Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway

Introduction

This line is closed. The railway ran 24 miles from Spean Bridge on the West Highland Railway to Fort Augustus. For much of its length it followed the Great Glen.

It was conceived as being the first part of a new route to Inverness from the south. Construction was expensive and it was built to a high standard with fine castellated viaducts and large stations. Like the Mallaig line concrete was used in its construction. The first sod was cut in 1897.

The line had a very chequered early history, for a time making more money closed than open, before becoming a branch of the West Highland Railway until closing after the Second World War.

Despite the long closure much of the route remains obvious and much of the trackbed is walkable and carries an official walking route, the Great Glen Way .

John Thomas, in Forgotten Railways: Scotland, described its remains best, alluding to Robert Burns^ A Red, Red Rose:

The Invergarry & Fort Augustus Railway, carved out of the mountain slopes, will be there until the rocks melt with the sun.






Dates

14/08/1896Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Act passed. Proposed by Charles Forman.
  /  /1897Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Bill proposing extension from Fort Augustus to Inverness is rejected in the House of Commons.
02/02/1897Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
First sod cut by Eliza Stewart Ellice, second wife of Edward Ellice [Junior] deputy chairman of the line.
  /  /1900Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Authorised to make arrangements to have North British Railway work the line.
  /  /1901Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Extension of time to complete line granted.
06/03/1902Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Working agreement with Highland Railway drawn up.
14/07/1903Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Final inspection by the Board of Trade.
21/07/1903Highland RailwayInvergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Act passed which allows the Highland Railway to operate the services over the Fort Augustus line.
22/07/1903Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway Highland Railway
Line opened by Eliza Stewart Ellice of Invergarry House. The service was operated by the Highland Railway who were keen to keep the North British Railway away from Inverness. Connecting David Hutcheson and Co steamers operating along the Caledonian Canal connecting the line to Inverness via Loch Ness and the canal. Stations opened at Gairlochy, Invergarry, Aberchalder, Fort Augustus and Fort Augustus Pier. The Lovat Arms and Station Hotel was rebuilt and reopened in connection with new line.
01/07/1904Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Invergloy Platform opened.
30/09/1906Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Fort Augustus Pier station and line to Fort Augustus station closed.
12/04/1907Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Discussions of working agreement with North British Railway begin.
30/04/1907Invergarry and Fort Augustus RailwayHighland Railway
Highland Railway withdraws locomotives and rolling stock from the Invergarry line and ceases its operation.
01/05/1907Invergarry and Fort Augustus RailwayNorth British Railway
North British Railway start running service. Working agreement confirmed with the company.
31/10/1911Invergarry and Fort Augustus RailwayNorth British Railway
Line closed to all traffic as North British Railway withdraws.
04/08/1913Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Purchased by North British Railway who re-open the line.
28/08/1914Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway North British Railway
North British Railway (Invergarry and Fort Augustus) vesting and confirmation Act passed as the North British Railway prepares to buy the line. (Or 24/08/1914.)
31/12/1914Invergarry and Fort Augustus RailwayNorth British Railway
North British Railway buys line and railway hotel (Lovat Arms and Station Hotel) at Fort Augustus.
01/12/1933Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Fort Augustus to Spean Bridge closed to passengers. Line closed to all but a weekly coal train. (Also given as 31/12/1933).
  /  /1939Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
During Second World War a goods train runs every day in connection with logging activities.
  /  /1945Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Withdrawal of daily freight train.
31/12/1946Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Line closed and track lifting commences shortly afterwards.
01/01/1947Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
Fort Augustus to Spean Bridge (excluded) closed to freight.
28/03/1947Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway
One coach special run for prospective hiring (by a timber merchant). Line not hired.

Route described

This was a 24 mile railway running from Spean Bridge, on the West Highland Railway, to Fort Augustus at the south end of Loch Long.

Leaving Spean Bridge the line turned from west to north west dropping slightly to cross the River Spean by the Spean Viaduct [IFA]. It then ran on a shelf above the east bank of the river passing General Wade^s High Bridge. The modern day road north took a different route north, climbing hard on the western slopes of Coire Ceirsle Hill, passing the Commando Monument.

Gairlochy station served the village, below and off to the west, and, more distantly, Achnacarry House, further off to the west.

After passing the station the line turned away from the Spean to enter Glen Albyn, the Great Glen, running above the east side of the south end of Loch Lochy, with distant view of Achnacarry House off to the west, before turning inland to meet the road north, cross it and then run parallel in a cramped gully to reach the Gloy Viaduct.

From the Gloy Viaduct the line continued to Invergloy Platform, far above Invergloy House which is to the west on the east bank of Loch Lochy.

