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Sutherland and Caithness Railway

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Introduction
Local area
Chronology

Locations
Helmsdale
Salzcraggie Platform
Kildonan
Borrobol Platform
Kinbrace
Forsinard
County March Summit
Altnabreac
Scotscalder
Halkirk
Georgemas Junction
Hoy
Thurso
Bower
Watten
Bilbster
Wick

This site
Highland Railway
Duke of Sutherland's Railway
Wick and Lybster Light Railway

Other sites
ScotRail
UKAEA Dounreay


Sutherland and Caithness Railway

This line is open. This is one of the most beautiful and wild railway lines in Britain.

Passenger services are provided by ScotRail between Wick, Thurso, Helmsdale and Inverness. Stations remain in use at Helmsdale, Kildonan, Kinbrace, Forsinard, Altnabreac, Scotscalder, Georgemas Junction, Thurso and Wick.

Survey 1870
Engineers William Baxter, Murdoch Paterson.
Act 13 July 1871
Contractors John Scott, John Ross, Lachlan & MacDonald, John MacGregor Junior, John Hendrie, Crail & Duncan, Kenneth Murray.
Opened 28 July 1874
Closed No
Wick and Lybster Light Railway Duke of Sutherland's Railway Thurso Hoy Wick Bilbster Salscraggie Platform Watten Halkirk Scotscalder Bower Georgemas Junction Altnabreac Forsinard Kinbrace Borrobol Kildonan Clickable map of the Sutherland and Caithness Railway.

Local area 

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This line runs through a low population district and across peat-moss. The highest populations are at either ends of the line. The route is slightly circuitous; the main road to Thurso and Wick runs up the coast and the line runs inland. The coast is mostly high cliff with very large cuts into it which would have necessitated many very large viaducts had the line taken this route. The inland route is considerably more level. After the opening of the line a branch was opened from Wick to Occumster and Lybster on the coast which had been missed out by taking the inland route. There was a brief goldrush in the Strath of Kildonan with a large temporary population of prospectors. The area is now given over to deer-stalking.

Wick was known for its quarries and very large fishing harbour. In 1912 quarries closed and a large part of the population used the railway to emigrate. Thurso is close to the Dounreay Nuclear Plant which has added to the prosperity of the town.

Chronology 

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Description of route

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From Helmsdale to Thurso and Wick.

Helmsdale 

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This was the terminus of the Duke of Sutherland's Railway's extension of 1871 from Gartymore. (See that line for details of the station). The Sutherland and Caithness Railway started from the north end of the station and ran north toThurso and Wick.

Salzcraggie Platform
Opened:28 July 1874 (Private) 24 May 1907 (Public) Closed:29 November 1965
OS 018 170
Top
1956:P*

This halt is closed. This was a single platform station used in connection with deer stalking.

Kildonan
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 902 218
111.05 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC
Kildonan

This station had a passing loop and two platforms. The passing loop has been lifted and only one platform is in use today. The Strath of Kildonan was the site of a gold rush in the nineteen hundreds with many men living in poor timber accomodation. The 'Kildonan South' and 'Kildonan North' signalboxes have been demolished.

Borrobol
Opened:1878 as Borrobol Platform Re-named:Borrobol 10 September 1962 Closed:29 November 1965
OS 874 264
Top
1956:P*

Some bits of wood remain, perhaps the platform, on the right side of the level crossing gates. This halt was used in connection with deer stalking but is now closed.

Kinbrace
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 862 316
118.20 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC
Kinbrace

This was a two platform station with a passing loop. The passing loop has been lifted and only the former southbound platform is today in use. The 'Kinbrace South' and 'Kinbrace North' signalboxes have been demolished.

Forsinard
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 891 425
125.77 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC
Forsinard

This is a two platform station with a passing loop. The former 'Forsinard North' signalbox still stands ('Forsinard South' has been demolished), and the windows are occasional victims of vandalism. The waiting shelter on the southbound platform still stands and has a heavy roll-back door. There is a siding to the west of the station. The platforms are extended at the eastend with timber.

