A Timeline History of Strathpeffer Stations

There was in fact more than one station for Strathpeffer. When a railway to Kyle was proposed in the 1860s originally it was to have gone through Strathpeffer, then on to Contin and Garve. However, local landlord Sir William MacKenzie of Coul, objected to a railway going so close to his property and was able to block the plan. This required a different (and more expensive) route going up the Heights, behind Raven’s Rock to Garve.

Achterneed station

Achterneed Station circa 1960s. Courtesy of Am Baile. Copyright Highland Railway Society.

1870: As a result, the first Strathpeffer Station opened at the Heights of Achterneed, about a mile outside the village. All passengers and their luggage as well as goods for the expanding Spa had to be transported down or up the steep hill by horse and cart. A number of waybills survive in the Highland Archive Centre which show goods arriving for Strathpeffer village from all over the UK.

waybill 1883

Waybill from 1883.  Courtesy of Highland Archive Centre, Inverness.

1885: A branch line was built from Dingwall in 1884, opening in 1885, and at last Strathpeffer had its own station direct to the village. (Ironically Sir William MacKenzie’s son supported this development!) This Strathpeffer station was then renamed Achterneed.

2nd edition OS 25 inch to a mile

2nd Edition OS Map showing the station and the goods shed.  The third building indicated was where livestock were kept before and after transportation.  Image copyright: National Library of Scotland.

1908- 1909: The branch line was heavily used by spa visitors. In 1908-1909 a sleeper service from London to Strathpeffer was introduced.

1911:  The growing popularity of the Spa led to increased demand for accommodation. Many large houses and hotels were built in the village. The Highland Railway Society built its own large hotel, The Highland Hotel, opening on 13 June 1911.

highland hotel

A postcard of the Highland Hotel. Courtesy of Stewart Cameron.

1911-1915: Demand was so high that in season a weekly express ran from Aviemore to Dingwall, shaving 2 hours off the journey.

1914-1918: The wartime years brought many changes to Strathpeffer, notably the U.S. Navy taking over four buildings for hospitals. The fortunes of the Spa never recovered after World War I.

WWI picture.jpg

Injured soldiers arriving at Strathpeffer Station.  Courtesy of Roseann Christie.

1923: The Highland Railway became absorbed into the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company.

locomotive

HR 25 ‘Strathpeffer’ at Strathpeffer Station. Courtesy of Am Baile. Copyright Highland Railway Society.

1936: Signal boxes were no longer needed at Fodderty Junction or the Station and were probably demolished shortly afterwards.

1923 – 1945: A covered loading area projecting out towards the Goods Shed was built at the east end of the platform.

1941-1945: MacKay’s Hotel in Strathpeffer was the military headquarters for the Sutherland Sub-Area (stretching from Caithness to Badenoch & Strathspey), and other buildings were taken over by the military. As a result, there was regular use of the railway.

1946: The station closed to passengers, either on 23 February 1946 or 2 March 1946.

1951: The station closed to all traffic on 26 March 1946, and the rails were taken up, probably the following year.

1950s – 1970s: The station was used as a coal depot and delivery business by K. MacIver and Co, run by William Kennedy and then Roy Munro. Bob Knox also ran an upholstery business at the station.

coal

Image courtesy of Am Baile. Copyright

1974: There were plans to turn the station into an interpretative railway museum, but nothing came of them. In the late 1970s, the buildings deteriorated and the premises became overgrown.

K10_STRATHPEFFER_STATION.jpgImage courtesy of John Rich.

1979-1980: The buildings, now owned by Highland Regional Council, were renovated and in 1980 opened as the Strathpeffer Craft and Visitor Centre. Allister Brebner had a cinema at the west end showing ‘All Change for the Highlands’.

1985-1986: Further building work resulted in conversion into small craft units. There was a basement under all the station (which gave rise to rumours of a tunnel), which was filled in with rubble and concrete.

1989: Allister Brebner converted the end area into a wood turning studio and shop (later a bookshop and currently a gift shop).

book shop

1992: The Highland Museum of Childhood opened at the western end.

2004: Allister Brebner carved the Ascent of the Scots pillar which stands between a gap in the building.

2010: The extension containing the Goods Shed Education Space and Collections Store at the east end was built.

IMG_5723.JPG

This timeline was assembled from published and website sources and local memories. We hope to expand and refine it over the next months during the project. Some major sources of information are:

 

Remembering the Strathpeffer Area (available on http://www.archhighland.org.uk)

www.disused-stations.org.uk

http://www.ambaile.org.uk (which has many Highland Railway Society photos)

http://www.med.navy.mil/bumed/nmhistory/Pages/showcase/Innovations/WWIhospitals/main.aspx (for information and pictures about U.S. Navy in Strathpeffer in WWI)

Barclay, Gordon J. 2013. The Built Heritage of the First World War in Scotland.

Frater, John 1994. ‘Locomotives used on the Strathpeffer Branch,’ Highland Railway Society Journal no. 28, pp. 7-10

Higginson, Mark 1980. ‘Rails to Strathpeffer,’ Railway Magazine v. 126 no. 947, March 1980, pp. 122-125

Jenkinson, David 2004. Highland in LMS Days.

Lambert, Anthony J. 1978. Highland Railway Album – 2.

McConnell, David 1994. Rails to Strathpeffer Spa

Ross, David 2005. The Highland Railway.

Thomas, John 1990 (rev. ed). The Skye Railway

 

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Welcome to our Railway blog

Welcome to our museum blog which has been set up to tell you about the history of our station.  The museum is based in an old Victorian Railway Station in the spa village of Strathpeffer.  The station, now a listed building, was built in 1885 and still has most of it’s original features.  The museum Trust has owned it since 2009 and is now responsible for it’s upkeep.

platform shot
A view up the platform

The building was also extended in 2010 with the addition of the Goods Shed Education Space and a museum’s collections store.  It’s design was created to blend in with the original building although it’s more modern inside.

goods shed

The Goods Shed built in 2010

More recently we’ve been working on a project to restore the canopy which runs along the platform.  It needs some work done including replacement of timber panels and glass panes as well as attention to the drainage pipes. As part of this project we decided to research as much of the history of the station as possible.  Our visitors ask lots of questions about the railway and the station so we’d like to give them as much information as possible.

DETAILS OLD STATION TRACERY 004

Detail of the canopy.

The works haven’t started yet but the research has! Susan Kruse from ARCH has been working with some local enthusiasts who have been uncovering images and lots of interesting files. We hope in our blog to share what we’ve found.