scotland (4K)
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 operator



Three recent books displaying the photographic talents of the late Keith Pirt have been published in the last two years and contain many interesting shots of Inverness and the Far North Line as well as elsewhere in the Highlands and the rest of Scotland.

"Steam colour portfolio. Scottish Region Volumes 1 and 2" and "Steam memories 1950s and 1960s: Scottish lines 1" were all published by Book Law Publications of Nottingham in 2007, 2008 and 2008 respectively. The last is a black and white paperback costing £9.99 and the two oblong format colour albums cost £19.99 each.

The colour prints are all of really top quality and the Inverness ones were taken in the July of that glorious summer of 1959, notable for its good weather and for being the last summer when steam reigned supreme. Subjects include the superb signal gantry at Welsh's Bridge with Black Fives and a K2 pilot, the Doric Arch water portal at Inverness shed, the line of stored Caley engines in front of the coaling stage and a northbound goods train crossing the old Waterloo Bridge over the harbour.

Also in Volume One are pictures of two Cale 0-4-4T pilots in the carriage sidings and no 55236 again on the harbour bridge. Volume 2 has two Black Fives coming in to Inverness over the Waterloo Bridge on the up Mail from Wick. This is the bridge which was swept away in 1989. 4-4-0 no 54471 is pictured beside the shed water tower and 0-6-0T no 56341 on the shed turntable. Scenic shots at Kyle and on the West Highland Lines abound in both volumes.

Although the Steam Memories volume is in black and white, 27 of the 72 pages comprehensively cover Inverness and the Far North Line. There is a superb double page elevated panorama of the shed from round house to coaling stage and carriage sidings all in such detail that you can almost share the liquid refreshment being enjoyed by the two men sitting outside the bothy in the sunshine.

These photographs were all taken in 1955, another exceptional summer. We are thus able to see the last surviving Highland Railway locomotives no 55051 at Dornoch and at The Mound and no 55053 on Inverness shed having just arrived back from its last overhaul at St Rollox on 7 July. There are four photographs at Dingwall and we also see the sheds at Tain, Helmsdale, Wick and Thurso, the latter reputably having an immaculately whitewashed interior!

Another effective double spread is a timeless photo of Georgemas Junction with a long train of cattle trucks in the bay, mailbags on the platform and the Thurso branch train ready to depart headed by Cale 0-4-4T no 55236. There is a photo taken from the train of Borrobol Platform with its tiny waiting shelter and two-way signal post.

These volumes are pure nostalgia but also a very valuable record of railway infrastructure much of which has since been swept away. They are all highly recommended.


This is a very valuable social and historical document telling "the story of the beginning and end of a Highland branch line." It has been published by the Historylinks Museum in Dornoch and costs £19.95 by post (or £14.95 over the counter) for a 90 minute DVD.

The line was opened in 1902 and closed in 1960. The DVD is narrated by Jimmy Melville who was boy porter at Dornoch from 1958 to 1960. It is amazing that so much film is available, but there is sufficient for a 33 minute sequence on the history from building to closing. This is followed by a valuable 18 minutes of memories from people associated with the line and then a 23 minute aerial sequence covering the traces of the line today filmed in both directions from a microlight aircraft.

Extras include a feature on the Duke of Sutherland's own locomotive, Dunrobin, now based in Canada and a 1951 Festival of Britain film on the County of Sutherland. There is also a document archive of .pdf files accessible by computer. All together, the film of the line's last few years, the valuable memories and the innovative microlight coverage give a comprehensive coverage of this unusual transport artery made possible by the Light Railways Act of 1896. It is highly recommended.

Richard Ardern