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

Book Review


This book is the second of a new series, which the publishers claim will be a range of modestly priced (my italics) but of high quality definitive books. These will address the traditional British historical railway story in a distinctively themed manner. The theme in this instance being the HIGHLAND RAILWAY in LMS days, covering the period 1923-47. The author has approached this aim with a text divided into chapters that are devoted to; The pre-LMS history of the HIGHLAND RAILWAY; The geography of the HIGHLAND lines; The Main line workings; The Branch line workings and Locomotives and Rolling stock respectively. Each chapter is interspersed with numerous photographs accompanied by excellent descriptive captions to illustrate the particular theme being discussed. By use of good quality heavy paper the publishers have succeeded in the reproduction of first-class, crisp and clear photographs and as the author states many are previously unpublished. There is in addition a particularly fine map of the HIGHLAND lines in LMS days on the rear cover, one of the best ever encountered by this reviewer.

Considering each chapter in detail, in Chapter 1, the author gives a concise history of the HIGHLAND RAILWAY from its conception to the year of the Grouping, 1923 but in this reviewer's opinion does not give due emphasis to the politics involved in the creation of this railway and the intense and continued rivalry between the Inverness based promoters and their Aberdeen based rivals (the GNSR). The vital factor being a direct rail connection south from Inverness to Perth. Again in Chapter 2, The Geography of the HIGHLAND lines, the author maintains that the economic potential and the geology of the HIGHLANDS are the principal factors influencing the development of any railway in this area. In fact the Inverness promoters were determined, come what may, to have their own railway south regardless of the economics and they had the genius of their civil engineer, Joseph Mitchell, overcome the geological restrictions and as we subsequently read they eventually succeeded, in spite of an initial victory by the GNSR group. In Chapters 3 and 4, The Main and Branch lines workings, these are most competently described and discussed and the author brings out the manner in which the LMS dealt with the heterogeneous collection of locomotives and rolling stock it inherited in 1923 and in so using them kept the HIGHLAND alive and in relatively good economic health. The selection of photographs that accompany these chapters reflect the LMS period well. Outstanding examples portraying the essence of rail travel in the 30s are shown on page 15 Golspie, page 49 Achnashellach and pages 56&57 Kyle of Lochalsh. This reviewer must congratulate the author's ability and expertise in naming the individual carriage types contained in the many train compositions. In Chapter 5, we see the great variety of locomotive power still operating during the LMS period. There are fewer photographs of rolling stock due, as the author explains, to the bias of railway photographers towards locomotives. From a modeller's point of view, it would have been appreciated if close-up photographs of the various dining-car coaches could have been included here. In summary then, this book follows the survival of HIGHLAND locomotives and rolling stock throughout the LMS period with minor references to stock of the other Scottish and English companies outwith the HIGHLAND.

There is one minor error on page 19. If you were an English traveller heading to the wild north, on reaching Fochabers you will have had your TAY and encountered the SPEY river. Also the failure to include an index is a serious fault in this reviewer's opinion.

To whom would this book appeal? Not to the modeller seeking outline drawings of HIGHLAND stock but it would be helpful to those wishing to create an LMS-HIGHLAND scene using the photographs and the various working time-tables included in this book. To a devotee of the HIGHLAND, however, or to the interested newcomer to the HIGHLAND history this book will be a "must". The price of £15.00 for a soft-back book may seem far from a modest sum, However, when one considers that there are 140 photographs included in this volume, this would work out at approximately 10p per photograph!. So perhaps it is not too expensive after all.

There is one sad disappointment for this reviewer and that is the failure to include a photograph of NAIRN STATION with its distinctive architecture and unique ¼-mile long platforms in this book. But then, perhaps, I am prejudiced.


It is with great sadness that I have just received news of David Jenkinson's death after completion of this review. Under these circumstances, I feel sure that this book will serve as a fitting memorial to a distinguished railway historian and an outstanding modeller.
Thomas L. Coombs
Nairn 14th May 2004