Tomnahurich Swing Bridge in Action

There are three very similar swing bridges over the Caledonian Canal here in Inverness – two road bridges and one railway bridge, all working on the same principle and constructed around the same time. Yesterday I was passing by just as the bridge at Tomnahurich opened, so stopped to capture the scene on camera .

The road crosses over from left to right of the picture (or right to left, depending on the direction of travel) and the bridge sits really low on the water so boats travelling the canal cannot pass underneath without the bridge moving out of the way. The traffic is temporarily stopped on either side and the entire bridge swings open sideways on a pivot and wheel (very much like a giant heavy door opening) until it sits at right angles to the road. The boat sails on through, the bridge closes again immediately, and the waiting traffic is free to pass over once more.

During the summer months this process takes place multiple times a day, and it never ceases to fascinate me – I really love the clever engineering involved! There is a warning siren that sounds continuously to let people know the bridge is opening and closing, but amazingly the mechanical operation of the bridge itself is silent and smooth and surprisingly speedy – it only takes a few minutes. This particular metal bridge has been in situ since 1938, a replacement for a previous wooden bridge that apparently worked on an entirely different principle.

I know this is a long and boring gallery if you’re not interested in seeing a series of static images of a bridge opening and closing again, but the fault is mine for not thinking to video it in action instead – duh! Anyway, I’m hoping my swing bridge opening and closing can count as an honorary canal door for today’s Thursday Doors – I know Dan loves bridges as well as doors, so fingers crossed I might just get away with it! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Fault

Clachnaharry Swing Bridge

I’ve got a real soft spot for this dinky little swing bridge carrying the single track railway line across the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry, Inverness. I walk past it regularly and there are myriad photographs of it in my image archive, often caught with a train crossing over, but so far I’ve never seen it open.

It swings open at right angles on a pivot to allow boats to pass through, either coming into the canal from the Beauly Firth through the Muirtown Basin or going out of the canal in the opposite direction. Apparently it’s a 126ft girder railway bridge that has been in situ since 1909, replacing the original bridge of 1862, and is painted white to reduce expansion in hot weather.

Luckily for me there is a pedestrian level crossing on either side of the bridge, allowing for some really up-close-and-personal images to be taken from the middle of the track itself. Maybe one day I’ll catch it opening up for a boat to go through! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Myriad

Trains of Thought

As I took this photograph the other day I thought: I haven’t been on a train for such a long time – just over 18 months, in fact. The last train journey I took was the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to Inverness the day we moved pretty much from one end of the country to the other. The end of one line, and the beginning of another. Inverness station is a terminus for only three railway lines – one from the South, one from the East, and one from the North.

There’s a major suspension bridge carrying all road traffic north across the expanse of open water between Inverness and the Black Isle, first opened in 1982, but not a rail bridge. This little train is heading north too, although technically in this photograph it’s actually snaking slowly westwards along the edge of the Beauly Firth until the sea finally narrows enough to be crossed and for the train to begin to change direction – the only way the railway can go. In some ways so much has changed in and around Inverness over the last 20 years, but in other ways, not so much.

Transport infrastructure is still relatively minimal here – three single track rail lines, two main roads, the A96 heading East towards Aberdeen, and the dual carriageway A9 on the North/ South access. The lesser winding rural roads to the West tend to be more tourist-driven, or for those wanting to get away from it all. No motorways, one airport. All transport links in and out of Inverness are entirely dependent on the weather – in winter, if the main road and/ or rail line is closed due to snow in the mountains, stuff simply doesn’t get through. Food, fuel, people – the snow doesn’t discriminate.

I grew up expecting to be snowed in at some point during the winter. We always kept a well-stocked store cupboard at home, ‘just in case’. It’s a habit that has continued with me throughout my life, which has also helped when I’ve been stuck at home unable to go out for other reasons – like last month when we had to self-isolate when I tested positive for Covid 19. We only needed one online order and home delivery half way through to top up our supplies, and otherwise managed fine with what we already had.

There’s an inward-looking forward-thinking self-sufficiency involved in living up here, even living within the town itself, that seems to suit my introspective, introverted self and has definitely helped me cope with lock-down this time round. It’s a bit like being snowed in and unable to go to school or work or visit friends and family, but easier in that we can still access food shops and essentials, and thankfully the power is still on. Although of course we were never snowed in for months on end – more often days rather than weeks. But still, the mindset remains the same.

