West Highland Railway

Introduction

This railway runs from Craigendoran (near Glasgow) to Fort William. The line had a branch to Banavie Pier.

The line is supported by the Friends of the West Highland Lines who were formed in 1983 and have promoted the line ever since. The society publishes the excellent West Highland News Plus.

Architecture

Stations on the West Highland are noted for their 'Swiss Chalet' style station buildings and diminutive signal boxes. Original station buildings remain at Garelochhead, Upper Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, Rannoch, Tulloch, Spean Bridge and a closed station at Banavie Pier. Fort William's terminus had a building of a different style which has not survived. Most stations had island platforms, although some had two separate platforms; those at Rhu, Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge; and these had a different style of building, since only one side faced the platform. Stationmaster's cottage and other railway cottages also had a standardised pattern.



Dates

  /  /1889West Highland Railway
Fort William's fort wall breached for railway building.
29/01/1889[West Highland Railway]
Charles Forman (of engineers Forman & McCall), James Bulloch (Formans chief engineer), J.E. Harrison (assistant engineer), Robert McAlpine (contractor), John Bett (factor of the Breadalbane Estates), Major Martin (factor of the Poltalloch estates) and N.B. MacKenzie (solicitor, local agent for the railway company) meet at a hotel in Spean Bridge to conduct a survey of the proposed route of the line over Rannoch Moor
30/01/1889[West Highland Railway]
The party are taken by coach from Spean Bridge to Inverlair Lodge. The party set out to walk from Inverlair Lodge to the north end of Loch Treig. The party are rowed from the north end of Loch Treig to the south end and stay overnight at Lord Abingers Craig-uaine-ach lodge.
31/01/1889[West Highland Railway]
The party set out to walk to Rannoch Lodge, the change their minds and decide to continue to Inveroran. The party split in poor weather conditions as it darkens, McAlpine decided to go on to Inveroran and Bulloch heads to Gorton cottage. Bulloch reaches Gorton. Forman, McKenzie, Martin, Harrison and Bett are taken to a nearby hut by shepherds from Gorton.
01/02/1889[West Highland Railway]
McAlpine reaches a cottage by Loch Tulla. Forman, McKenzie, Martin, Harrison and Bett are taken to Gorton to join Bulloch. The party are taken to Inveroran, via Loch Tulla to pick up McAlpine.
02/02/1889[West Highland Railway]
A blizzard covers Rannoch Moor and the party have to work their way through deep drifting to reach Tyndrum station on the [Callander and Oban Railway].
12/08/1889[West Highland Railway]
Act passed and West Highland Railway authorised.
23/10/1889West Highland Railway
First sod cut by Lord Abinger near Fort William.
20/07/1890[West Highland Railway]
Banavie Branch authorised.
  /07/1891[West Highland Railway]
Runs out of money, the contractor requests more money, and construction is abandoned.
  /08/1891[West Highland Railway]
In a court case held in Dumbarton the contractor is told that the line must be built for the amount specified in the contract.
14/10/1891[West Highland Railway]
Work re-starts, though the West Highland Railway agrees to pay an extra £10,000.
  /  /1893[West Highland Railway]
Financial crisis; Mr Renton, a director of the line, donated part of his personal fortune to get the line completed.
05/09/1893[West Highland Railway]
Last spike driven by Mr Renton on Rannoch Moor.
31/07/1894[West Highland Railway]
West Highland Railway ([Mallaig Extension Railway]) Act Passed.
03/08/1894[West Highland Railway]
Inspection by Board of Trade.
03/08/1894West Highland Railway
Opened from Craigendoran Junction to Fort William and Banavie Pier.
07/08/1894West Highland Railway
Public opening from Fort William to Craigendoran. Stations opened at Craigendoran Upper, Helensburgh Upper, Row, Garelochhead, Arrochar and Tarbet, Ardlui, Crianlarich, Tyndrum [WHR], Bridge of Orchy, Gortan (private), Rannoch, Corrour (private), Inverlair, Roy Bridge, Spean Bridge and Fort William [1st].
11/08/1894[West Highland Railway]
Ceremonial opening.
04/09/1894[West Highland Railway]
Helensburgh to Garelochhead train de-railed at Woodend Farm crossing by a stone placed on the line.
01/11/1894[West Highland Railway]
Refreshment baskets available at Arrochar and Tarbet.
01/01/1895[West Highland Railway]
Inverlair renamed Tulloch.
27/05/1895[West Highland Railway]
Glen Douglas siding opened.
01/06/1895[West Highland Railway]
Banavie Branch opened.
