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

Highland Railway Loops

With our increasing interest in the desirability of re-opening former loops I thought you would be interested in the following text extracted from The Railway Magazine January 1966 written by Ian Scrimgeour.

"With its lengthy main lines and sparsely-populated terrain, the Highland Railway was the main user of crossing places between stations in Scotland.

"At stations, the Highland Railway had longer crossing loops than the other Scottish lines, and it was usually necessary to operate the points at one end of the loop from a ground frame interlocked with the main frame. This caused some delay when trains had to cross, and at Slochd, during the Highland Railway era, there was a box at each end of the loop, although both tablet instruments were in the south box, the subsidiary box at the north end being operated by an assitant signalman. However, Slochd was rather an exception in that it was a detaching point for pilot engines in both directions, so that more lever movements were needed. The writer remembers a wartime crossing at Slochd when both the up and the down train detached their pilots, the whole process taking some time, because the two boxes were then worked by one man. In more recent years, and until its closure in 1963, Slochd Crossing was worked from a centrally-situated box, which was, in fact, the former signalbox at Millburn Junction, Inverness, transported from its previous site to the summit.

"The line from Inverness to the Far North had two inter-station crossing loops, both of which could be "switched-out". The loop at Foulis went out of use soon after the end of the second world war, but that at Acheilidh, three miles north of Lairg, was not closed until 1951. Foulis could hardly rank as a typical example of such a crossing loops, because it was only a short distance south of the station. It was opened in 1916, to handle heavy wartime traffic and, true to its tradition of economy, the Highland Railway moved the timber signalbox from another site , at which it had become redundant. Originally, the box had been provided, in 1902, for the intermediate crossing loop at Bruichnain, between Clachnaharry and Buncrew. This loop became part of the six-mile section of double track from Clachnaharry to Clunes, opened in 1914.

"The Highland crossing places were of more or less standard pattern, with the usual timber signalbox ("cabin" in H. R. terminology) and an adjacent row of stone cottages for the railway staff. Arrangements were made for a train to call weekly in each direction to convey the families to the nearest town for shopping purposes, and the children were likewise taken to and from school. These stops were detailed in the working timetables. Special trians were run several times yearly to deliver coal, oil and other heavy stores, these being detailed in the weekly notices. Oil was indeed an essential commodity because it provided the only source of light for the signalbox and the cottages, as well as the signal lamps. At all Scottish crossings, before the days of long-burning lamps in the signals, the daily maintenance of the lamps provided considerable work for the signalmen. The Highland Railway was alone in having a type of windlass by which the lamp was lowered to ground level.