The Lochee Ghost Train

By Roddie McKenzie

It is the howling that wakes me,

shattering the dome of dreamland.

But before full awareness,

the keening of that prowling fox segues

into the whine of the whistle

of a long vanished steam train.

Going back fifty years,

it hauled coal on the snake-like spine

of the Gowrie Park embankment.

And on eerie evenings, after midnight,

it is still running past

the back fence of my yard.

From the shadows on the bedroom wall

the chuffing loco clanks into the black tunnel in the brain.

leading a line of grey coal trucks gleaming with anthracite,

the brake van- that creaking brown shack on wheels-

bringing up the rear.

It clatters lugubriously into abandoned Liff Station,

bringing a damp smell of steam and acrid soot.

Judging the run

I clamber onto the porch of the van.

for the illicit ride downhill

round the curve

my senses gleaming like rails

the chimney puffing out memories

across the pool of Invergowrie Bay.

The pull of gravity

down the long wedge of ballast that carries the track

to the clattering points of Ninewells Junction and

under the benevolent arm of the home signal.

I duck the searching glass eyes of the signal box

for the run onto the main Dundee line.

Ahead, thin grey arms of the road bridge reach from Fife and Victoria Dock,

to clasp hands, in the coming years, in mid channel.

and for me

a furtive descent and the next tram car,

home to Lochee.

I realise now that there is no thunder of a passing train;

the clock does not quake on the nightstand.

But in the silvered darkness, under a full moon,

the intermittent clank of the platelayer`s spanner

on the steel chairs that nestled the rails to the sleepers;

and that past,

is bolted shut again.