So it’s maybe been 18 months since I traveled anywhere beyond a few miles radius from home, but I realise I’m absolutely OK with that self-induced seclusion. In that time I’ve got used to being here, to a slower pace of life brought to a near standstill, while embracing the quietude that comes with a heightened awareness of night and day, sunshine and snow, frost and thaw. Small subtleties have grown in stature, nuances in nature more pronounced. I hear birdsong and raindrops, see patterns and shadows, feel at one with the world now we no longer feel we have to rush everywhere.

I wonder idly if my traveling days are over for good. Has whatever minimal wanderlust I once had been sated forever, or is this just a temporary hiatus due to global circumstance? Who knows, but for now I’m feeling OK in my own little corner of civilisation, safe and snug and secure. Trains come and go and I am not on any of them, and thankfully for the time being I have no desire to be anywhere else than here…

Taking the Train North from Inverness

Although the opening of the Kessock Bridge in 1982 speedily carries the main A9 trunk road north across the water with no discernible diversion to its route, the main rail line north still necessarily snakes sideways west from Inverness along the southern edge of the Beauly Firth until it reaches Dingwall, where it then splits in two with one scenic line continuing west to Kyle of Lochalsh and the other heading north to Thurso and Wick.

On its way out of Inverness, the railway line crosses the northern end of the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry, where its single track is carried across the water by a narrow swing bridge with a pedestrian level crossing at either end of the bridge. Approaching trains sound their horn before reducing speed and creeping slowly across the bridge, making a perfect photographic opportunity for those pedestrians waiting to cross the line to access the continuing path to the sea lock on the other side of the railway line.

Same View, Different days

I’ve been fretting a bit lately about the lack of variety in my blog posts, in particular my recent photographs, due to the fact that Covid restrictions mean my life currently revolves around little more than going to work, shopping for food, and staying at home.

I’m lucky in that my daily 20 minute walk to work takes me across the River Ness via the Greig Street footbridge, and every now and again I’ll be on the bridge and think – Oooh, that might make a good image! – so I take out my phone and click a quick pic.

Looking back through my phone last night I found these four images taken on different days at different times and in different weather over the last few weeks, but showing pretty much the same view left to right of Bank Street, Inverness Castle and Ness Bridge.

So I thought – That’s maybe something new to do photographically, deliberately take the same photograph of something or somewhere multiple times but seeing how different time, light, weather, angle and/ or any other variable creates a very different feel and end result to each image?

Hmmm… I might just try experimenting with that over the next few weeks, and see what turns up! 🙂

April A-Z: Reflections on 2020

A-Z Challenge Reflections

I had such great plans for this year’s April A-Z, with the idea of sharing brand new photographs taken in real time of Inverness in Scotland, where we now live. But being in lockdown throughout the full month of April with no real advance notice whatsoever left me stuck without access to many of the people-filled public places I’d hoped to show.

But rather than change my theme altogether, I decided either to use some of those few images I already had (we’ve only been living here for six months) or to find alternative, pandemic-friendly topics to photograph in real time – and to my surprise I succeeded, 26 posts on 26 alphabetical topics posted in good time on each given day.

As you can see from the image gallery above, there were a few buildings, a few bridges, and a lot of landscape shots, and although it wasn’t my original intention I can see in retrospect I’ve probably shown you less of a generic busy tourist’s view of Inverness and more of my own personal, quiet experience of living here. So maybe no bad thing…

One thing I do feel bad about is not visiting enough new A-Z blogs this year – it just felt one step too far for me. I’m not in a particularly happy place right now and for me, and focusing mainly on my own posts and those of bloggers I already follow had to be enough. But I’ve done it, I feel a sense of achievement to have got through it all in such difficult circumstances, and look, I even have a badge to prove it! 🙂

Anyway, here are the links to my individual daily posts, just incase anyone wants another look back, or missed some of them at the time – welcome to my Inverness! 🙂

A is for Abertarff House

B is for Ben Wyvis

C is for Castle

D is for Department Store

E is for Eastgate

F is for Farraline Park

G is for Greig Street Bridge

H is for Home

I is for infirmary Bridge

J is for Jacobite Cruises

K is for Kessock Bridge

L is for Landscape

M is for Muirtown Locks

N is for Ness Islands

O is for Old High Church

P is for People in Passing in a Pandemic

Q is for Quotations

R is for River

S is for Swing Bridge

T is for Tomnahurich Hill

U is for University of Highlands and Islands

V is for View

W is for Waterways

X is for Level Crossing

Y is for Years Ago

Z is for Zero Regrets