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Strathspey Train

Steaming Through The Highlands

Rescued by enthusiasts, this once-forgotten route past river, moors, mountains and forest
makes for a grand day out.

BY TERRY WILLIAMS

There are ghosts in the engine shed of the Strathspey Railway. Victorian ghosts. The sign over the door is dated 1898. For many years the ghosts were alone in the darkness and silence of a railway closed down, broken up, neglected and almost forgotten. Almost, but not quite.

Steam trains have fascinated small (and not so small) boys ever since they were invented. During the age of steam, the dream of many a young scholar was to be an engine driver when he grew up. Progress brought diesel power, automation, improved roads and, in the mid 1960s, the axe of Dr. Beeching, which felled all but the most profitable railway lines throughout the U.K. Engine sheds were emptied, locomotives and carriages sent to scrapyards, and mile after mile of track was lifted. Only the ghosts were left, and nature gradually moved in to cover the lines.

Yet, grown men held on to their boyhood dreams. Here in the Highlands a small group of steam train devotees decided there was no time to lose; part of the country’s heritage was at stake. In 1971 they formed the Strathspey Railway Company. The following year they bought from British Rail what remained of the Aviemore-Grantown branch line and established the Strathspey Railway Association to coordinate a growing band of volunteers.

The full text of this article is available in the Autumn 2015 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photo © Henderson Pollock / Strathspey Railway