Some Early Lines
The Keith and Dufftown Railway (“The Whisky Line”)
Class 108 diesel multiple unit “Spirit of Speyside” at Keith and Dufftown Railway
Image taken, August 2004. Original uploader was Kcampbell at en.wikipedia This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
The Keith and Dufftown Railway (“The Whisky Line”) is a heritage railway in Scotland, running for 11 miles (18 km) from Keith Town, Keith (Ordnance Survey grid reference NJ429508) to Dufftown (NJ322414) via Drummuir (NJ378442).
Originally the former Great North of Scotland Railway Keith and Dufftown Railway which was part of the link Aberdeen with Elgin (with the Strathspey Railway and Morayshire Railway), the line was latterly a freight-only branch for British Rail, truncated at Dufftown, although in latter years it hosted a series of Northern Belle summer Sunday lunch specials from Aberdeen.
The line is open and a regular service runs throughout the Keith and Dufftown Railways operating season from March to September. Special events are also run including Santa Specials, Scots Nights. These services are run on the Class 108 DMUs.
Dufftown is the main centre of operation of the railway where there is a booking office, waiting room and licenced cafe called the Buffer Stop, which is open during operating season. There are two headshunts and a loop, work is being undertaken to install a new loop at Dufftown so that there can be two tracks going into the new engine shed.
There is nothing at Drummuir Station except the platform, although there may be something there in the future. At Keith there is a booking office and a shop which sells railway memrobilia, books, Thomas the tank engine items and model railway items which are sold by members of the association. This shop too is also only open during operating season.
At present there is no connection to the mainline, there are two 60ft sections of track uplifted. However there are long term plans to reconnect to the mainline but this is a long time away in the future.
Headquarters and western terminus of the Railway, Dufftown Station, AB55 4BA, is located less than a mile from the town centre towards Elgin on the A941. The Station building has been restored by the Association from a near-ruined shell and now boasts a booking office, waiting room and information area. The Buffer Stop carriages provide excellent cafe facilities on the platform. Make sure you stop by for a hot snack, tea and coffee, and maybe even a slice of cake.
Loch Park is a man-made loch stretching just over a mile along the narrow valley at the head of the Isla. The line drops down to run along the shoreline, hemmed in by the steep pine-covered hillside, until the waters tumble into a circular weir beside the Loch Park Activity Centre.
Overlooked by Drummuir Castle, Drummuir Station is the one of the most tranquil spots on the line. Sheltered by the wooded valley sides from the village and road, there is often nothing but birdsong to disturb the natural silence.
One platform of the original two has so far been refurbished, and the remains of the goods yard loading ramps can still be seen. The KDR’s locomotive shed is under construction near the station, and a passing loop will be installed, in due course, to allow two trains to run.
Passengers are welcome to break their journey here to stroll through the walled gardens at the nearby castle.
Towiemore Halt has lost its platform over the years, but the former platform hut is now in use as a permanent way store and bothy for cold volunteers! One feature of this station was the use, for many years, of an ex-GNSR coach body as a waiting room. A similar body was acquired several years ago, and one wonders whether it might see similar use again.
The warehouses on the left as we leave the halt were once served by a large goods yard. Clearance work led to the discovery of original GNSR gates still in position amongst the undergrowth. From here the line bends to the left and enters a long straight, parallel with the Isla, now on the right. The landscape is changing as we leave the areas of dense pine forest and enter rolling open farmland.
As the line curves left once again, we pass under the Keith-Dufftown road once more and arrive at Auchindachy station.
Auchindachy (pronounced och-eye-nachie – soft “ch”, as in “loch”) Station building still stands, although it is now a private residence. One platform of the original two is intact – a fine stand of trees grows where the other used to be! Across the road from the station is the Mill of Towie, a Victorian watermill complete with waterwheel and internal fittings. It is, at present, empty, although an attempt was made to open it as a restaurant in recent years. Perhaps the return of the railway will provide the incentive needed to make the most of this location andprovide an additional attraction for passengers. It is possible that a halt to serve this complex could be constructed in preference to using the old platform at Auchindachy. This would be on the opposite side of the road bridge from the existing station.
This area has seen much work put into improving the trackside drains as the line here is very close to the level of the river, and numerous tributaries feed down from the surrounding hills.
AND DOWN TO KEITH
As we leave Auchidachy the river makes a wide sweep to the right, and the line crosses it twice as it follows round. The Keith-Dufftown road crosses for the last time as we descend through the picturesque valley towards Keith. The river meanders below us to the right before passing under us once more on the edge of the town.
Yet another distillery is passed to our left, with Strathmill siding awaiting its next freight traffic. We drop into the narrow cutting which passes under the main Aberdeen-Inverness road (A96) and out into Keith Town Station, AB55 5BR.
Located between the River Isla and the Church, Keith Town station, AB55 5BR is surprisingly secluded for a town-centre site. The main road crosses the platform end, but the high-walls of the bridge and pavements mean that there is little intrusion from the modern noise of traffic.
A new station building has been constructed here, based on the original and unique split-level GNSR station building which once stood at the station. The new structure was officially opened in 2003. For the time being, Keith Town is be the effective eastern terminus of the KDR, although the line continues for another half-mile down a steep 1 in 70 gradient to a junction with ScotRail and the Railtrack network at Keith Junction Station.