Station Name: STRATHPEFFER

[Source: Robert Clark


Date opened: 3 June 1885
Location: On the east side of A834 at end of a short approach road
Company on opening: Highland Railway
Date closed to passengers: 23 February 1946
Date closed completely: 26 March 1951
Company on closing: London Midland & Scottish Railway
Present state:

Building stands and is totally restored. The old building now serves as a cafe, and the Highland Childhood Museum, as well as a tourist office. The old telegraph office is now a book shop. Two small bridges at platform height cross the trackbed onto the site of the run-round loop, where picnic benches are located.

County: Ross & Cromarty
OS Grid Ref: NH486584
Date of visit: March 2013

Notes: Strathpeffer lies 4 miles west of Dingwall in the strath of the River Peffery. It owes its growth and popularity to the discovery of sulphurous springs there in the 1770s. With the strong support of the then Countess of Cromartie, the village developed as a Victorian spa resort.

As the spa facilities of Strathpeffer became better known, the need for improved transport links became apparent. In 1863 a proposal was made to build a railway line from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh via Strathpeffer. The promoters of the Kyle line, the Dingwall & Skye railway, were keen to maximise potential for their proposed new route. The spa town of Strathpeffer, which was popular with tourists even then, was an obvious traffic objective. However, William MacKenzie of Coul House objected to the line, which would have passed through his land for about four miles; an alternative route had to be found, on the outskirts of the town.

As a consequence, a station was provided at Achterneed level crossing, opening in 1870. It was called Strathpeffer, despite being two miles away. When the objecting landowner died, his son took over the land, and he dropped all objections to the line. However, the main line (which had to cross the Raven Rock, requiring a steep incline of 1 in 70) was already
in place, and it was too late to divert it. As a result, the Highland Railway, which had taken over the Dingwall & Skye, opened a branch line, which joined the main line at Fodderty Junction.

From 1885, the original Strathpeffer station was renamed Achterneed, after the level crossing. It closed on 7 December 1965, and no trace remains.

A substantial single storey building designed by Murdoch Peterson was provided for the branch terminus. It was of timber-clad construction and incorporated the booking office, waiting rooms, toilets, parcels office, and even a railway telegraph office which remained in use until at least 1895. The 12-bay building of painted weatherboarding on tooled rubble
footings has a single gabled canted bay off-centre in its north elevation. There is a continuous glazed gabled canopy with a fretted wooden cornice pruning the full length of the south (platform) elevation supported on 12 cast-iron columns with decorative cast-iron brackets. There are two-light windows in each elevation; multi-pane glazing; a corniced ridge and end stacks with a slate roof. There was a run-round loop to the south of the platform line, and just to the east of the station was the entrance to a goods yard with three sidings running behind the passenger platform.

One of these served a timber-faced goods shed with a hipped slate roof, and on the far side of the yard a siding served a cattle dock and pen. There was also a 1ton 10cwt yard crane. A signal box opposite the platform, opened with the line, controlled access to the yard; it was replaced with a ground frame on 27 September 1936 when the line was converted to 'Tyers Occupation Key' and was subsequently demolished; Fodderty Junction box closed on the same date. A water tank stood alongside the passing loop to the east of the signal box.

The opening of the new branch line further enhanced the popularity of the village. Many grand hotels and substantial Victorian villas were built to accommodate the steady stream of visitors who came to 'take the waters'. The railway station was very busy during the summer months, and in 1911 the Highland Railway Company built its own Highland Hotel. At Aviemore the weekly 'Strathpeffer Spa Express' connected with trains from the south and ran directly to the Spa, stopping only at Dingwall.

In December 1895 the HR operated seven trains each way over the five-mile long route from Dingwall. The journey time was ten minutes, with no intermediate stops. The first train reached Strathpeffer at 7.50 a.m. and the last at 5.42 p.m. The first departure for Dingwall was at 8.40 a.m. and the last at 8.10 p.m. In July 1922; six HR trains were operated each way. The
first train left Dingwall for Strathpeffer at 8.20 a.m. and the last at 6.15 p.m. In the other direction, the first train left Strathpeffer for Dingwall at 9.00 a.m. and the last at 6.35 pm.

The outbreak of World War I marked the beginning of the end for the spa and its railway line. As the popularity of the spa water began to wane, so did the fortunes of the branch. It was served only by a shuttle to Dingwall, where passengers had to change to other trains to reach Inverness. The Highland Railway was absorbed into the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMSR) on 1 January 1923. During LMS days a pitched roof was put over the platform at the east end of the station building, and at right angles to it, creating a covered loading area that projected out into the station forecourt.

