Thoughts from FoFNL member and Culrain resident Michael Keates
Although the line passing Culrain is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the station itself was not opened until 1871. My own use of the station goes back just 20 years. Then, there were 3 trains on a weekday in each direction; now there are four. In particular since the inception of Invernet, it is now possible to commute to Inverness and be there well before 9:00. There are two regrets. The southbound train that passes through Culrain around 9:00 no longer stops there and the 17:12 from Inverness terminates at Ardgay instead of continuing to Lairg. So, some of my journeys to Dingwall or Inverness have to be made from Ardgay rather than Culrain.
Then, the station was well used both by hostellers from Carbisdale Castle youth hostel and by the inhabitants of Culrain. We were sometimes entertained by Japanese hostellers dancing because of the midges! In those days I was seldom the only person catching the train. Now the castle is in private hands so the hostellers are no more and, sadly, many of the people from Culrain that used to take the train have passed on. (The midges, alas, are still with us.) As a result, when I now go to catch a train there, I am usually the only person waiting.
In the early days (my early days), some trains automatically stopped at Culrain whilst others stopped only on request. My late partner Iain was, on one occasion, returning from a trip to Tain when the train forgot to stop. By the time Iain found the conductor and the conductor had spoken to the driver, the train was half way over the Shin Viaduct [a.k.a. Oykel Viaduct]. However the train was then reversed back into the station so that Iain could get off. I was lucky and never got carried past my stop, but I know of several others who were carried on to Invershin or, one occasion, as far as Lairg. Now trains stop at Culrain only if a request has been made. This is working much better because the scope for confusion both by passengers and by train staff has been removed.
Over the last two years. I have made nine return trips from Culrain to Berwick. The weak link in this journey is very definitely the Highland Main Line between Inverness and Perth with trains crowded and prone to delay. Twice the delays have been so great that I have been able to claim a total refund of the open return fare of over £90.