The Strathpeffer Branch Line

The original railway station for Strathpeffer was in the Heights of Achterneed because Sir William Mackenzie of Coul blocked plans for the station to go through Strathpeffer and then through his lands in Contin. Ironically he died before the complete line was built and his heir supported the calls for a railway line to go directly to Strathpeffer. The branch line was built in 1884, designed by Murdoch Paterson, who was responsible for a great deal of the railway expansion in the Highlands.

The branch line to Strathpeffer at Dingwall Station had its own siding and a waiting room. The waiting room has been moved to the other side of the road bridge but still survives. Until recently the platform for the branch line was visible. This picture shows the Strathpeffer train ready to go. The waiting room is in the distance near the bridge (photo courtesy of Highland Railway Society/Am Baile)Strathpeffer train at Dingwall Am Baile

After leaving Dingwall the branch line continued straight as the Kyle line curves to head up the hill to the Heights of Achterneed. Murdoch Paterson built a house for the Signalman at Fodderty Junction. It is now a picturesque ruin held in place by the ivy.

signal mans house

The short line ran at the base of the hills. Fodderty Bridge is the only bridge to carry a road/track over the railway. It is surprising well made and has been well maintained in recent years. It now has a plaque installed by the landowner and signposting for walks.

fodderty bridge

The other bridges along the routes are cattle creeps (to allow animals to pass under) or culverts for drainage. Few survive now although stone abutments on either side can be seen. The area where the track crossed was made of concrete.

cattle creep                         inside cattle creep

On bridges which no longer survive in some cases it is possible to see where the track was bolted down and indeed was later cut off. The picture above right is taken standing inside the cattle creep, looking towards one of the abutments. Note the concrete slab supporting where the trackbed should have run over it.

Looking from above, one can still see in places the brackets to hold rails at the edge of the bridge.(in picture below)

brackets

Along the route much of the old cast iron fencing and many gates still survive. Some of the fencing is strainer posts. The large ones have the inscription: A K THE IRON WIRE FENCE Co LONDON SW WARRINGTON. The smaller intermediate posts are inscribed A K 14 LOWELL & CO   PATENT   LONDON SW.

fencing 1                               fencing 2

Near Fodderty Bridge some original twisted wire survives. Note the original bracing survives here too.   Some posts still have original gates still attached. In other places along the lines the gates have been re-used by crofters.

fencing and wire         gate.jpg

Some of the wooden posts, heavily impregnated with creosote, survive after all this time. These have a distinctive rectangular shape unlike more modern square or round posts.

creosote fence post

As one nears the Station there was originally a signal box and water tank. These are clearly shown on the 1904 OS map and some early postcards. However no traces remain of it. The signal box was made redundant in 1936 and was probably made redundant soon afterwards.

Map ©National Library of Scotland; postcard courtesy of Highland Libraries/Am Baile.

OS map

station in colour.jpg

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