  /07/1895[West Highland Railway]
Refreshment baskets available at Crianlarich.
01/05/1896[West Highland Railway]
Whistlefield opened.
06/05/1896[West Highland Railway]
De-railment at Banavie Junction (now Mallaig Junction).
  /08/1896[West Highland Railway]
West Highland Railway (Ballachulish Extension Act) Passed, not built.
21/01/1897[West Highland Railway]
First sod of [Mallaig Extension Railway] cut at Corpach by Lady Margaret Cameron of Lochiel.
20/12/1897[West Highland Railway]
Connection to [Callander and Oban Railway] at Crianlarich opened..
22/07/1901West Highland Railway
Sleeper cars from Kings Cross to Fort William commence.
08/08/1906[West Highland Railway]
Accident at Pulpit Rock, by Loch Lomond.
  /  /1908[West Highland Railway]
[North British Railway]
West Highland Railway absorbed by North British Railway.
31/12/1908[North British Railway]
[West Highland Railway]
North British Railway takes over the West Highland Railway line from Craigendoran to Mallaig and the branch to Banavie.
06/12/1909[West Highland Railway]
Accident at Glen Douglas.
01/06/1924[West Highland Railway]
Row renamed Rhu.
01/05/1926[West Highland Railway]
Gortan renamed Gorton.
08/07/1929[West Highland Railway]
Restaurant car introduced.
  /10/1929[West Highland Railway]
Sleepers start to operate all year round.
27/01/1931[West Highland Railway]
De-railment in Rannoch Moor.
06/07/1931[West Highland Railway]
A loop added at Rhu.
01/08/1931West Highland Railway
Fersit station and branch opened, Loch Treig was to be converted into a reservoir to serve the smelter at Fort William.
07/08/1932[West Highland Railway]
Loch Treig diversion and tunnel opened. The line was re-aligned at a higher level as the Loch became a reservoir, part of the Lochaber Smelter scheme.
15/09/1934[West Highland Railway]
Corrour opened to the Public having been a private halt.
01/01/1935[West Highland Railway]
Fersit closed.
02/09/1939[West Highland Railway]
Banavie branch closed to passengers.
04/09/1939West Highland Railway
Banavie Pier to Fort William (Banavie Junction) closed to passengers.
02/10/1939[West Highland Railway]
Sleeper withdrawn.
27/04/1941[West Highland Railway]
Faslane Junction (Croy) opened with exchange sidings for a double track railway to Military Port #1 at Faslane.
21/12/1941[West Highland Railway]
New signal box and longer loop opened at Helensburgh Upper to help with Faslane traffic.
15/11/1942[West Highland Railway]
Camus-na-ha signal box opened.
26/03/1943[West Highland Railway]
Corpach Naval sidings opened.
05/04/1944[West Highland Railway]
Restaurant cars withdrawn.
26/08/1945[West Highland Railway]
Faslane platform opened, for moving prisoners of war to the halts at Inveruglas and Glenfalloch in connection with the building of the Loch Sloy Hydro Electric scheme.
29/10/1945[West Highland Railway]
Inveruglas platform, signal box and loop opened.
10/04/1946[West Highland Railway]
Glenfalloch platform opened.
  /06/1946[West Highland Railway]
Restaurant cars re-start.
23/05/1949[West Highland Railway]
Passenger services between Glasgow Queen Street, Crianlarich and Oban start.
06/08/1951West Highland Railway
Banavie Pier to Fort William (Banavie Junction (New)) closed to freight.
17/04/1954[West Highland Railway]
Collision at Bridge of Orchy.
09/01/1956[West Highland Railway]
Rhu closed.
24/09/1956[West Highland Railway]
Television train runs.
04/04/1960[West Highland Railway]
Rhu re-opened.
14/06/1964[West Highland Railway]
Craigendoran (West Highland, high level), Rhu, Shandon, Whistlefield and Glen Douglas Closed as the local service from Craigendoran to Arrochar and Tarbet is withdrawn.
21/07/1968[West Highland Railway]
Glasgow bound track at Helensburgh Upper lifted and signalbox closed.
13/06/1975West Highland Railway
New Fort William station opened, old station by Pier closed.
  /  /1980[West Highland Railway]
As the Pulp Mill at Corpach closes much traffic is lost.
  /  /1983[West Highland Railway]
Sunday service introduced.
  /  /1984[West Highland Railway]
Steam trains return to the line.
26/09/2001West Highland Railway
Fort William Oil Depot re-opened.

Route described

The West Highland is a line apart. Despite fears over the years that it will lose its identity, it retains a certain something - probably a reflection of how different the West Highlands are from the rest of Scotland. Grander, sheerer mountains, sea and inland lochs, islands ...

Portions of line and locations

This line is divided into a number of portions.

Craigendoran to Fort William

This was the main line of the original line running from Craigendoran Junction to Fort William [1st].

