Perth and Dunkeld Railway

The Perth and Dunkeld Railway was a Scottish railway company. It was built from a junction with the Scottish Midland Junction Railway at Stanley, north of Perth, to a terminus at Birnam, on the south bank of the River Tay opposite Dunkeld.

Perth and Dunkeld Railway
Opened7 April 1856
Successor lineInverness and Perth Junction Railway
Closed28 February 1864
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Route map
Up arrow Inverness and Perth Junction Railway
Dunkeld & Birnam
Kingswood Crossing
Up arrow Scottish Midland Junction Railway
Stanley Junction
Down arrow Scottish Midland Junction Railway

It was promoted by local landed proprietors, and opened in 1856. As a minor branch line inconveniently serving a modest town, its financial performance was poor. However, when a railway line from Inverness to Perth was promoted, the Dunkeld line was taken as part of the new route, which opened in 1863; the Perth and Dunkeld Railway Company ceased to exist, and the line was now part of the Inverness and Perth Junction Railway.

The original line of the P&DR continues in use today, an intrinsic part of the Highland Main Line.

Independence at firstEdit

Aberdeen was connected to the railway network of Central Scotland in 1850. Inverness too expected a southward connection, but the intervening terrain was unpromising, and two railway schemes proposed a connection instead to Aberdeen, a route that was unattractive to Inverness interests.[1] A line from Inverness along the coast and striking south from Nairn was proposed, but did not find favour in Parliament. The lengthy deviation through Aberdeen was a continuing source of dissatisfaction.

In 1845 the Scottish Midland Junction Railway promoted a branch line from Inverness to Dunkeld. A Parliamentary Bill was passed, but there were serious difficulties in agreeing the terms for acquisition of necessary land from Sir William Drummond Stewart. These difficulties proved so severe that construction was never started, and the project did not go forward.[2][3]

The Perth and Dunkeld Railway system

An independent company was promoted to build a similar line from a junction with the Scottish Midland Junction Railway at Stanley to Dunkeld. Stanley was 7 miles north of Inverness and the length of the newly authorised line would be 8 miles. There were lengthy discussions among the titled and wealthy promoters as to the route to be adopted; in particular which side of the River Tay to follow. Its Bill was given the Royal Assent on 10 July 1854.[4] Authorised capital was £80,000.[3] However, despite the line's title, it was not to terminate at Dunkeld, but at Birnam, on the south side of the River Tay. There was a toll bridge to cross the river. The toll provided a useful income for the Duke of Atholl.[2][5]

In addition there was disagreement with the Scottish Midland Junction Railway over the station at Stanley, which they had opened in 1848. It was located near the village, but some distance from the proposed point of junction with the P&DR. [note 1] The P&DR built a small goods station at the junction, but in fact the SMJR moved its station to that point in 1856. This made the station inconvenient for the community at Stanley.[4][6]

Construction began in July 1854; the engineer was John Stewart of Edinburgh and the contractors were William Leslie of Aberdeen "on behalf of" himself, J R Davidson and W Oughterson of London; their tender was £50,000.[5][7] The construction was swiftly completed and Colonel Wynne of the Board of Trade carried out an inspection on 13 March 1856, and expressed himself satisfied.[8]

There was a ceremonial opening of the line on 5 April 1856; the ordinary train service of three trains daily between Perth and Birnam started on 7 April 1856.[4] The trains were operated by the Scottish Midland Junction Railway. The SMJR found the income from its operation (50% of net receipts) to be disappointing and inadequate, and it is suggested by Thomas that the SMJR failed to optimise profitable working of the line.[4] The SMJR merged with the Aberdeen Railway in June 1856, the combined company being the Scottish North Eastern Railway.[2]

A private halt was constructed at Rohallion in 1859 for the benefit of the landowner, Sir William Drummond Stewart.[note 2][9][5]

