Highland Mainline Railway History

This railway would play a key role in the economic and social development of the countryside through which it ran and 2013 marked 150 years since it opened as the Inverness & Perth Junction Railway.


Its engineer was Joseph Mitchell who began his career at a young age as Chief Inspector of Highland Roads and Bridges under Thomas Telford. Mitchell began planning a route from Inverness via Forres over Dava Moor and across the Grampian Mountains to Perth as early as 1845. Parliament rejected the proposal fearing the ability of trains to be braked on the hills. Eventually in 1861, an Act was obtained and with close knowledge of the terrain – Mitchell had walked all of it – the 104 miles of the difficult route from Forres to Dunkeld was constructed in just 23 months.


A starting point was the Inverness & Nairn Railway that had been completed in 1855, and the first sod for the new line was cut at Forres amid great ceremony on 17 October 1861. It was built in stages – Dunkeld to Pitlochry (1 June 1863), Forres to Aviemore (3 August 1863), with the final length from Aviemore to Pitlochry completed on 9 September 1863. Only six days after completion, Queen Victoria travelled on the new railway to Blair Atholl to visit the Duke of Atholl at Blair Castle.


In 1898 the ‘Direct Route’ from Aviemore to Inverness, thereby shortening the journey, was opened by the Highland Railway. That company became part of the LMS in 1923, and by 1948 British Railways was in charge. In 1965, the original portion of line from Aviemore to Forres was closed as part of the Beeching cuts but the Strathspey Railway now runs the Aviemore to Broomhill section as a heritage line and visitor attraction.


Dr Ann Glen - Highland Rail Heritage

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