We went away for Christmas. It’s the best thing we’ve done in a long time. Just us four: no family to be nice to / fall out with / <insert other option here>.
We went to Lochearnhead. Not for any particular reason, just because we found a self catering cottage which was the right size, the right price, far enough into Scotland to be interesting, but not so far that it didn’t have “modern conveniences”.
My knowledge of Scottish railways is pretty much zero apart from the Tay Bridge disaster and that is only through the awful poetry that goes with it. My Uncles, however, who grew up for part of their childhood in Glasgow, know the railways well, my elder Uncle in particular who likes the Glasgow and South Western. So they both, when I said we were going to Lochearnhead, said “that’s on the railway to Crieff”. News to me.
Well it is. Or was. The railway was built right at the end of the boom and was sold as a way of getting goods from the ports on the West of Scotland across to the East Coast. It didn’t really and wasn’t really needed, and typically, the original company was on its knees by the time the railway was built so the Caley (being the major shareholder) was persuaded to buy it, one suspects somewhat against their will. The railway only lasted 50 years and was, if my Uncle’s memory is right, shut following a landslide when they decided it was a bit expensive to repair especially as, if you had the time, you could get to the other end of the railway by alternative routes.
The cottage we stayed in is called View Cottage and here is a picture of it when the railway was pretty new.
You can’t see the viaduct from the cottage now as the foliage covers it but with a bit of scrambling you can get up on to it, so we did.
The station at Lochearnhead is in amazing condition because it is used by the local Scouts and has been kept intact.
South from the station there are plenty of remains to look at including finding some pretty nasty clinker:
At Callendar, there is still an upper quadrant signal cleared for the route (poor photo as it was taken from the car):
If you look at a map of the area you will see that the old line to Oban diverges from the line to Lochearnhead and Crieff at Balquhidder Junction. It then passes Lochearnhead high on the hillside. I can’t help feeling it would make a great model railway with the main station in 00 and the Callander to Oban line in N gauge forcing the perspective.
On the last day we went to Killin and so saw the Glen Ogle viaduct – another cracker reminiscent of Bala to Blaenau type engineering. Another photo taken from a moving car so not fantastic.
Finally, t’missus took great delight in taking a photo of me getting excited about finding a lump of steam coal – especially as it was on a short walk on Christmas Day!
I hope all listeners had a great Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. I have one major deadline next year – to make a model of Earl of Merioneth, the Mighty Square, in time for an appearance at Warley in November on Nigel Smith’s Tan-y-Bwlch layout.
(C) Jeremy Latham