Sometimes station collecting is a box-ticking exercise. Get off the train, take the photo, job done. And sometimes it's... magic.
It had also retained its original station building and, unlike others I'd spotted, it was well-kept. I'm not sure if it's a business or a private home but it looked like it was being used usefully. I moved up to the railway bridge and snapped my sign as usual.
A little further on, though, I had to stop and gasp. Stow was there in front of me and it was gorgeous.
I was sold. It didn't really matter what happened for the rest of the morning; it didn't matter what I found in the village. I adored Stow. Writing about it now, five years on, I'm still in love. I want to go back.
I walked into the centre, a tight knot of stone houses falling down the hill to the Gala Water, with a post office and village shop. There was a bowling green and a war memorial and a patch of neat grass with benches overlooking the river. All of it was sprinkled with a light mist, a clingy soft rain, as though nature had provided its own vaseline on the lens.
Providing a dog along with a latte was a great gimmick; the conversations I overheard were an added bonus. Like the updates on a man who'd been trampled by a cow. He was airlifted to hospital but was fine now. A man came in and handed over some eggs - the owner explained to her patrons that he'd rescued some ducks the year before, and, not knowing what to do with the eggs, he simply brought them in for her so she could make cakes. A woman in a nurse's uniform fussed over a tiny baby, who was clearly madly in love with her. Another patron was overwhelmed by the size of the cake slices on offer. It was all so lovely and happy and I could've stayed all day.
I finally dragged myself away - giving Yoda another quick stroke on the way out the door, which he appreciated - then walked out to the main road. The A7 passes through the village and my plan had been to walk down it to Galashiels and the next station. I was so comfortable, so cheery though, that I instead took the bus. It was a wise decision on two fronts. Firstly, we'd barely left Stow before the grey skies emptied, pelting us with heavy rain. Secondly, it turned out the road to Galashiels was busy and winding and had not much in the way of pedestrian facilities; I'd have been a nervous wreck trying to negotiate it.
I decided to treat myself. It was midday, and Stow's lovely cafe had got me in the mood for a nice lunch. I don't like eating on my own in restaurants; I feel self-conscious and awkward. But I'd been in Scotland for a few days and never eaten anything more substantial than a McDonald's breakfast so I thought it was time to enjoy myself. I circled the town and found a pub/restaurant with a decent menu and waited to be seated. The waitress looked me up and down and, when I asked for a table for one, immediately snapped that they had none available. Behind her I took in the half-empty dining room with at least three vacant tables within spitting distance.
Sorry, it wasn't the bus station, it was the Interchange, with an angular glass building that seemed way too large for its purpose. I could well imagine the architect's notes which made great use of the words "landmark" and "iconic" and "gateway" while I sat in its big echoey hall and tried to ignore the smell of urine wafting out of the toilets.
Having finished my slightly pathetic lunch I made my way up to the station platform (opened by Councillor John Mitchell). It's not actually inside the Interchange, slightly making its name a lie; instead you leave out the back and cross a road which hugs the line so closely it can only have been built on the old trackbed.
It's not a looker. Tweedbank station combines two deadly transport concepts, being both the end of the line and a park and ride. As such the train limps in sadly, full of exhaustion, to a landscape that's dominated by tarmac. The sole station building isn't a station building at all, it's a crew facility.