The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of
Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight
Car park provides clue to city's railway heritage - Part 2
Railway historian Thomas Coombs recalls a chapter in the history of Highland transport that lies a few inches below the feet of busy shoppers in the centre of Inverness.
In May 1999, with planning consent finally having been granted for the development of a Safeway Supermarket, demolition of the auction mart buildings and site preparation were begun. As part of fulfilling the planning consent, an archaeological evaluation of the site was carried out by the Centre of Field Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. The summary of their results states:
"Of the eleven trenches excavated only three (trenches 5,6 and 9) had no substantive evidence of the former locomotive depot. These showed no evidence of any earlier activity. The remaining eight (trenches 1-4, 7, 8,10 and 11) all contained various components of rail track, the roundhouse and turning pit, water tower and coaling stage associated with the locomotive depot. Several finds were recovered from the evaluation which included cast-iron building material, copper alloy and rusted iron modern artefacts and related industrial waste were also found." The most exciting discovery was the uncovering of the turntable pit and a very rusted central axle bush. The pit was still in excellent condition and had merely been filled in with rubble and covered over after the demolition in 1963."
It had been hoped that this could have been left exposed or made into a plant bed or other horticultural feature of the supermarket car parking area and to act as a reminder of the history of the site, but this has not come about. Only a circle of granite setts at the south-eastern side of the car park mark the position for the former turntable.
It is perhaps to be regretted that there was not in 1963 a forward-thinking local authority that could visualize the potential for a Railway Heritage Centre based on the former Roundhouse and thus give Inverness, and indeed Scotland, a unique tourist attraction.