The line continued above the loch, with the road slowly dropping down to its shore and the line reaching its summit at Letterfinlay Crossing, a passing place which never opened. Letterfinlay Lodge Hotel is below and above, so the south east, is the summit of Leitir Fhionlaigh. Across the loch are views of Meall na Teanga and Sron a Choire Chairbh.

The line progressively lost height, passing a little to the east of the Laggan Locks at the north end of Loch Lochy.

Invergarry station was next which served, distantly, the village of the same name and Invergarry House. Much more distantly it served Glenquoich Lodge, seat of Lord Burton who was the driving force behind the railway^s development.

After Invergarry, a the south end of Loch Oich, the road north takes to the west side of the loch and the railway and General Wade^s road continue north up the east side. Around half way up the loch Invergarry House can be seen on the west side.

At the north end of the loch the railway passed through the Loch Oich Tunnel and shortly afterwards crossed the Calder Burn Viaduct before passing Abercalder Lodge, off to the east.

From Abercalder station the line was largely level, running parallel with the road north into Fort Augustus, on the west side of the village and south of the Caledonian Canal.

A short line extended north from Fort Augustus, crossing the Caledonian Canal by means of Fort Augustus Swing Bridge west of a ladder of locks and quickly followed by crossing the River Oich by the Oich Viaduct. The line then swung east with a view of the Fort Augustus Abbey to the south and past Battery Rock, to the north, to reach the west shore of Loch Ness at its southern end.

Fort Augustus Pier station was reached shortly afterwards terminating next to a steamer pier on the west side of the loch. Inverness is around 30 miles distant, to the north. Steamers traversing the Caledonian Canal between Fort William and Inverness could be used to continue the journey north.


Locations along the line

These locations are along the line.

This is a two platform station with a passing loop. The main station building on the eastbound platform (for the south), altered at the road side, remains standing. There is a disused signal box (^C^ listed) dating from 1949.
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More details

See also
West Highland Railway
Spean Bridge station seen from above, just to the south of the station. On the left is the I&FAR building and on the right the WHR building (only the ...
Ewan Crawford Collection //
Mid-morning trains cross at Spean Bridge on 3rd June 2016. ...
David Spaven 03/06/2016
Period platform furniture at Spean Bridge in 1977. The bus service is a reminder of the branch to Fort Augustus, the Invergarry and Fort Augustus ...
Bill Roberton //1977
A celebration of the 100 years of the West Highland Railway seen at Spean Bridge in 2001. It wouldn^t be visible to passengers, but hopefully the ...
Ewan Crawford //2001
4 of 29 images. more




This was a girder viaduct over the River Spean close to the junction at Spean Bridge station.
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On the the central piers of the I&FA^s bridge over the River Spean. ...
Ewan Crawford 21/09/2008
This is the southern abutment of the I&FA^s bridge over the River Spean. It is roughly half way between the present road bridge over the Spean, at ...
Ewan Crawford 21/09/2008
2 of 2 images.


This was an island platform station with a building typical of the line. There was a signal box to the south of the station building and a generous goods yard, (four sidings, and loading banks for animals and goods), laid out on the east side. Access to the platform was by a ramp from a road overbridge.
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Gairlochy viewed from the south in 1991, east side of the former station. ...
Ewan Crawford //1991
Site of the former Gairlochy station looking south east towards Spean Bridge on a grey and wet September day in 2005. The railway line has given way ...
John Furnevel 28/09/2005
View south east along the trackbed of the Fort Augustus branch approaching Gairlochy in 2009, looking towards the surviving abutment of the former ...
John Furnevel 28/09/2005
Looking south over the former Gairlochy station. ...
Ewan Crawford //
4 of 4 images.


This viaduct crossed the River Gloy between Invergloy Platform and Gairlochy. To the south the railway ran on a shelf between the road north, to the west, and river.
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Looking north towards the Gloy Viaduct along the former trackbed of the Invergarry and Fort Augustus Railway taken from the parallel A road. The line ...
Ewan Crawford //1996
1 of 1 images.


Looking north at the site of Invergloy platform. ...
Ewan Crawford //
1 of 1 images.


Bridge near Altrua, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
Top view of bridge near Altrua. The trackbed further west is virtually impassable due to the rhododendrons, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
The solum of the Fort Augustus branch high above Loch Lochy in Summer 1966. The weekly coal train, which continued after passenger closure in 1933, ...
Frank Spaven Collection (Courtesy David Spaven) //1966
3 of 3 images.


This passing loop was high above the east bank of Loch Lochy, above Letterfinlay Lodge.
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A concrete bridge seen high above Letterfinlay crossing over the Allt na Leitire. This was taken at the waterfall half way up the hillside from the ...
Ewan Crawford //1996
Looking north at the site of Letterfinlay passing loop. ...
Ewan Crawford //
2 of 2 images.