County March Summit
 
129.60 miles from Inverness
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This is a high isolated spot far from roads and the highest point on the line at 708 feet.

Altnabreac
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 004 457
133.76 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC
Altnabreac

This was a two platform station with a passing loop. Today one platform is in use, the base of the former water tank and a sidings exists here. A station building still stands, in use as a private residence. This site is subject to heavy snow in winter. The 'Altnabreac South' and 'Altnabreac North' signalboxes have been demolished.

This station is at an isolated spot approached by forestry commision roads.

Scotscalder
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 095 560
143.02 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC
Scotscalder

This station formerly had two platforms and a passing loop. Today the northbound platform remains in use and the loop has been lifted. The remaining platform and former station building are in a good state of repair and have won awards. The 'Scotscalder South' and 'Scotscalder North' signalboxes have been demolished.

Halkirk
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:13 June 1960
OS 134 584
146.54 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC40

This station is now closed. The low mound of the platform remains.

Georgemas Junction
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 154 593
147.22 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPLHC10
Georgemas Junction

This station is the junction between the line from Inverness to Wick and the Thurso branch. The station has two main platforms, the station building, a footbridge, passing loop and sidings parallel to the Inverness to Wick platform. The station is crossed by a road bridge at the east end and there is a shed at the south end of the station. There was a bay platform for the Thurso branch (track now lifted) and the Thurso branch had a loop track now lifted. 'Georgemas Junction' signalbox has been demolished, it was a tall signalbox and lasted a good few years after it fell out of use. 'Georgemas North' signalbox was demolished many years before.

The left photograph looks towards the junction. The centre photograph looks towards Wick. The station is open to freight at the time of writing.

The right hand photograph shows the junction. Thurso line to the left, Wick straight on, and rest of Britain to the right. The turntable pit is nicely picked out by wild plants in the foreground. A signal-box used to stand in the "V" of the junction.

Hoy
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:29 November 1965
OS 148 604
0.72 miles from Georgemas Junction
Top
1956:P*

This station is closed. The photograph looks towards Thurso, with Georgemas station behind.

Thurso
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 114 679
6.50 miles from Georgemas Junction
Top
1956:GPFLHC50
Thurso at fullest extent
Thurso Georgemas

Thurso is the most northerly station in Britain. It is at the end of a short branch from Georgemas Junction. The station has a overall roof, goods shed and goods yard (formerly used by UKAEA - the UK Atomic Energy Authority - for Dounreay). The station formerly had an engine shed and signalbox. The passenger part of the station has a long platform, partly covered by an overall roof (also partly covering a line and rounding loop). The second face of the platform has a second track which is not covered. Thurso and Wick stations are similar.

Bower
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:13 June 1960
OS 196 586
147.56 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC20

This station is closed.

Watten
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:13 June 1960
OS 250 558
153.68 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC10

This station is closed. It had two platforms and a passing loop. The 'Watten South' and 'Watten North' signalboxes have been demolished.

Bilbster
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:13 June 1960
OS 286 542
Top
1956:GPLH

This station is closed.

Wick
Opened:28 July 1874 Closed:No
OS 360 509
161.35 miles from Inverness
Top
1956:GPFLHC40
Wick

 

This station is the end of the line. It has a long platform, partly covered by a over-all roof which also partly covered a track and passing loop. The second face of the platform was formerly served by a track, now lifted. There is a goods yard (in 1956 sidings were used by Scottish Oils & Shell-Mex) and a goods shed. There was formerly a signalbox and engine shed (a two road shed, 60D, closed in 1962). To the west of the station was the east (Wick) facing junction with the now closed line to Lybster (See also the Wick and Lybster Light Railway). Thurso and Wick stations are similar.


Page created on 04/09/1997
Page last edited on: 02/04/2012
Contact: Ewan Crawford
Borrobol Duke of Sutherland's Railway Forsinard Kildonan Kinbrace Altnabreac Forsinard Scotscalder Altnabreac Halkirk Thurso Scotscalder Wick Georgemas