Return to Pre Grouping Index

Highland Railway.

(Note: Numbers in brackets refer to specific references)

The Highland Railway was born in 1865 with the amalgamation of the Inverness & Aberdeen Railway and the Inverness & Perth Junction Railway. Although often described as linking Perth in the south with Wick in the north the HR never reached Perth, stopping about eight miles North at Stanley Junction. It reached as far as Thurso and Wick in the north, serving the Moray Firth in the East and the Kyle of Lochalsh in the West. Other towns served included Elgin, Inverness, Aviemore, Keith, Dunkeld, Strome Ferry and Thurso. The line boasted less than fifty miles of double track, most of it in the form of passing loops, but was noted for its efficient single line working. Electric token systems were introduced in the 1890's and continued in use into the 1980s when the line benefited from a new radio linked system.

The main competition for the HR came from the Great North of Scotland Railway although by the end of the ninteenth century they had begun to cooperate by pooling some of their traffic and allowing running powers on each others lines. Both these companies built a large number of single track branch lines to service the territory they covered.

The HR was noted for using the 'common user scheme' to its best advantage and 'foreign' wagons were commonplace. Mixed trains were common on the HR and prior to 1897 unfitted wagons were often coupled between the locomotive and the passenger coaches, after that date only fitted wagons were allowed in such trains. The placing of unfitted wagons between the loco and the coaches was technically illegal from 1889 but the HR was given time to comply with the change in the rules.

The Highland's freight services allowed the fish landed on the Scottish coast to be shipped as far south as Manchester and Liverpool. The traffic in cattle also proved profitable, shipping animals as far south as London and new whisky distilleries were built along the HR lines which required regular shipments of coal. The supply of the naval base at Scapa Flow provided profitable traffic to the port of Thurso and during the Second World War there was a lot of traffic through Kyle associated with the mine barrage in the North Sea

One curiosity on this line was the split-level cattle dock, the lower level a one end was used with conventional cattle wagons, the higher level was used for access to the upper deck on the HR's double-decked sheep wagons.

The Highland Railway used a basic goods stock colour of red oxide which I believe was rather more red than the colour later used by the LNER. Initials used were H R in a plain sans serif script, often quite small (12 inches high), close together near the centre on drop-sided and fixed-sided wagons and on either side of van and wagon doors. The wagon number does not seem to have been painted on the wagon, this company may have relied on the cast metal registration plate to carry the wagon number. Passenger rated stock (basically anything fitted with a vacuum brake) was painted in coaching stock green, still with white lettering. Coaching stock had black underframes and was was painted olive green, some having white upper panels but I believe the non passenger coaching stock was all green with yellow lettering.

Locomotives were painted plain green, oddly enough this comparatively small company operated the first 4-6-0 locomotive in Britain, used for heavy freight between Inverness and


Fig ___ HR



Highland Railway Society

Available Models

Bill Bedford Models, Leebiton, Sandwick, Shetland, ZE2 9HP

Mr. Bedford offers etched kits of three different Highland Railway brake vans

Go to top of page

International Good Guys ~ Laughing in the face of enlightenment since 1971 ~ Site maintained by Disabled Access to Computing
All material Copyright © Mike Smith 2003 unless otherwise credited