Friends of the West Highland Lines
The West Highland Lines, the Top Rail Journey in the World. Britain’s railways of superlatives which take you to the:
Highest mountain in Britain (Ben Nevis)
Largest loch in Britain (Loch Lomond)
Longest loch in Britain (Loch Awe)
Deepest Loch in Britain (Loch Morar)
Highest mainline station in Britain (Corrour)
Most westerly station in Britain (Arisaig)
Gateway to the Hebridean Islands (Oban)
Britain’s Outdoor Capital (Fort William)
The West Highland Lines are world class railways making a major contribution to accessibility for residents, tourists and freight in this uniquely beautiful part of Scotland. ScotRail trains link the West Highlands with Glasgow where there are connections with trains to the rest of Britain. There is also an overnight Caledonian Sleeper linking Fort William and intermediate West Highland stations with London.
This website gives an introduction to the line, with pictures of the spectacular scenery brought to you by Norman McNab, and others as attributed.
All pictures are copyright of the authors and must not be copied without permission. Click here for more photographic information and permissions.
To Learn about the West Highland Lines, which take travellers from Glasgow, in Scotland’s Industrial and Commercial Heart Land, to Oban, the ‘Gateway to the Inner Hebrides’, Fort William, Britain’s ‘Outdoor Capital’ and Mallaig in the far west, gateway to Skye and ‘The Small Isles’, use the navigation bar and click The Line. This will take you to an interactive map of the Lines and detailed information about each of the 31 Stations the West Highland Lines pass through. Each Station location includes many pictures describing the scenery and includes associated information on History and Engineering. Keep up to date with latest News, Click on the ‘NEWS’ tab above and for daily news, ‘as it happens’, visit our Twitter Feed. You can also visit our Facebook page.
Covid 19 – Coronavirus – This year’s AGM, arranged for Friday 29th May, was cancelled. At present we are unable to advise on a future date. ScotRail are operating to the full timetable but request that people should only use the train for essential travel. Social distancing means reduced capacity and the wearing of face masks while on the train is mandatory, as it is in shops and on all public transport.
Good News, The Spring 2021 edition of the Society’s magazine ‘West Highland News Plus’ has now been published. It is the only magazine spotlighting the West Highland Lines, the ScotRail network, past and present and West Coast marine transport, ‘On The Waterfront’.
The magazine’s 60 pages are packed with items of interest, including ‘News Briefings’, Network Rail Update, the Society’s response, produced in association with the Association for Public Transport, to Transport Scotland’s Rolling Stock, Specification.
Current news about the Caledonian Sleeper, Rail Freight and Decarbonisation is also covered.
On the Waterfront covers the new ferry contracts for Caledonian MacBrayne and future strategy, ‘Puffing into History’ and much more.
Part 3 of The Callander & Oban Railway, supported by many fascinating original photographs, Heritage News and much more makes this a must have publication and provided free to members.
Receipt of this magazine, consisting of a Spring, a Summer and a Winter edition, posted to your address, is reason enough to become a member of the ‘Friends of the West Highland Lines’.
The picture above shows an alumina train, heading bauxite wagons, crossing the viaduct on the line just north of Rannoch Station. The bauxite is carried by rail from Blyth in Teeside to the aluminium smelter in Fort William. This train, which runs twice per week, is now the only regular freight movement on the line except for the return to Blyth with the empty bauxite wagons. It is feared that this service may cease because it is proposed to upgrade the sea terminal at Corpach to improve material handling. Corpach already handles a significant volume of timber destined for the BSW timber mill at Corpach. The Corpach upgrade could then replace rail for the transport of the bauxite. The Society is concerned because this freight train would be the last on the West Highland Line. The main concern is the failure to use the line for a wide range of freight which currently travels on the West Highland’s under invested, poor quality, narrow and congested roads. A practice which runs counter to the Scottish Government’s ‘Green’ objectives. The Society is also concerned about how it is proposed to transport the bauxite from Corpach to the Fort William smelter. It is hoped that the rail link would be retained for this last part of the shipment if the Corpach sea terminal is adopted. Fort William’s roads are already seriously congested since it is an important tourist destination.
As part of the 125 year anniversary celebrations you can revisit the ‘Victorian Railway along Fort William’s Shore – Gone but not forgotten!’To find out more visit www.fortwilliamrailtrail.co.uk where, if you’d like to walk the trail, you can download the fully illustrated trail guide in pdf format to print out or to read on your portable device. You can also click here to download a PDF of the poster
This Site includes Information on the History, Politics and Engineering features of the West Highland Lines, authored by railway historian, Dr John McGregor and railway author, Gordon Webster. Visitors should note that this is a developing feature of the site and information on these aspects is always being reviewed and added to.
The last few years have been among our Society’s most successful, and by signing up as a member of ‘The Friends’, you can be part of our continued success (click here to download a membership form). We work to ensure that the opinions of visiting and regular users of the Lines are represented to those who operate the railway, Transport Scotland and the relevant Scottish Government Ministers. For example the Society provided persuasive evidence in support of an improved service to Oban which resulted in the frequency of the train service to Oban being doubled. We have also been successful in enlisting the support of The Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Highland Regional Council and others in procuring funds and necessary assistance from Network Rail to recover many iconic views on the lines previously obscured by vegetation. Views recovered include sites on Loch Lomond, Loch Long, Loch Awe, above Oban and the world famous Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Our Society spearheaded the first West Highland Line tree clearance projects back in 2009 and the restoration of these beautifully scenic views played a big part in the direction of ScotRail’s new ‘Great Scenic Rail Journeys of Scotland‘ branding. Exciting times are ahead, as the ScotRail/Network Rail Alliance have picked up the project, to finance and coordinate future clearances along the Glasgow-Oban/Fort William/Mallaig routes. Vegetation removal is also recommended in the Scottish Ministers’ High Level Output Statement (HLOS) recently published for rail travel. Another part of ‘Scenic Trains’ will be the introduction of refurbished Diesel Multiple Units, to further enhance the travel experience for passengers on ScotRail services. Our Society has advised ScotRail of what we see as essential requirements for WHL trains; comfortable seating, draught-free windows and adequate catering for long journeys. Maintaining plenty bicycle space is also a must and bike hire at intermediate stations would be welcome.
The West Highland railway is a tourist paradise for all seasons and a lifeline for the local community. It is also a vital freight artery, with a thrice-weekly train of bulk alumina to Fort William which loads up to 24 wagons. Rail freight is far more environmentally friendly than road haulage, being ideal for such lengthy bulk loads through the numerous gaps in the timetable. Lorries add extra carbon emmisions, congestion and further wear and tear to the already-congested A82/A85 roads. Friends of the West Highland Lines encourage more rail freight – the green transport alternative.
One long term aspiration for the Society is to see the reinstatement of closed passing loops along the West Highland Lines too. The railway is busier than ever with charter trains alongside regular freight and passenger traffic, including the ‘Jacobite’ steam service. By allowing trains on the long single line sections to pass at stations such as Lochailort and Corrour, delays would be avoided during the tourist season; a more smoothly-operating railway with scope for more timetable expansion. The use of radio signalling and automatic sprung points means this would be possible with minimal expense. You can keep up to date with the Society’s activities and news by becoming a member and receiving copies of our magazine ‘West Highland News Plus‘
A set of four souvenir colour postcards featuring some of the photographs on this website is on sale from Glenfinnan Station Museum.