West Highland Line Excursion
Earlier this year we took a fantastic trip up the West Highland Line to Mallaig.
Our starting point was Helensburgh Upper. The station, about half an hour's drive from Appletree Cottage, is at the top of Sinclair Street, the A818 as you drive into Helensburgh.
This is not to be confused with Helensburgh Central down closer to the shore.
We asked the guard who had alighted the train which coaches we should be boarding for Mallaig. He told us the rear two coaches were going there.
Climbing aboard we were pleased to find table seats were available and sat down to enjoy the journey.
It was quite a good day to be doing this journey - overcast and damp! The trees beside the track had nearly a full compliment of leaves but the views were still good. We effortlessly passed through Garelochhead,and it was not long before we were winding our way along the shores of Loch Long
At Crianlarich junction the train split. The front portion left first (conveniently!) and headed west onto the former Calendar and Oban line to Oban. This line was truncated by a landfall in the sixties, causing closure of the section between Crianlarich and Callander one month prematurely - before the Beeching Axe was to fall.
From Crianlarich the Fort William section starts to climb the northern slopes of Strath Fillan. Far below on the other side of the glen we can see the railway line to Oban threading its way through the trees beside the river.
After a brief stop at Tyndrum Upper (the tiny village of Tyndrum has two stations. Often mispronounced Tindrum it actually derives from the Gaelic Tigh an Druim (house on the ridge).
And soon we are over the ridge, the march summit and heading towards the famous Horshoe Curve
Horseshoe Curve between Tyndrum Upper and Bridge of Orchy is a three mile meander for the railway on an almost constant gradient of 1:50. The railway hugs the hillside to maintain gradient crossing a nine span viaduct over the Alt Kinglass burn
After our next station, Bridge of Orchy we start the long climb up to Rannoch Moor. Since last visiting this area in the late 1990s there has been much forestation and for several miles we travel through planted pine forest. Eventually, not long before reaching Rannoch Staion the pines give way to the natural moorland.
From Rannoch to Corrour there are some good views across Rannoch Moor. A wild and lonely place. There are the remains of Corrour Old Lodge on the distant eastern slopes. Popular since Victorian times with shooting parties it burnt down in 1946. All that remains now are the desolate ruins.
TuAfter Corrour station we start our descent to the shores of Loch Treig then through the villages of Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge to Fort William.
The stations on this section are well maintained and preserved.
After a brief stop at Fort William the train reverses to Mallaig. This journey like the section before it is stunning, with views of wild moorland, sandy bays and magnificent hills.
The rain had started to come down quite heavily so pictures from the train are not brilliant but the rain in no way spoilt our views of beautiful surroundings.
On our arrival at Mallaig Station we were greeted by a magnificent steam train on the other platform. This train forms part of the "Jacobite" service. A steam hauled excursion from Fort William to Mallaig running twice a day in the summer months.
The rain had stopped so we had a wander round Mallaig village. The harbour was busy with fishing vessels as well as private boats and of course the ferry to Skye.
We had just a couple of hours to explore Mallaig before it was time to board the train back home.. The journey was four and a half hours each way from Helensburgh Upper to Mallaig but the time flew. What a great thing to do on a rainy day!