Happy Birthday…

… to the blog!

This site is one year old today.  In the past year I’ve gone from having just been to the National Archives at Kew and uncovered the plans of the Hebridean Light Railway, to having drawn up a trackplan to fit on one of the proposed termini locations, and working up to the stage I’m at now where the baseboards are built and most of the track down and working.

In the last year this site has had nearly 9,500 views which is far more than I ever anticipated this time last year, and it’s very gratifying to know that people are interested, thanks!  Many people seem to find this site by googling for historic information related to Skye, or other railways in Scotland.  This historic aspect of the layout is the real subject of this blog post…

Recently Inverness County Council library service have been helping me with finding some historic newspaper articles relating to light railway proposals in Scotland, particularly those on the Isle of Skye.  There are a series of letters to and fro between two people that were published in the Scottish Highlander relating to the HLR, and the one shown below which is relating to the plans for a line on Skye which was to be built by the Highland Railway.  This never came off as the HR’s manager at the time, Andrew Steel, didn’t approve of it despite having surveyed a route and looked into things like a wagon ferry for crossing the water between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin.  This leads me to believe that although being a ‘light railway’ this proposal by the HR would have been standard gauge, and therefore much more expensive to construct than the narrow gauge proposal made by the HLR.

Scottish Highlander, 6th May 1897

I have yet to obtain the copyright permissions to reproduce the letters relating to the HLR proposal, when/if I do so I’ll share them on the site.

The summary of what I’ve learnt from all the letters is listed below:

  • The Light Railway Committee would have been surprised to see the scale of the HLR proposal, but would likely have supported it as it passed through all the areas it’s board members wanted to see a railway constructed through/to.
  • The Committee had been petitioning for a railway on Skye since the 1870s.
  • The influential local landowners and families on Skye were supportive of the scheme.
  • Residents of Kyleakin were not supportive of it as the line as the nearest it got to Kyleakin was 7 miles away.  They were expected to contribute to the funding of the scheme.
  • Government aid was to be sought as well as a levy of 1.5d per £ from residents.
  • Traffic would have mainly consisted of general crofting supplies, passenger traffic and lots of fish.
  • Waternish and Kilmuir would have had piers constructed, and would therefore have been candidates for stations.

I have yet to find any information on why the scheme was not progressed, but this quote from Mr. A. Mackenzie within minutes of a meeting of ratepayers on the 12th April 1897 sums up one potential reason:

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