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Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway

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Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway

This line is closed. The railway ran from Spean Bridge on the West Highland Railway to Fort Augustus. The photograph below shows a section of the disused trackbed near Loch Lochy. 

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Opened 22 July 1903
Closed 31 December 1946
Clickable map of the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway

Local area 

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This line runs through an area of sparse population in the Great Glen by Loch Lochy and Loch Oich to Fort Augustus. The only prospect for survival of the line was its later extension north to Inverness and for it to become part of a trunk route - this didn't happen. Fort Augustus has a monastry (now closed?). The Caledonian Canal runs parallel to the former line but further as it runs from Banavie, by Fort William, to Inverness using Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness.

Chronology 

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Description of route 

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The railway ran from Spean Bridge on the West Highland Railway to Fort Augustus. The line was a financial disaster; it had been expected to be part of a scheme linking Fort William and the Lowlands with Inverness by a West Highland route but the section from Fort Augustus to Inverness was never built following arguments between the West Highland Railway, North British Railway (both on one side) and the Highland Railway. Expected to be a through line, rather than a branch to a small town, the line was built to a high standard with substancial bridges and tunnels.  

The line was connected to the West Highland Railway at Spean Bridge. The North British Railway operated the West Highland Railway but did not operate the branch for financial reasons. The Highland Railway operated the branch at first. The North British Railway  took over operation, in 1908, after the Highland Railway withdraw. The railway was found to make a smaller loss during intervening periods when trains were not run by leasing out buildings.  

Passenger traffic ceased in 1933. Traffic increased during the Second World War to one freight train per day to carry timber cut by Canadian soldiers. The line closed in 1946. 

Spean Bridge 

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This is a station on the West Highland Railway and the former junction for Fort Augustus. The junction faced east. A locomotive shed was supplied here but never brought into use, the one at Fort Augustus being used instead.

Gairlochy 

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The station at Gairlochy had a broad island platform and buildings similar to structures found on the West Highland Railway. The photograph looks from the remains of the pedestrian access bridge south over the station site. The platform was to the right (now a roadbed and static caravan park). To the left the remains of the cattle loading bank is edged by a hedge. 

Invergloy Platform 

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This platform served the nearby Invergloy house. This facilities consisted of a single platform and waiting room shed. 

The platform was located somewhere in the distance of this photograph. On my several visits I have never found any remains at this site. Nearby a group of Railwaymen cottages remain which must have been near the platform.  

Letterfinlay Crossing 

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This crossing was never brought into use although signaling equipment was installed. The passing place was designed to break the long single track section from Gairlochy to Invergarry.  

Today the trackbed has been eroded and, being on a steep slope, the width has reduced. The exact location of the signal box is difficult to determine on the ground. To the North of this location a fine footbridge remains over the trackbed. This was the summit of the line. Today the trackbed forms a road. 

Invergarry 

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This station was built in the style of West Highland Railway island platform stations. The station was entered by a subway at the South end. Goods facilities, including a loading bank, were to the west of the station the approach being from the north end. The station was not very conveniently located for the town of Invergarry.

The building differed from West Highland Railway buildings by having a large porch on the west side of the station which probably formed a private entrance - perhaps for the owner of Invergarry Castle. (St. Andrews University Library Special Collections Photographic Collection photograph of the station.)

Today the Station is a Forestry Commision car-park. Small bushes which were planted on the platform are now large trees - these can be seen in the photograph. The photograph looks North, from the trackbed, by the Down platform. The trackbed of the Up platform is very choked with trees and rubbish. 

North of the station the Loch Oich tunnel can be found. 

Aberchalder

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This station consisted of a single platform with a loop.  

Today the station is fairly overgrown and sports a number of abandoned cars, as seen in the photograph. The original station building has been demolished and replaced by a structure which is now also in need of demolition. The station is now part of an estate and no parking is available nearby. The site is not very well drained. 

To the South of the station, by Loch Oich an expensive tunnel was required to be cut. 

Fort Augustus 

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The station at Fort Augustus had three platforms. To some it was known as Fort Augustus (Central) Two platforms (to the east) were terminal platforms for trains running from Spean Bridge. These were generally used. At first these lacked a switch for running round trains but this was later added. Another platform (to the west) served the short branch to Fort Augustus Pier. The short branch was only used for a short period. Goods facilities were to the East of the station (I think). 

Today the station has been demolished. The site is now occupied by a school. A number of short sections of rail can be found being used as re-inforcing for the Caledonian Canal. A short section of platform (the throught platform) appears to remain. This is shown in the photograph to the right. This track led over the Caledonian Canal on a swing bridge. The location of the swing bridge is shown in the photograph to the left. This view looks from the other side of the canal towards the site of the station. At the time when the photograph was taken the Canal was undergoing maintenance (spring 1996) and the water is drained from the canal. A number of box vans remain in the fields nearby. To the south of the fortmer station sleeper imprints can be found in the moss of the former trackbed. bout quarter of a mile south there is an old loading bank which probably saw military use.

Fort Augustus Pier 

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A short branch continued from Fort Augustus to Fort Augustus Pier. The station was also known as "Pier" and was signposted thus. This short branch was a very expensive and pointless undertaking. Had the railway been extended to Inverness the expenditure might have been sensible.  

The station was built next to a Pier on Loch Ness. The station consisted of a single platform with a loop. The site is now a private house. No photographs of a steamer at Fort Augustus Pier meeting a train appear to exist. G.E. Langmuir investigated this for many years but bever found one. Many photographs exist of vessels using the pier after closure of the Railway from Fort Augustus. 

This section led from Fort Augustus station, over the Caledonian Canal on a swing bridge, over a river, then through the town on a raised embankment, over the main road, alongside Loch Ness is a deep cutting in solid rock and on to the Pier station 

The nature of this short section can be seen in these two photographs. The left photograph shows the piers of the viaduct over the river (looking South) and the right photograph shows the cutting by Loch Ness (looking North). The dirt road is approximately the same width as the Railway would have been. The trackbed can be used as a short walk out from the town (before a gate is reached). The trackbed gives a view of the Fort Augustus Monastery and the entry point of the Canal into Loch Ness. The remains of a paddle steamer lie in the shallow water by the canal. The steamer was destoyed by fire. 


Page created on 14/03/1997
Page last edited on: 11/03/2012
Contact: Ewan Crawford