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CHARLIE WHELAN: Harry Potter magic is being ruined by over-zealous officials

By Gavin Musgrove

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The Glenfinnan Viaduct which has been made even more famous by the Harry Potter movies.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct which has been made even more famous by the Harry Potter movies.

As a secret lover of railways and especially steam trains I can’t wait to see the Flying Scotsman when it visits the Strathspey Steam Railway line in September.

When I was much younger I used to go train-spotting on my local station and it was always the steam trains that excited us most.

We even used to go on holiday and stay in a camping coach next to a rural station so I could watch trains all day.

Hanging on my vestibule wall is the original sign for Grantown-on-Spey station signal box and although it is worth a considerable amount of money to a collector I intend to donate it to the Strathspey Railway when they finally build the line to Grantown (if I’m still alive then!)

I am slightly concerned though that some obscure regulator may intervene and prevent the Flying Scotsman visit as they have with the so called ‘Hogwarts Express’ that goes from Fort William to Mallaig.

Apparently the organisers of this heritage railway haven’t prevented passengers from leaning out of the window! Also there seems to be problems with the door locking mechanisms.

What an earth do they expect on a heritage train? If you don’t lean out of the window it’s difficult to see the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct which is the major reason to travel on this particular line.

In fact the whole area is no longer devoted to Bonnie Prince Charlie who came ashore here to lay claim to the crown that ended so tragically at Culloden. It’s now devoted to a fictional Harry Potter!

Indeed I only travel the line in the winter when there are few tourists to spoil the journey and if you like a viaduct the one crossing the River Nairn on the way from Aviemore to Inverness is longer and more spectacular than Glenfinnan!

The 150 or so heritage railways in the UK have enough problems keeping going without excessive bureaucratic interference not least with the price of coal or even getting hold of the black stuff.

Let’s hope and prey the Flying Scotsman has a magnificent return to the Highlands.

• I see that the biggest land owner in Scotland, Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen has nothing to say about proposals to limit land ownership. The owner of Glenfeshie Estate obviously thinks it’s okay that just 400 odd people own 50 per cent of rural land in Scotland and that they can decide for us what they want to do with it.

I’ve never understood why the Scottish Government doesn’t buy the big estates for the nation when they come up for sale.

Glenfeshie is our beloved land too and if it wasn’t in private hands we might even have had the bridge restored over the upper Feshie for walkers to have proper access.

• I went down to Manchester last week for the fourth Ashes Test match against Australia only for the match to be abandoned because of rain. I actually never saw a ball bowled!

The same thing happened to me 40 years ago and I’ve now vowed never to go back to Old Trafford.

Ironically my old pal Andy Burnham and now a big wig of the north was complaining that Manchester won’t have an Ashes test next time round.

On Test Match special he said he was leading a campaign to reverse the decision to play a game at the Rose Bowl near Southampton instead of Old Trafford. That’s one campaign that’s now dead in the water, literally!

Charlie Whelan (Labour) is former spokesman for Gordon Brown.

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