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 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 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 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.
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.
Injured soldiers arriving at Strathpeffer Station. Courtesy of Roseann Christie.
1923: The Highland Railway became absorbed into the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company.
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.
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.
Image 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).
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.
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)
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