Craigendoran Junction

The pier platform lines bet the Helensburgh line east of Craigendoran station. This was remodelled in 1894 into a junction proper when the West Highland Railway opened. This was a double track junction, the West Highland becoming single track north of Craigendoran Upper station.
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Craigendoran Upper

This was an island platform station of the West Highland Railway Swiss chalet style directly alongside the station on the Helensburgh line and pier station. The West Highland joins the Helensburgh line just to the east of the station at Craigendoran Junction.
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Craigendoran West Signal Box

The west box was a tall structure, which was described as looking like a pagoda - a six sided building approached by a walkway from the West Highland trackbed. It controlled the northern approach to the West highland station....

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Helensburgh Construction Camp

A set of sidings above Craigendoran Junction approached from the junction were associated with the construction of the West Highland Railway....

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Helensburgh Upper Goods

This goods yard, a simple single sidings with a loading bank approached from the west, was immediately east of Helensburgh Upper. The former stationmaster's house stands to the north of the site....

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Helensburgh Upper

This station is open. It was an island platform station with a typical West Highland Railway chalet style station building and, originally, a typical West Highland signal box.
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Rhu

This was a two platform station, more typical of the stations on the northern section of the line.
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Faslane Junction

This junction was installed in the Second World War. It was a double track junction as a loop was put in on the West Highland Railway and the connection to the Faslane Branch yard was double track.
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Faslane Platform

This was a single platform halt. It was built in connection with the nearby Faslane Military Port. The halt was also used to facilitate the transport prisoners of war to Inveruglas which was a halt for the Loch Sloy Hydroscheme (construction of Inveruglas Power Station and [[Loch Sloy...

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Shandon

This was an island platform station in the typical West Highland Swiss Chalet style, passenger access was by subway. There was a loading bank siding on the east side of the line, served from the Helenburgh direction. Following closure of the station the single track line has been re-aligned through...

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Garelochhead

This is an island platform station with an original West Highland Railway chalet-style building and signal box. A parcels building and short platform (both demolished 2017) also remain on the west side of the station. Access to the station is by means of a subway.
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Whistlefield

This was a single platform station with a station building different to others on the line. It did not open with the line and was built to serve Portincaple and the surrounding district.
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Glen Douglas Halt

This was a halt on the West Highland Railway, opening one year after the line opened. For many years it was private. The loop remains here but the platform and building have been removed. There was a combined signal box and building such as those found at Corrour and, formerly, Gorton. This...

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Arrochar and Tarbet

This is an island platform station, typical of the West Highland Railway. The station building was removed in the late 1990s/early 2000s after several years of being vacant. This was of the Swiss chalet style typical of the line. Access is via a subway and this also gives access to the hillside...

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Arrochar Shed

This shed was by Arrochar and Tarbet station. It was used for overnight storage of the push-pull service to Craigendoran Pier....

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Inveruglas

This was a one platform halt. There was a passing loop, sidings and a loading bank. This halt was built for halt for the Loch Sloy Hydroscheme (construction of Inveruglas Power Station and Loch Sloy Dam).
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Ardlui

This is an island platform station, typical of the West Highland line. The station building was demolished due to subsidence but was of the Swiss chalet style typical of the line. Access is via a subway. The signal box remains in use as a waiting shelter.
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Glen Falloch Platform

This was a single platform halt. Traces of the foundation of the platform remain....

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Crianlarich

This is an island platform station on the West Highland Railway famous for its tearoom. Crianlarich Station Tearoom . The station is in Perthshire
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Crianlarich Junction

This junction is immediately north of Crianlarich station. Here the the lines to Oban and Fort William separate. The junction faces south. Just to the north, on the Fort William route, is the Crianlarich Viaduct....

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Lower Crianlarich Junction

This junction remains open - just. A short somewhat grassy siding runs east.
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Glenbruar Viaduct

This viaduct is just north of Crianlarich station and Crianlarich Junction where the lines to Oban and Fort William divide. Just to the north is the Fillan Viaduct.
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Fillan Viaduct

This girder bridge is just north of the Glenbruar Viaduct, Crianlarich Junction and Crianlarich station on the West Highland Railway. The viaduct crosses the River Fillan and has five spans of 35 ft each....

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Upper Tyndrum

This is an island platform station in the West Highland Swiss Chalet style. The station building, signal box (restored), stationmaster's cottage and railwaymen's cottage survive. Entry to the station is by a subway.
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Bridge of Orchy

This is an island platform station in the West Highland Swiss Chalet style. The station master's house and railwaymen's cottage also survive. Entry to the station is by a subway.
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Gorton [WHR]

This former island platform station is now Gorton Crossing, a passing place on the line with ground frames to operate the points.
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Gaur Viaduct

This is a five girder single track viaduct south of Rannoch station....

