Continuing on from part 2, the route of the HLR takes us from Sligachan through Portree, the main settlement on Skye, up to where the lines to Uig and Dunvegan diverge at Skeabost.
Upon leaving Sligachan station we face a climb of 1 in 50 for a little over two miles, through some rather barren landscape, to get to higher ground at the foot of Glen Varragill.
It’s at this point that the line heads away from any roads, so without the aid of Streetview no more photos can be added until we get to the foot of the glen. Between leaving the A863 and rejoining the route of the present day A87 the line crosses some rather boggy land. Had the NBR been involved with the construction phase of the line, knowing that they would take on it’s operation, they would have been able to use their experience of constructing the West Highland Line across the bogs of Rannoch Moor.
When remerging from the moorland the line reaches its summit at 565ft above sea level. The view below shows the approximate place the line would have re-emerged next to the A87 with a splendid view back towards the Cuillins in the background.
Once the summit has been reached the line begins to fall along the length of Glen Varragill at 1 in 50. The left hand side of the image below shows the view down the Glen, and the large conifer plantation which developed during the 20th Century. It’s at the foot of this that the HLR would have run, just high enough for gradients to remain reasonable, and to keep out of the reach of high river flows during the winter months.
When looking at the plans it’s clear that this section would have been riddled with embankments, bridges over burns and cuttings to negotiate the ever changing ground levels around the proposed line. Look at the image below, could that be earthworks for a railway line above the telegraph pole???
As Broadford was to be home to the works for the system, but also cope with the storage of stock for the southern half of the system, Portree seems a logical place for the same services to be provided for the northern half. This would include storage of stock for the Dunvegan branch which diverts from the main route some 3 and a half miles north of the station site.
When leaving the station the line would climb at 1 in 34 for a short section to enable it to cross the road into Portree at a satisfactory level. In the image below the line would have emerged on the top of the bank on the right hand side, then come onto an embankment and crossed the road on a 20 foot wide, 15 foot high bridge. Once the road is crossed the line would pass behind the white house on the left hand side of the image.
In the area behind the road sign in the image above I did wonder if a branch would have been built to meet up with the harbour at Portree, but the steepness of it would have been prohibitive, having to drop some 245 feet in a distance of around three quarters of a mile. Plus to actually get to the quay on the opposite side of the headland would have meant following a rather torturous route through the town to the top of the cliffs, around the end of the headland or building a new quay on the side nearest the station. All of the above seemed too extravagant and were probably why it doesn’t feature in the proposals. It’s a shame though, as Portree harbour is very picturesque and would have made a great location for a layout.
Once across the A855, the route of the line passes through a small section of parkland, before crossing the present day site of an industrial estate containing the post office. It would have passed directly through the location of the trailer in the image below.
Following this the A87 is crossed yet again and the route continues into another area of moorland where no roads are present, and therefore no Streetview. The last view we can get before this happens is shown below. The HLR would have passed from right to left across the image. Through this section the line is climbing at 1 in 52 for almost a mile to a high point on the moorland where the height varies very little until the junction is reached.
Mid way along the next section we can get a view down into the glen where the HLR route is just the other side of the trees on the right hand side of the image. The line would pass from left to right, heading towards Skeabost junction.
The junction would have been located just to the far side of the road in the image below, with Railway 1 continuing towards Uig to the left, and Railway 2 curving towards the left hand corner of the image towards Dunvegan.