Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
|Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway|
It had always been intended that this line would run all the way through the Great Glen from Spean Bridge to Inverness. In the event this never happened as the Highland Railway, who operated the railway in the early years, were not interested as their line to Inverness ran via between Aviemore and Carr Bridge. There was no direct physical connection between this line and the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway. One of the principal promoters of the line was George Malcolm of Fort William who was also active in the promotion of the West Highland Railway. The main patron was Lord Burton without whose money the project would have had no hope of getting started.
The line was constructed from Spean Bridge to Fort Augustus, via Invergarry. In rough, sparsely populated country a light railway would have sufficed but the Invergarry & Fort Augustus line was engineered to main line standards. Ground was taken for double track. Two costly viaducts were built, along with many lesser bridges and much cutting and tunnelling. The company built its own pier and station on Loch Ness. Large stations and goods yards were constructed. It would have been acceptable as a first class main line. Construction was started in 1897. It was fairly easy to build as it ran alongside the Caledonian canal and its associated ribbon of lochs. However, owing to poor management many mistakes were made and the line was not opened till 1903.
The Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway company ran out of money; and from 22 July 1903 the Highland Railway was authorised to operate the line for ten years at a cost of £4,000 per annum. The Highland Railway pulled out on 1 May 1907 and the North British Railway operated the line until 31 October 1911, when it was closed down. The company advertised the disposal of the line for scrap. In spite of the fact that the local people hardly used the railway, there was an outcry at this. A public campaign was mounted in Lochaber to save the line. Meetings were held in halls and schools up and down the Great Glen. In February 1912 there was a general election where the fate of the railway became a leading issue in the highland constituencies. Eventually Inverness County Council agreed to subsidise the line and it was reopened on 1 August 1913. The North British Railway bought the railway in August 1914. During the 2 years the line was shut the railway company was better off financially than when it was open. There were fewer employees to pay, empty staff houses could be let and local tradesmen rented the station buildings. The railway embankments even yielded a saleable crop of grass.
After the First World War, the North British Railway was amalgamated into the London & North Eastern Railway, who used it largely for freight purposes rather than passenger traffic. The line closed to passenger traffic on 1 December 1933 and closed to goods on 1 January 1947 (it was used for goods during World War II including a platform at a RNAD in Fort Augustus).
Some of the line today has been built over by roads and holiday parks, although it mostly survives in a reasonably good, if overgrown, condition. The many bridges and single tunnel are in particularly good condition, and the section along Loch Oich has been incorporated into the Great Glen Way. Video 125 made a video documentary about the line, using the sub-heading: The line that should have never been built.
- Awdry (1990): Pp 139-140.
- Thomas (1981). Chapter 12: The Great Glen.
- Thomas (1981). Chapter 12: The Great Glen, states that closure was announced in the newspapers on 25 October 1910, giving the intended date of closure as 31 January 1911. The line was however operated until 31 October.
- Dow, George (2001). The Story of the West Highland. Gartocharn: Famedram Publishers. ISBN 0-905489-69-1.
- Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0049-7. OCLC 19514063.
- Thomas, John (1976). Forgotten Railways: Scotland (1st edition ed.). Newton Abbot: Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7185-1. OCLC 3103506.
- Thomas, John (1981). Forgotten Railways: Scotland (2nd edition ed.). Newton Abbot: Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-8193-8. OCLC 13641185.