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Cycling Old Glen Ogle Railway Line

Some time ago, we took a trip up to Lochearnhead and cycled along the former Callander and Oban Line railway up Glen Ogle and over to Killin Junction. Although we did this a couple of years ago, it has remained one of our favourite cycle rides. So here is a re-visitation of the blog which we did at the time...

View of Lochearnhead and Loch Earn
On the former Callander-Oban Railway Line looking towards Lochearnhead on the shore of Loch Earn

Map showing route to Lochearnhead
Our route from Appletree Cottage to Lochearnhead

Our cycle ride was to start from Lochearnhead, so we put the bikes on the car and headed off.

The journey from Appletree Cottage to Lochearnhead was an easy and pleasant 36- mile (58km) drive. First through the Trossachs to the pretty village of Callander and then up the eastern shore of Loch Lubnaig. Our drive took us through Strathyre and Kingshouse with some spectacular scenery on the way before arriving at Lochearnhead.

Lochearnhead as the name implies is a little village at the southern end of Loch Earn.  Although the village did have a railway station (now beautifully preserved as a Scout HQ) it was on the line to Crieff which left the Callander - Oban line just north of Balquhidder.

The Callander-Oban line section was the first to open (1870) with the line to Crieff following some thirty years later.

A path to the railway line leads up from the pretty St. Angus Church which is on the left just as you enter Lochearnhead.

We parked close to the church (but not in the church car park) and unloaded our bikes from the car.

We started climbing the path up the hill to the railway line. The first (short) section was quite steep, but still possible to ride a bike.  When we arrived at the railway line where we were greeted by a sign affirming that we were in the correct place, and on Sustrans Cycle Route 7 (more details of which are below).

Arriving on the railway route, we were pleased to discover that there was a smooth surface on which we were to cycle. Being a railway line the gradients are minimal. The climb up Glen Ogle was steep for a railway but easy for a bike. 1 in 60 is the gradient up to Killin Station and then a similarly graded descent to the former site of Killin Junction Station.

A map showing our cycle route along the former Callander-Oban railway line
Our route from Lochearnhead took us up to the original Killin Station then down to the former Killin Junction

The former railway clings to the steep side of Glen Ogle and as we started cycling, our height above Lochearnhead gave us tremendous views over the village below and Loch Earn.

Being winter, many of the trees were still bare and so our views were not obstructed by foliage as they might have been in the summer months.

View of Loch Earn
Our view of Loch Earn as we cycled along the railway line

 Our journey follows a section of Sustrans Cycle Route 7 which is a long and winding 547 mile (880km) cycle route from Sunderland in the north of England to Inverness in the north of Scotland.

Much of the route has been enhanced by the installation of smooth surfacing, which makes cycling so much easier!

As we make our ascent of Glen Ogle, we soon pass the site of the rockfall which closed the line one month prematurely on 27th September 1965. Not much evidence remains now, as much of it has since been cleared away, but a photograph taken shortly afterwards, once the rails had been removed, can be seen here:

Soon we arrived on top of the massive Category B listed 12 arch 139 yard (150m) long stone viaduct near the head of Glen Ogle. In days of steam locomotives, it was an impressive site to see a train of several carriages make its way up the incline. The closure of this section of the Callander-Oban line between Crianlarich and Callander was a great loss.

Shortly after crossing the viaduct, we passed under a road bridge and then arrived at what was once known as Killin Station. Now a private dwelling this station was the terminus of the line from 1870 to 1873, before the line was extended to Tyndrum and then Dalmally, finally reaching Oban in 1880.

The station closed in 1889 but a passing loop and signal box remained in use until closure in 1965.

At Glen Ogle station we briefly heard the traffic on the A85 again from Lochearnhead which passes close to the station house.

After cycling past the remains of the old platforms, the gradient started to fall and the route became a little rougher under our wheels, but still easily manageable.

We passed a few interesting old railway artefacts, still in place many years after the line had closed. We saw the base of a signal post, a line workers' hut and most evocative of all perhaps, a fogman's / signalman's shelter.

View of Signalman's shelter on Callander oban line
Signalman's / Fogman's shelter

After some time we arrived at what remained of Killin Junction Station.

This is where the line from Killin (opened on 1 April 1886) joined the Callander and Oban Railway. There were no roads to this station. It was merely a transfer platform between the Oban and Callander trains and the train to Killin. Several people have recounted memories of huddling in the tiny station buildings awaiting their connection.

Although most of the station had been demolished, it was still possible to discern the platforms and where the Killin Railway came in to join the Callander and Oban line.

Adjacent to the station were the previously ruined remains of two railway workers' cottages which were in the process of being converted into habitable accommodation on the day we visited.

Having had. a good look around the station remains, we decided not to continue to Luib station a few miles further on but got on our bikes and made our way back to Lochearnhead. The long free wheel from Glen Ogle station down to Lochearnhead was fantastic and memorable. It was a great day out - and if you don't cycle, it would also make an excellent walk.


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