On the main lineEdit

Interests in Inverness continued to seek a direct railway to the south, and the obvious alignment would go through Perth. This crystallised on a project that came to be the Inverness and Perth Junction Railway: it was planned to leave the Inverness – Aberdeen line at Forres, 24 miles east of Inverness, and from there turn south. There was to be a summit at Dava, 1,052 ft above sea level, and the route continued by way of Grantown-on-Spey and the west bank of the River Spey to Kingussie. There followed a long, steep climb up the northern slopes of the Grampian Mountains to the head of the Druimuachdar Pass, and a corresponding descent to Blair Atholl and the Pass of Killiecrankie. Crossing the River Tay near Dalguise, the line reached Dunkeld, where it made an end-on junction with the Perth & Dunkeld Railway.[2]

The little Perth and Dunkeld line was therefore to become part of an important main line.[10] The Inverness and Perth Junction Railway was authorised by Parliament on 22 July 1861.[11] The first section of the new line was opened, from "Dunkeld" to Pitlochry, on 1 June 1863, and the I&PJR company took over the working of the Perth and Dunkeld Railway. line was opened throughout on 9 September 1863. By an Act of 8 June 1863 the Dunkeld company was absorbed by the I&PJR, with effect from 1 March 1864.[note 3][12][13][4][10]

Kingswood passing loopEdit

A passing loop was commissioned at Kingswood between Murthly and Dunkeld in 1908.[10]

Murthly Mental Hospital connectionEdit

The Perth District Asylum was located at Murthly, completed in 1864 at a cost of £30,000. It was later enlarged. A tramway connected the station with the asylum gasworks, for the bringing in of fuel and other stores. The tramway was later extended to run to the asylum main building in addition.[14][15]

Current operationsEdit

The line is in operation today as part of the Highland Main Line between Perth and Inverness. Only Dunkeld station remains open.


  • Stanley Junction; divergence from Strathmore route (to Forfar and Aberdeen);
  • Murthly; opened 7 April 1856; closed 3 May 1965;
  • Rohallion; first shown in Bradshaw February 1860; Fridays only service; last in Bradshaw's Guide October 1864; continued in use as Private station;
  • Dunkeld; opened 7 April 1856; various name changes; Dunkeld & Birnam; Birnam & Dunkeld; open now (2022) as Dunkeld & Birnam.[6]


  1. ^ It is implied in Fenwick and Sinclair, page16, that the difficulty may have been that the primitive system of train control on single lines at the time required a station master at an actual station to authorise a train to proceed.
  2. ^ Slightly differently expressed in Quick, based on an article by N Sinclair in Highland Railway Journal, no 60.
  3. ^ Or the previous day, according to Vallance, pages 28 and 29, and also Fenwick and Sinclair, page 34


  1. ^ H A Vallance et al, The Highland Railway, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1938, extended edition 1985, ISBN 0-946537-24-0, page 31
  2. ^ a b c d Vallance et al, page 24
  3. ^ a b Keith Fenwick and Neil T Sinclair, The Perth and Dunkeld Railway, Highland Railway Society, 2006, ISBN 0 9545485-2-3, paegs 6 and 7
  4. ^ a b c d e John Thomas and David Turnock, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: volume 15: North of Scotland, David St John Thomas (publisher), Newton Abbot, 1989, ISBN 0946537 03 8, pages 112 – 115
  5. ^ a b c David Ross, The Highland Railway, Tempus Publishing, Stroud, 2005, ISBN 0 7524 3479 9, pages 27 and 28
  6. ^ a b Michael E Quick, Railway Passenger Stations in England, Scotland and Wales: A Chronology, Railway and Canal Historical Society, 2019
  7. ^ Fenwick and Sinclair, page 9
  8. ^ Fenwick and Sinclair, page 11
  9. ^ Vallance et al, page 26
  10. ^ a b c Thomas and Turnock, pages 234 to 236
  11. ^ Ross, page 39
  12. ^ Donald J Grant, Directory of the Railway Companies of Great Britain, Matador, Kibworth Beauchamp, 2017, ISBN 978 1785893 537, pages 446 and 447
  13. ^ Vallance et al, pages 28 and 29
  14. ^ Fenwick and Sinclair, page 18
  15. ^ "Murthly Hospital". Canmore. Retrieved 8 November 2016.