Some Early Lines
Strathspey Railway (GNoSR)
Great North of Scotland Railway
The gently curved platforms and pastoral background of Craigellachie make a memorable setting for this vintage Speyside train, photographed on 2nd August 1954. The engine, D41 4-4-0 No.62241 from Keith, and first coach are both of GNS parentage, with a Gresley brake third bringing up the rear. Cragellachie was the Great North’s junction for the Elgin and Speyside lines. Photo: P.B.Whitehouse
The line was opened on 1 July 1863 between Dufftown and Abernethy (later Nethy Bridge). It was extended to meet up with the Inverness and Perth Junction Railway (later the Highland Railway) at Boat of Garten on 1 August 1866. The Strathspey Railway actually met the Highland line at Tullochgorum, some 3 miles north of Boat of Garten, but the two lines ran parallel until reaching Boat, the physical junction being to the south of Boat of Garten station. The same year, 1866, saw the Strathspey Railway become part of the larger Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR).
Pickersgill-designed ‘D41’ class 4-4-0 No.62248, late of the Great North of Scotland Railway, leaves Craigellachie with the afternoon goods for the Highland line at Boat of Garten. The line to the right of the picture is a siding and the track is single for the whole journey, closely following the windings of the River Spey, as it threads its way between the hills of Cromdale. Many of the wagons will probably be dropped off at various distillery sidings en route. – Photo: W.J.V.Anderson
The railway served the numerous distilleries that operated in the Spey Valley, many of these distilleries having their own small tank engines, or ‘pugs’ as they were known.
In 1923, the railway became part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and through passenger services were advertised from Boat of Garten to the South via Aberdeen. The line became part of British Railways in 1948 and many cost-saving measures were considered, including the introduction of diesel rail buses in the late 1950s.
The Speyside branch train from Boat of Garten terminated at Craigellachie. No.62275 ‘Sir David Stewart’ pauses for refreshment at the shed before being turned for the journey back over the single line with the afternoon train. – Photo: J.D.Mills
The Strathspey line closed to passengers on 11 October 1965, the same date as the closure of the Highland line between Aviemore and Forres. Grantown on Spey, which had previously been served by two separate stations, was now left without any rail connection.
Goods traffic lingered on for a further three years, mostly the whisky trains, until this too ceased on 4 November 1968. The track was lifted the following year. The short section between Aberlour and Dufftown remained open for goods traffic until the end of 1971.
Although the two stations at either end of the line are open, serving two heritage railways, (the Keith and Dufftown Railway at Dufftown and the (second) Strathspey Railway at Boat of Garten on the Highland Railway’s Aviemore to Forres route), no part of the original Strathspey Railway has been preserved. However, the section between Ballindalloch and Craigellachie has now been converted into part of the Speyside Way, which runs between Ballindalloch and Spey Bay.
GNS D41 No.62241 again, calling at Ballindalloch with a Speyside train in October 1951. A ‘home made’ footbridge frames the train – an admirable piece of GNS economy that has been put together with lengths of old rail. Photo: P.B.Whitehouse
Many of the railway’s attractive stone-built station buildings still exist today; some have been converted for private usage, while others are near derelict. The former station building at Aberlour has been converted into a tearoom and visitor centre. Two of the three bridges over the Spey still survive: the joint road/rail cast-iron arch bridge at Carron and the impressive lattice girder bridge at Ballindalloch, the latter is now a Category A listed building.
The last of the Great North of Scotland 4-4-0s was No.62277 ‘Gordon Highlander’, nick named ‘The Soldier’. Before being retired for preservation and resorted to its original green livery, No.62277 spent its remaining days in regular service working the goods between Keith and Elgin, and over the Speyside branch. – Photo: W.J.V.Anderson