When I was a young lad, my father brought us to live in Liverpool due to his work. I have fond memories of the steam train Journeys when we travelled north every year back to Fort Augustus which is 30 miles south of Inverness to visit family. It was in Fort Augustus that I held a set of bagpipes for the first time when I was about 4 years old. Every year the British Legion pipe band would come to Fort Augustus with a highland dance troop and entertain us all on the cricket field of Fort Augustus Abbey. It was here that a piper asked me to hold his bagpipes while he helped the bass drummer to get into his uniform. My love for bagpipes grew from here. Also my love for steam railway from this very young age. I used to have friends and we would play on the ruins of an old railway station that was at the back of my Aunties house which was on the main road. My Father told me that when he was young the station was in use.
In recent years I wanted to know more about the steam railway, so hear is a brief history of the railway line that ran from Invergarry & Fort Augustus. Invergarry is half way down the great glen from Fort William and Inverness alongside the Caledonian Canal.
A group of businessmen and landowners formed the Invergarry and Fort Augustus railway company and promised a railway line from Spean Bridge (near Fort William) to Fort Augustus and hoped that it would extend at both ends and eventually connect Glasgow with Inverness. They had little money to operate the line themselves so it was decided to build the line and sell it to the highest bidder. On the 14thAugust 1897 construction started and after an Inspection by the board of trade, the branch opened in July 1903. The line was largely funded by Lord Burton and was a very expensive venture.
There was a station in the centre of Fort Augustus just behind were my family lived. A school now stands on the grounds of the station. A short branch continued from Fort Augustus to Fort Augustus Pier. The station was also known as “Pier” and was signposted thus. This short branch was a very expensive and pointless project. Had the railway been extended to Inverness the expenditure might have been sensible.
The station was built next to a Pier on Loch Ness. The station consisted of a single platform with a loop. This site is now a private house. No photographs of a steamer at Fort Augustus Pier meeting a train appears to exist.
This section led from Fort Augustus station, over the Caledonian Canal on a swing bridge, over a river, then through the town on a raised embankment, over the main road, alongside Loch Ness is a deep cutting in solid rock and on to the Pier station and a paddle steamer would then take people up to Inverness. Eventually it was hoped that the line would extend to Inverness and from the Invergarry end it would link up with Gairlochy near to Fort William through to Glasgow . The railway turned out to be a financial disaster and the villages it was to serve were sparsely inhabited.
If the line had gone ahead, it would have been part of what is now known as the Western Highlands Railway that runs from Glasgow to Fort William and would have been part of the most beautiful scenic railway journeys in the United Kingdom. below is a photo of Rannoch moor.