Roy Hamilton

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Roy Hamilton, railway enthusiast

Born: 25 April, 1938, in Rutherglen

Died: 2 November, 2003, in Boat of Garten, aged 65

DESPITE a crippling accident in his early 20s, Roy Hamilton enjoyed a career devoted to railways, their history and traditions. He was more than a pure enthusiast. He campaigned to preserve branch lines and organised specialist outings to far off and remote stations. His Easter Ramblers tours were hugely popular, taking in hill stations in Snowdonia, the Lake District and the Highlands. For Hamilton, it was always a joy to be on a steam train, chugging through glorious countryside.

Roy Hamilton (in fact, he was christened Robert) attended Rutherglen Academy and joined British Railways Scotland in 1958. In 1961, on a wet and freezing day in Lanarkshire, he tried to close a door on a train as it was leaving the station. He slipped and lost both his legs. The accident should have put an end to an active outdoor career: not Hamilton. It galvanised him into even greater efforts to stay within the railways and carve out a senior post.

He persevered with his job and within five years was acting as relief station master on the Royal Deeside line, regularly greeting distinguished visitors.

He never allowed his disability to interfere with his career and he rose to be a senior member of BR’s management team in Scotland. Much of his free time, however, was taken up travelling on obscure branch lines before the dreaded Beeching axe fell. It was then that the Easter Ramblers project was set up and Hamilton, with his fellow enthusiasts, travelled all over the country.

His great pride and joy was the Strathspey Railway that now travels in full steam between Aviemore and Broomhill. Originally BR gave the private firm the cold shoulder and did not permit Strathspey Railways to use Aviemore station. Instead the steam train awaited its passengers on a neighbouring platform, but that changed in 1998.

Hamilton was enthusiastic to expand the line to Broomhill (by Nethy Bridge) so that more substantial rail tours could be organised. He was proud when Broomhill was opened and it has now found a wider fame - it is often seen as Glenbogle station in the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen.

Hamilton achieved a certain notoriety when Margaret and Denis Thatcher travelled on the Strathspey Line from Aviemore one year en route to Balmoral. Hamilton acted as the prime minister’s host and he showed off the glories of the private line with his usual enthusiasm.

As the train pulled out of Boat of Garten, with the prime minister waving to the crowds, one wag was heard to say: "Roy must be one of the few men in Scotland who can take Mrs T for a ride."

Hamilton, who settled in Boat of Garten, was proud of the country’s railway heritage and traditions. He amassed a vast collection of stubs and tickets that he catalogued precisely.

He was made an MBE in 1994 and took early retirement the following year but remained as a consultant to two private railway companies.