It’s about time I continued the description of the route that the HLR proposal took from where we ended part 1, so far we’ve covered the first 7.5 miles of the line from Isle Ornsay to Broadford. The next section of the line’s route is one that I think could rival any line that claims to have views of the most spectacular scenery in the country.
After crossing the river at Broadford on a twin 50′ span, 29′ high bridge, the route turns slightly in land from the present day alignment of the A87. The route of the line is close to the gate shown on the left hand road in the Google StreetView image below, only it would have been somewhat higher than the road, crossing it on a 20′ span, 16′ high bridge.
The line gradually climbs up gradients of up to 1 in 57 until reaching a summit at around the 10 mile marker (all distances measured from end of Isle Ornsay pier).
The present day route of the A87 follows the proposed line closely along the next section, emerging on the Southern shore of Loch na Cairidh with views of Scalpay out of the right hand side of the stock.
A little further along this section and parallel with the confluence of Loch Ainort and Loch na Cairidh is reached. Here yet more fantastic views of the East Coast of Skye are afforded.
This section begins to see more cuttings and embankments being utilised to cross several small burns or winter streams running across the line of the railway. Just before reaching Loch Ainort the line begins to fall at gradients of up to 1 in 50 before levelling out near the approach to Luib.
Luib is a small settlement, but is the first place of any consequence after leaving Broadford, some 6.5 miles ago, and it is another 10 miles before we will reach Sligachan. Therefore Luib seems like the logical point for a halt, perhaps enough to cope with the odd cattle wagon for picking up and dropping off from the monthly cattle special, as well as the general goods required for a crofting community. Something with perhaps a loop and one siding would have sufficed.
Luib halt would have been situated just to the other side of the A87, immediately in front of the car in the StreetView image. The mountain in this view is Glamaig, a rather insurmountable obstacle for a railway, so the line took a route along the coast hugging the hillside which can be seen on the other side of the Loch in the above image.
After leaving Luib the line continues to rise and fall at grades of 1 in 50 before reaching the far end of Loch Ainort. Here the HLR proposal required the realignment of the main road from Broaford to Sligachan to enable the line to swing to the right and head out on a causeway towards the headland in the image below. From here it would continue to curve around the end of the loch before climbing at 1 in 35 for a mile.
When reaching the end of the 1 in 35 grade the line begins to level off, rarely exceeding anything greater than 1 in 200. But, as you will see from the image below, a great deal of the climb has already been done.
It is along this section that the next major bridge is encountered. There is a ravine named Allt Darach which is some 32′ deep, unlike other instances of such deep ravines there are no details on how this particular one would be crossed, so it is assumed that a bridge wasn’t intended to be used, and perhaps it would have been a cut-and-fill embankment.
Further along this section some magnificent views of Scalpay and the Southern end of Raasay can be seen. Enough to give the WHR and West Highland a run for their money in my opinion.
Once rounding another headland the line begins to run along Loch Sligachan. It’s at this point that we reach the next settlement, Sconser. It is from Sconser that ferries can be caught to Raasay. In the image below the line runs above the road off to the left, well above the level of the Loch.
To allow the ability for trains to meet ferry traffic without occupying the main running line Sconser could have possessed a ground level island platform with a siding to cope with similar traffic to Luib. The Light Railways Act documents state the following regarding provision of platforms:
So sites such as Sconser and Luib would likely have been ground level and gravelled rather than investing time and expense building raised platforms, and the passenger stock fitted with running boards and steps to allow entry from ground level.
At the end of the Loch the line continues inland, climbing at 1 in 50 for a distance of almost 2 miles to enable a crossing of the Sligachan River to be made. Here yet more spectacular scenery reveals itself, this time a close up view of the Cuillins.
The river was to be crossed by what would have been the most impressive structure on the route, a viaduct some 83 yards long and 63′ high. Given the appointment of Sir Douglas Fox as consultant engineer to the line it is very likely that the majority of structures such as this would have used his firm’s experience of designing large steel structures such as the Victoria Falls bridge. The image above shows the old road bridge used to cross the river. The line would have run behind the property immediately above the left hand end of the bridge in the image. From here it would have curved around to the right turning towards Glen Varragill. It is here that the station for Sligachan could have been sited, close to the road leading down to the Sligachan Hotel, and the road which ultimately reaches Carbost and Dunvegan via the West Coast of the island.
Provisions here would have included a loop to enable trains from Portree and Broadford to pass, as well as a siding to allow loading/unloading of various articles. Some traffic for this station could have consisted of general resources (coal, post etc. for the Sligachan Hotel, but also whisky from the Talisker distillery which is located to the North West in the village of Carbost. The station would have been located halfway down the track towards the white croft, making it easily accessible to the main roads to Dunvegan, Carbost and Portree.
We have now travelled 27 miles from Isle Ornsay, and face a hard climb of 1 in 50 for 1.5 miles to reach the summit of the line in the approaches to Glen Varragill, but that will have to wait for next time.