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

The Highland Railway Society

In order that we could reflect the wider interests in the Far North Line we invited Keith Fenwick, Editor of the Highland Railway Society to describe the activities of their Society.

Throughout the country, there are a large number of railway societies catering for all interests. Some, like the Stephenson Locomotive Society, are long established, but others come and go. Some societies cater for the general enthusiast, usually with the emphasis on locomotive matters, while others cater for particular topics, such as signalling. Some societies cater for modelling interests, while others don't want to know anyone who deals in less than 12 inches to the foot.

The history of our railways is complex, involving initially a large number of companies set up as the railway system developed. Mergers in the 1850s and 1860s established a pattern of ownership which survived until just after the First World War, when all these companies were grouped into four larger ones. These in turn disappeared on nationalisation in 1948.

Anyone interested in the history of railways therefore has as a starting point to base his study on the pre-grouping companies, so therefore even today, it is societies which are devoted to individual companies that are important.

This may make such activities sound very academic, but in practice people's interests vary. Some just want to know more about the railway in their locality. Others, and this particularly applies to the Highland area, form an attachment to a railway they have seen when on holiday. So a society catering for a reasonably homogeneous area can be very popular.

In the case of the lines north of Perth and Inverness, they were owned by the Highland Railway. It was formed in 1865 by the amalgamation of two companies, one of which had built the line eastward to Keith and the other the line over the hills to Perth. The Highland set about promoting either directly or by giving support to local interests, the construction of the Far North and Kyle lines. The Highland became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923.

The Highland Railway Society was formed in 1987 and now has over 300 members. It caters for all those interested in the varied aspects of the railway, including its predecessors and its successors to the present day. Many members are modellers, while others are interested in particular periods. But all share a common interest in what was, particularly at this distance and when sitting in a comfortable armchair, a romantic railway.

A quarterly Journal is published giving a wide variety of articles and information. This also serves for the exchange of information between those seeking and those possessing the relevant knowledge. A series of Occasional Papers enables specific topics to be covered in detail.

Meetings are held regularly in both Scotland and England. An Annual Convention is held each September and includes a full day of talks, films, etc., as well as an opportunity to meet fellow members.

The Society has Library, Photographic and Drawing collections which are enhanced regularly and are available to members. Copies of drawings are available for purchase by members. A collection of small artefacts is also being built up and hopefully some of these will be on display at the museum in Kyle station in the summer of 2001.

We cater for modellers by the supply of specially commissioned modelling components such as axle boxes, buffers and springs and we have produced a couple of wagon kits. A comprehensive set of transfers is available to enable any Highland loco to be named. We also keep track of what is available commercially and try to make new models available.

It is surprising how many books are published which are of interest to the Highland enthusiast, and these are reviewed in the Journal. The Society has published a couple of books, items which commercial publishers would not be interested in.

More information about the Society can be obtained at our web site Following what is happening today is, of course, included in our activities. This is, after all, the history of tomorrow. What was recorded in the earlier issues of our Journal is already a useful source of history. We are always interested to learn of developments in the Far North and wish the Friends every success in developing their line. Hopefully the effects of Gauge Corner Cracking were a bit less than on other parts of the railway network!

Keith Fenwick