This was an island platform station with a building similar to those on the West Highland Railway. The building^s canopy on the west side extended over the down loop, due to the proximity of Invergarry House. The portion over the loop was cut back in later years. The signal box was north of the station building. Invergarry station was 15 miles from the junction with the [[West Highland ...

More details
Heritage Railway Association visit to Invergarry: lamppost. ...
John Yellowlees 02/04/2017
A closer view of the locomotive at Invergarry taken during a Heritage Railway Association visit. ...
John Yellowlees 02/04/2017
The information board seen on a Heritage Railway Association visit today to Invergarry. ...
John Yellowlees 02/04/2017
Heritage Railway Association visit to Invergarry: view of the station from the Fort Augustus end. ...
John Yellowlees 02/04/2017
4 of 26 images. more


This is a disused single track tunnel 201 ft long on the east side of Loch Oich. It is located to the south of Aberchalder.
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North east portal of Loch Oich Tunnel, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
Interior of Loch Oich Tunnel, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
2 of 2 images.


This is a girder viaduct crossing the Calder Burn close to where it enters the north end of Loch Oich.
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Viaduct over the Calder Burn.This is now part of The Great Glen Way and has been given a wooden deck. ...
John Gray 28/07/2005
1 of 1 images.


This was a one platform station on the east side of a loop. The loop was un-signalled and was for goods use. There was a siding on the west side, approached from the south. The station building was typical of the line, similar to those on the Mallaig Extension (West Highland Railway).
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Cattle creep near Aberchalder, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
Ornate Bridge almost half way between Invergarry Station site and Aberchalder, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
An aqueduct for diverting water away from the line. There are two of these. The state of the trackbed can also be seen. ...
John Gray //
Top view of aqueduct, 28/07/05. ...
John Gray //
4 of 6 images. more


Dates are assumed.
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View of the former RNAD depot, and its platform, at Fort Augustus. This was just south of the station on the east side of the line. This view looks ...
Ewan Crawford //2000
1 of 1 images.


This was a three platform station. There was a through platform for the line to Fort Augustus Pier and two bay platforms. The platforms were in concrete, as were many structures of this line. The station building was reminiscent of the West Highland style, but at ninety degrees to the line.
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A postcard view of SS Gondolier coming up the ladder of locks at Fort Augustus. Loch Ness is in the background and the abbey is in the background ...
Ewan Crawford Collection //
Concrete structure carrying the old railway line over a watercourse in Fort Augustus. July 2017.
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Alan Cormack 17/07/2017
Remains of the Fort Augustus pier branch crossing a stream just short of the missing road bridge. 30th June 2018.
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John Yellowlees 30/06/2018
This is where the old line crosses the main road out of Fort Augustus down to the pier on Loch Ness. If only the line had been built linking Fort ...
Alan Cormack 17/07/2017
4 of 10 images. more


This was a single track hand operated swing bridge immediately north of Fort Augustus station and its through platform on the west side of the station. The bridge pivoted at the south end.
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More details

See also
Caledonian Canal
During maintenance of the Caledonian Canal locks in 1996 it was possible to see the detail of the pier which once supported the swing bridge for the ...
Ewan Crawford //1996
Looking east towards Fort Augustus station where the Caledonian Canal was crossed via a swing bridge by the Fort Augustus Pier branch. The canal is ...
Ewan Crawford //
2 of 2 images.


This was a single track lattice girder bridge with four spans and castellated piers. The line^s engineers were Forman and McColl and the resident engineer was William Roberts, later of the Highland Railway.
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Remains of the Oich Viaduct, on the long closed Fort Augustus railway, seen on 30th June 2018. ...
John Yellowlees 30/06/2018
Looking south towards the former viaduct at Fort Augustus on the Fort Augustus Pier branch. ...
Ewan Crawford //
One of the surviving piers from the Oich viaduct at Fort Augustus rising Excalibur - like (sorry about that) from the river in November 2002. ...
John Furnevel 02/11/2002
The support columns of the viaduct that carried the railway over the River Oich to the pier on Loch Ness. ...
John Gray 29/04/2007
4 of 5 images. more


This station was north of Fort Augustus station on the west side of Loch Ness.
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Looking north over Fort Augustus Pier station and pier by Loch Ness. ...
Ewan Crawford //
Cutting between Fort Augustus station and Fort Augustus Pier station. ...
Ewan Crawford //
The Fort Augustus Pier station and pier viewed across Loch Ness from the slopes of the Borlum Hill. This station closed in 1906. It rejoiced in a sign ...
Ewan Crawford 21/09/2008
3 of 3 images.