised I could not allow it to consume me,” she explained.
“It is equally heartbreaking when an animal runs into your path.”