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Rannoch

This island platform station retains its original building and signal box. Access is by means of a footbridge, not the original footbridge but a replacement installed in the 1980s after entry was by means of a pedestrian level crossing to the south end of the platform for several years.
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Rannoch Viaduct

This is a single track viaduct just north of Rannoch station.
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Cruach Rock Shed

This is deep cutting with a roof to prevent drifting snow from blocking the line.
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Corrour

This small station on the West Highland Railway is only accessible by train, or via a very long private road. In summer the station is a B+B and restaurant Corrour Station House Restaurant . This replaced the former stationmaster's cottage in...

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Corrour Summit

Corrour Summit is immediately north west of Corrour station.
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Fersit Halt

This single platform halt was at the north end of Loch Treig. It was a workman's halt built during the construction of Loch Laggan Dam, just to the east, and associated tunnels. The dam is part of the scheme which provides the head of water for electricity generation at the Lochaber Smelter...

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Tulloch

This is a two platform station typical of the northern portion of the West Highland Railway. The main building, on the up (southbound) platform is Swiss Chalet in style. The north side of the building has been modified with the addition of three small wings - two being extensions of gables and the...

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Roy Bridge

This was a two platform station, now reduced to one platform with the loss of the up loop in 1964. The up platform, disused, remains and the site of the station building and goods yard has been built over.
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Spean Bridge

This is a two platform station with a passing loop. The main station building, altered at the road side, remains standing. There is a disused signal box dating from 1949. A goods yard siding, now in use for permanent way purposes, remains.
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Fort William Junction

This is the junction between the Glasgow to Fort William line and the Mallaig Extension Railway (originally the Banavie Branch of the West Highland Railway).
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Fort William

This is a terminus with an island platform. The station replaced Fort William [1st] when the line was cut back in 1975....

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Fort William Shed

This shed was built within the fortifications at Fort William. The loading bank was to the south and south of that the line ran, via a number of loops, to the station.
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Fort William [1st]

This was a three platform terminus alongside the seafront and steamer pier in Fort William. It was replaced by Fort William when the line was cut back in 1975. Nothing remains of the station and the site is now a dual carriageway.
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Fort William to Banavie

This branch ran from Banavie Junction, in Fort William and since renamed twice, to Banavie Pier on the Caledonian Canal.

Fort William Junction

This is the junction between the Glasgow to Fort William line and the Mallaig Extension Railway (originally the Banavie Branch of the West Highland Railway).
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Banavie Junction [2nd]

The signal box here controlled the junction between the Banavie [1st] branch and the West Highland's extension west to Mallaig. Both lines were single track.
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Banavie Pier

This station was the terminus of a short branch built by the West Highland Railway to the Caledonian Canal at Banavie. The branch allowed interchange with the steamers operating on the route to Inverness. The station was intentionally above Neptune's Staircase to minimise the number of...

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Books

All Stations to Mallaig!: West Highland Line Since Nationalisation
Argyll and the Highlands Last Days of Steam

Argyll and the Highlands' Lost Railways

Ben Nevis and Fort William, The Mamores and The Grey Corries, Kinlochleven and Spean Bridge (OS Explorer Map)

History of the Railways of the Scottish Highlands: West Highland Railway v. 1

History of the Railways of the Scottish Highlands: West Highland Railway v. 1

Iron Road to the Isles: A Travellers and Tourist Guide to the West Highland Lines

Iron Roads to the Isles: A Travellers and Tourists Souvenir Guide to the West Highland Lines

Mountain Moor and Loch on the Route of the West Highland Railway

On West Highland Lines

Railway World Special: West Highland Lines

Rannan Rathad Iarainn nan Eilean =: The West Highland Line

Road To The Isles Dvd: Part One The West Highland Line Between Crianlarich to Fort William, From the Drivers Cab Of A Class 37, With The Caledonian Sleeper
The Mallaig Railway: The West Highland Extension 1897-1901 (RCAHMS Broadsheet)
The New Railway: The Earliest Years of the West Highland Line

The Story of the West Highland

The Story of the West Highland: The 1940s LNER Guide to the Line

The West Highland Railway

The West Highland Railway (Railways of the Scottish Highlands)

The West Highland Railway 120 Years

Trossachs and West Highlands: Exploring the Lost Railways (Local History Series)

Victorian Travel on the West Highland Line: By Mountain, Moor and Loch in 1894

Walks from the West Highland Railway (Cicerone Guide)

West Highland Line: Great Railway Journeys Through Time

West Highland Railway
West Highland Railway (History of the Railways of the Scottish Highlands v. 1): West Highland Railway v. 1
West Highland Railway: Plans, Poltics and People