Strathspey Railway (preserved)

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Strathspey Railway
Up arrow Inverness and Perth Junction Railway
Grantown-on-Spey (West)(proposed)
Right arrow Strathspey Railway (GNoSR)
Boat of Garten
Up arrow Highland Main Line
Aviemore (Speyside)
Down arrow Highland Main Line

The Strathspey Railway (SR) in Badenoch and Strathspey, Highland, Scotland, operates a 10 miles (16 km) preserved railway from Aviemore to Broomhill via Boat of Garten, part of the former Inverness and Perth Junction Railway (later part of Highland Railway) which linked Aviemore with Forres. It is one of only a handful of primary/secondary main lines to be preserved in Britain today.

The route[edit]

The Strathspey Railway operates from Network Rail's Aviemore railway station. Until 1998 the railway's southern terminus was Aviemore Speyside about 300 yards further north. Aviemore Speyside is no longer in regular use, though it has been retained as a fallback in case of problems with Network Rail. Its signal box, which was formerly at Garve West and transported from there in 1986, was retained when the station itself shut and new features are gradually being brought into service, using traditional British Railways mechanical semaphore signalling, to control a new crossing loop which has yet to be installed.

From Aviemore, the line passes the four road locomotive shed which was constructed by the Highland Railway in 1898. The original purpose of the shed was to house locomotives for the lines to Perth and Inverness (via Carrbridge and Forres). It was common for original Highland Railway engines to be allocated to the shed and in London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) days it housed Stanier Black Fives, Pickersgill Bogies (Caledonian Railway), Caley 439 tanks, Caley 812 classes, and Fairburn tanks. In British Railways days the shed was allocated the shed code '60B'. These days the engines that are in traffic on the Strathspey Railway (SR) bear the 60B shedplate on their smokebox. There is also a carriage maintenance shed which was erected and opened for use in 2005; this shed allows the railway's volunteers and staff to work on its fleet of coaches indoors. On the opposite side of the line is a three road carriage storage shed erected and opened in 2011; this allows the coaches to be stored under cover and protected from the weather. Coaling is carried out at Aviemore using a facility constructed in 2014 on the site of the former Aviemore Speyside station building.

The former enginemens' hostel called 'Spey Lodge' also stands at this location. This building has now reverted to its original use of housing locomotive crews and other railway volunteers. This building was erected by the LMS during the Second World War to allow railway crews a safe and cheap option for accommodation after they had finished working on their trains for the day. It was saved by the Strathspey Railway Company during the 1970s.

After Spey Lodge, the railway crosses Dalfaber level crossing, an Automatic Open Crossing, Locally Monitored (AOCL). This level crossing was not originally part of the railway but was installed after the development of the Dalfaber Estate in the 1980s.

Boat of Garten[edit]

Boat of Garten in 1961
View northward, towards Broomhill 1986
View southward, towards Aviemore in 1986
Steam rally in 2004

The extensive Boat of Garten station (57°14′53″N 3°45′09″W / 57.2480°N 3.7524°W / 57.2480; -3.7524 (Boat of Garten railway station)) features its original buildings, dating from 1904 by the architect William Roberts.[1] It was originally a parallel junction between the Highland Railway's main line from Perth to Forres and the Great North of Scotland Railway's (GNSR) branch to Craigellachie - this was the original Strathspey Railway, the company being a subsidiary of the GNSR. Today there are two passenger platforms and the yard stores the majority of the SR's out of use rolling stock.

Boat of Garten also has the railway's only water column where the locomotives stop to take water on their way north through the station. There are two signal boxes, Boat of Garten North and Boat of Garten South and signalling uses traditional British Railways mechanical semaphore signalling; it is the crossing point on the line when there are two trains running.

Most of what visitors to the railway see today is original from the days of British Railways. The main layout of the station has not been altered significantly, with the exception of the extensive yard behind the signal box. The turnout that formerly allowed access to the yard without having to access the headshunt was removed before the line closed and there are no plans to re-install it.

Leaving Boat of Garten, trains cross the road on the new single track box-girder bridge and pass the site of the original GNSR engine shed; long demolished, it is now the site of a permanent way depot. The track had been lifted and structures demolished by British Rail after closure of the line in the 1960s. The railway passes though mainly farmland on the re-laid track, which was mostly recovered from Kincardine power station in Fife in the 1990s. The tracks to Craigellachie and Grantown had originally left the station extending in a double track formation as far as Croftnahaven, where the GNSR line turned sharply south east and crossed the River Spey. This arrangement was adopted because a signal box for a junction here was deemed too expensive.


The line reaches its current terminus at Broomhill (57°17′00″N 3°40′01″W / 57.2834°N 3.6669°W / 57.2834; -3.6669 (Broomhill railway station)), in countryside roughly halfway between the villages of Nethy Bridge and Dulnain Bridge. The replica station building has been reconstructed on the foundations of the original. The run-round loop is beyond the station. It is anticipated that this will be removed when the extension to Grantown is complete. Broomhill was used as the station for Glenbogle, in the BBC series "Monarch of the Glen".

