A little known fact of the area is that a railway was planned between Cromarty and Dingwall that would have resulted in a station being provided for Culbokie. The proposed location of the station would have been that well-known spot frequented by many dog-walkers who exit and enter the Oakwood from the lane leading down to Findon Mains.
On Thursday 1st February 1894 the long-awaited and planned-for railway line from Muir of Ord to Fortrose was opened for traffic and everyone on the Black Isle began to appreciate the usefulness of that line. Journey times to and from Inverness were reduced, there was no need for the reliance on ferries to cross the Moray Firth and there were possibilities for businesses and tourism. The residents of Cromarty having long been thwarted in their attempts to have the Muir of Ord to Fortrose line extended along with businesses on the north side began to watch developments and began to make use of the facilities. Companies such as James Dingwall, Culbokie starting to ship in coal to the various stations for further movement across the Black Isle. Here locals recognised that given the poor condition of the roads and the need to use the ferry at Alcaig the movement of materials, livestock and people would be greatly improved by having their own Line which would allow standards to improve.
The passing of the Light Railway Act of 1896 by Parliament opened up a significant number of proposals for railway schemes throughout the Country due to the reduced standards required for materials, design and operation which meant that the cost per mile of construction and operation were significantly reduced.
Planning for the Cromarty to Dingwall Light Railway commenced in 1896 but powers for the construction were only granted in Parliament by Provisional Order in August 1902. The Scottish Highlander for 23 January 1896 reported on an enthusiastic meeting held in the Victoria Hall, Cromarty.
Construction commenced in Cromarty with earthworks, landscaping, forestry, fencing and bridges preceding the laying of track all of which was assisted by a locomotive that had been transported behind two traction engines from Muir of Ord station. Many materials would have been brought in by ferries to the local jetties.
Major discussions took place in the early days as to where the line would join the Highland Main Line. The original intention was to go to Dingwall via a bridge from Alcaig over the River Conon, but this was deemed to be an expensive luxury and the line was designed to run through to Conon.
Culbokie station was to be one of four, each provided with a short siding and loading bank, passenger facility and Station Agent's house, the others being at Alcaig, Drumcudden and Newhall.
The official Engineers' Drawings do not show the location of the stations, a practice that was common in those days so it would be intriguing to discover where the map-makers found their information. However, it would have seemed a more obvious position for the station would have been at the level crossing to be situated on the Balmeanach linking the centre of the village with the Quarry and the jetty.
The start of World War 1 brought construction to a halt and all materials, both laid and in stock, were removed and sent away to support the war effort. Not only would this hamper the opportunity to progress the Line but the demands made on the local population to help build local military installations such as those on the Sutors meant that the Engineers were hard pushed to attract suitable remaining manpower. However, not all materials were officially removed. Sleepers unloaded and abandoned at the quayside at Findon gradually found their way to the various crofts in the area.
By the end of the war the situation had changed dramatically both in terms of finance required due to rising costs and the availability of materials so that construction failed to recommence. Also by this time roads had been improved resulting in better bus services and more delivery lorries, (some possibly war-surplus), which were much more flexible in making deliveries. By 1926 it was recognised that there was no future for the Line and the Company was wound up and a final dividend paid to subscribers.
In the immediate vicinity of Culbokie there is no known recorded physical evidence but cross-referencing older OS and Bartholomew's maps with the landscape, especially forest/wood boundaries and field dividing fence lines it is possible to locate the alignment. The aforementioned Oakwood is a case in point with its boundary with its neighbouring field being the proposed track bed.
Because of the contours of the landscape it isn't until you reach beyond Broomton Wood heading east that by looking down the field you can identify the alignment as being along the fence line dividing the field.
A very useful source of information is the book written by Eric Malcolm in which he claims that an iron fence post by the side of the road leading to Toberchurn was the most westerly evidence of the railway. However a chance discovery in Broomton Wood of four metal fence posts marking the position of an ungated level crossing is now the closest to Culbokie of physical evidence.
Perhaps a word of explanation is needed here. The railway was to be constructed and operated as a Light Railway which meant that conditions need not be as stringent as a normal railway regarding the materials used, the speed of the locomotive, the signalling etc. and whilst it wasn't necessary to fence off the line, in this case it was planned for. However for farm tracks that crossed the railway, as in the case of Broomton wood, there was no need for gates to shut the road on the approach of a train, so therefore only fence posts were required to support the fence wires. Having reached Broomton Wood and with war about to break out, the forward planning would have recognised that the ravine of the Findon Burn at Findon Cottage was going to be a major project and further preparation was not proceeded with.
The Bartholomew map of 1932 shows the alignment of the track and the proposed stations but by 1934 the same issue of map had had the track removed. The latest OS Explorer map of the Black Isle shows no signs of "line of old railway" whereas previous editions and versions would have done so.
"The Cromarty & Dingwall Light Railway" by Eric Malcolm, A Cromarty Courthouse Publication
"The Highland Railway" H.A.Vallance Pan Books, David & Charles Series.
"The Black Isle Railway" Jack Kernanhan, The Highland Railway Society
Original Engineering Drawings
Bartholomew map of 1932
Memories of local residents shared with Alasdair Cameron, Wellhouse.
This article was written by Roger Piercy, long-time Editor of FNE, for the website of the Culbokie Community Trust.
Culbokie is a village near the edge of the peninsula known as the Black Isle, about one mile from the A9 and twelve miles north of Inverness.
The Trust was formed to help guide the development of the village and it was felt that a history of the Community would be of interest to a greatly enlarged population.
Eventually a simple leaflet will be created to guide readers to the website where the various Chapters are available. The on-line access was seen to be beneficial to give the ability to make rapid changes as new or revised material becomes available. The chapters can be accessed through the 'History of Culbokie' tab on the website www.culbokiect.org . The article therefore concentrates on the railway as it would have passed through Culbokie on its way from Conon on the Far North Line to a terminus at Cromarty.