The 'Early 2023' edition of the Highland Railway Society's (HRS) excellent journal contained a fascinating section to mark the centenary of 'The Grouping', when most of the railway companies in mainland Britain were merged into one of four new companies, as laid down in the Railways Act 1921. The comparatively small railway companies had suffered greatly from the requisitioning of the railways to support the WWI war effort under state control, which lasted until 1921. On 1st January 1923 the Highland Railway, along with its southern neighbours, the Caledonian Railway and the Glasgow & South Western Railway, were absorbed into the London Midland & Scottish Railway, whose headquarters were in London.
Many at the time, whilst lamenting the passing of the Highland Railway, saw this as an opportunity for Highland tourism with the advertising reach down south of the new large company being able to far exceed anything the HR could have afforded. There was also much optimism for a better railway in the future with the greater resources which would be at the disposal of the new large companies. These companies were unfortunately destined for the same wartime fate less than 17 years in the future, which would result in railway nationalisation in 1948. A flavour of the optimism felt at the time can be found in this newspaper extract unearthed by HRS:
Aberdeen Press & Journal, 26 January 1923
With the new railway groups, air is full of new electrified schemes which are being mapped out in the engineers' departments.
Proposals now under consideration foreshadow a vast network of electric railways between London and the south coast, the Midlands and Manchester, and York and Newcastle. Scotland is not left out of account, and already there is talk of electrifying the Highland Railway, that Communication between the south and Inverness and the North of Scotland can be improved.
Details of numerous schemes have been given by the railway managers to the Government as a result of their interview with the Prime Minister a few weeks ago.
It's easy to imagine what the visionary railway engineers who talked of electrifying the Highland Main Line would have said if someone had told them that 100 years would pass and the line would still not be electrified. Politicians often speak proudly of Britain in terms of "world class", or even "world leading", one has to wonder how they can justify such sentiments.
If your desire to see the Far North Line improved has piqued your interest in the history of the line, and the other Highland Railway routes, you couldn't do better than to join the Highland Railway Society. Formed in 1987, its own description tells you everything you need to know:
"The aims of the Highland Railway Society are to support and assist all with an interest in the Highland, be they historical researchers, modellers or simply lovers of the railway. All periods are covered, right up to the present day.
"The Highland Railway Journal is published four times a year and contains a broad and fascinating mix of historical articles, drawings, reminiscences, model features, news from the line and letters."