Future extension[edit]

In July 2006, the Scottish Executive made a firm commitment to re-aligning the A95 at Gaich, near Grantown. This move would allow the extension of the SR to Grantown along the original Highland Railway line to Dava and Forres. It is not now intended to reconstruct the former Grantown-on-Spey West railway station, now in an industrial estate; instead it is proposed to construct a new three platform terminus on a greenfield site about 3/4 track-mile further north. Track that was lifted from the Stirling to Alloa railway when it was relaid for a new passenger service has been donated to this project.

The BBC reported that the £2.9m road scheme would involve the rail line going under the A95. The then Transport Minister, Tavish Scott, said the project would be ready for construction by 2008/9 and funding had been allocated for 2009/10. Former Strathspey MP, Danny Alexander, speculated that the proposed rail link between Aviemore and Grantown would be good for tourism.[2]

By May 2007 the trackbed had been cleared north of the Broomhill loop as far as the bridge over the River Dulnain. New fencing, mileposts and drainage works were progressing and it was hoped for track laying to start later in 2008. Travelling by road along the A95 from Grantown towards Aviemore, new fencing marking the new track alignment could be seen.

In October 2008, it was announced that the steelwork of the former Merry Street Bridge in Motherwell had been donated to the railway by Network Rail. In February 2014, the Strathspey Railway used this steelwork to replace the missing bridge over the River Dulnain.[3] The bridge was installed, with the railway working with Colas Rail, who provided one of the few rail cranes in the UK capable of lifting the bridge into position. Following the installation, track has been laid across the bridge to the north side of the River Dulnain. No further construction work on the extension can be carried out until the Scottish Government grants the appropriate Statutory Order. Because the entire extension lies within the Cairngorm National Park, the formal application has had to be delayed so that additional wildlfe and environmental studies can be undertaken.

However, Transport Scotland since notified the railway that the project has been reevaluated in late 2008 and was now estimated to cost £5.3 million, leading Transport Scotland to consider the extension project too expensive to pursue. The railway was faced with raising £1 million by 31 December 2009, to fund construction of a planned tunnel on the extension, but even if the funds were raised, construction was not guaranteed to occur.[4] In June 2016, the entire project, including the re-aligned A95 and new bridge at Gaich, track and new station, was estimated at £13.5M

Management for building extension is now being undertaken by a new body, The Strathspey Railway Charitable Trust. All the various fundraising efforts are co-ordinated by the SRCT, including a charitable appeal. They also manage the negotiations with the various landowners and public bodies required to push the line through to Grantown-on-Spey.

Strathspey Railway Association[edit]

The role of the Strathspey Railway Association is to provide funding and volunteers to run the Strathspey Railway. It is the biggest shareholder in the Strathspey Railway Company, the organisation which owns the light rail orders and operates the railway.

Most of the people who work on the railway are volunteers belonging to the Association.

Locomotives and rolling stock[edit]

British Railways No. 46512, an Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0
The unique Caledonian Railway 812 Class 0-6-0 No. 828
Andrew Barclay 0-6-0T No. 17 "Braeriach"

Steam locomotives[edit]

Diesel locomotives[edit]

  • Andrew Barclay & Son, Kilmarnock 0-4-0DH (works no. 517 of 1966) "Power of Enterprise." Stored out of use at Boat of Garten.
  • BR 0-4-0 North British shunter no. D2774. Operational, painted BR Green.
  • BR 0-6-0 Class 08 no. 08490 (D3605). Operational, painted BR Green.
  • BR Bo-Bo Class 26 no. 26002 (D5302). Stored awaiting overhaul, painted BR Green.
  • BR Bo-Bo Class 26 no. 26025 (D5325). Restoration underway at Aviemore, engine started for the first time in 7 1/2 years in September 2013.
  • BR Bo-Bo Class 27 no. 27050 (D5394). Built in 1962. Operational, painted BR Green.
  • BR A1A-A1A Class 31 31327 (D5862). Operational, painted BR Green.
  • North British Locomotive Co 0-4-0 DH shunter. Works no 27549 of 1956. Stored at Boat of Garten awaiting overhaul.
  • Ruston & Hornsby 0-4-0 DM shunter. Works no 265618 of 1948. Queen Anne whisky livery. Undergoing restoration at Aviemore.
  • Ruston & Hornsby 0-4-0 DM shunter. Works no 260756 of 1950. Stored out of use at Aviemore.

Diesel multiple unit cars[edit]

  • BR Class 107 DMBS Sc51990. Stored at Boat of Garten out of use.
  • BR Class 107 DMBS Sc52008. Stored at Boat of Garten out of use.
  • BR Class 107 DMSL Sc52030. Awaiting restoration.
  • BR Class 114 DTC E54047. Out of service.
  • BR Class 117 DMBS Sc51367. Repainted. Operational.
  • BR Class 117 DMS Sc51402. Repainted. Operational.
  • BR Class 117 TCL S59511. Under restoration at Boat of Garten.



  1. ^ The Buildings of Scotland, Highland and Islands. John Gifford. Yale University Press. 1992. ISBN 0-300-09625-9
  2. ^ "Go-ahead for Highland road move". BBC News. 7 July 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2009.
  3. ^ "Strathspey Steam Railway use crane for new bridge". BBC Scotland News. 14 February 2014.
  4. ^ "£1m shock for Strathspey Railway". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 154 no. 1, 292. December 2008. p. 11.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°15′36″N 3°44′18″W / 57.26000°N 3.73833°W / 57.26000; -3.73833