The frequency of the branch line passenger train service was reduced by the LMSR during World War II, and in October 1942 four trains were operated in each direction. The first Strathpeffer train left Dingwall at 7.53 a.m. and the last at 4.00 p.m. The first train to Dingwall left Strathpeffer at 8.30 a.m. and the last left at 4.30 p.m. Later during the war the service was reduced to one train a week. This infrequent service continued after the war so it came as no surprise when the LMS closed the branch to passengers on 23 February 1946. Goods facilities survived into nationalisation, the goods yard (now built upon), closing 26 March 1951, just three years after nationalisation; the track was lifted the following year.

It is also worth recording that the failure to obtain approval, initially, to build the main line through Strathpeffer proved very costly indeed for the Dingwall and Skye Railway company. The costs of the diversion, over Raven Rock were enormous, and several shareholders in the spa town pulled out because the line was not passing through the town after
all, despite it being no fault of the railway company. As a result the DSR ran out of money upon reaching Stromferry, and it was only after the DSR was taken over by the Highland Railway that the Kyle extension was built, the HR having the bigger financial resources to construct the remaining line to Kyle of Lochalsh.

After standing empty for a number of years Strathpeffer station was restored in 1979 and is now home to the Highland Museum of Childhood, a café and a bookshop. The oldest part of the station is to the west. During the 1920s-30s, John Menzies had a bookstall at the station, built against the west wall and with a sloping display area. It sold cigarettes, tobacco, chocolates, sweets, papers (some of which were regular orders for the nearby properties), magazines and books. In the 1950s and ‘60s there was a coal merchants (K Maciver & Co) on the premises, and Bob Knox had an upholstery business in the old station building. The middle section of the station, currently housing the bookshop, was constructed in LMS days. The 2010 extension to the Museum of Childhood lies to the east. The museum is open from April to October and can be opened for groups at other times by arrangement. In addition, the old run-round loop has been filled in with soil, though curiously, the trackbed on the platform side has not. With the closure of Achterneed and Strathpeffer, the lasting irony is that, to this day, the Kyle line still does not serve the largest centre of population west of Dingwall.

The Strathpeffer Spa Railway Association has an ambitious £2.5million plan to bring the age of steam back to Strathpeffer by laying a track and buying an engine to restore the old railway in Strathpeffer as a heritage line.

A handful of aspiring local people is behind the proposal to reopen the rail line at Strathpeffer with the dream that it could ultimately result in steam trains running from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh. The Strathpeffer Spa Railway Association has detailed the plans for Stage One of the project which would involve re-laying a mile of track on the existing rail bed,
building an engine shed with an educational museum, and acquiring an engine and carriage.

Taking inspiration from the steam railway in Strathspey, it hopes the project will turn into a major visitor attraction and benefit the whole community - but its members are aware they have a huge fund-raising task ahead. The association is aiming to lodge an application for planning permission during 2013. The first stage of the project will cost approximately £2.5million, including the estimated £135,000 price of an engine. It is believed there is adequate room at the restored Strathpeffer station for a ticket office. The association eventually hopes to extend the track in stages until it meets up with the main line to enable steam trains to run to Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh.

Tickets from Michael Stewart. Route map drawn by Alan Young. Bradshaw from Chris Hind.

Additional sources: Am baile Highland History and Culture web site, Canmore web site, Highland Historic Environmental Record, Historic Scotland web site & Strathpeffer village web site.


Strathpeffer station and goods yard before September 1909. The signal box closed in 1936 and was subsequently demolished. The three goods sidings are seen. The cattle dock is just visible to the right of the signal post; the goods shed is out of view behind the signal box.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


1906 1:2,500 OS map. In the goods yard the northern siding passes a long building of unknown use before terminating alongside the cattle dock with a small pen. The weigh office is seen to the left of the cattle dock. The signal box and water tank are shown to the south of the run round loop.

Strathpeffer station, looking east in 1913, as a shuttle service arrives from Dingwall. The train has stopped short of the canopy to allow the locomotive to uncouple and run round its coaches on the loop to the right. The short platform on the right could have been used as an additional goods dock.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection


14398 is seen running round its coaches (behind the photographer) at Strathpeffer station c1920s. This loco entered Highland Railway service as No.2 in July 1898. A design by Peter Drummond, this class of 20 locos became collectively known as 'Small Bens'. Named 'Ben Alder', it was one of ten that lasted into BR service in 1948 and received the number 54398. It lasted until withdrawal in 1953 and was stored at various locations pending a decision on preservation but was, sadly, cut up in 1966.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Strathpeffer station in 1928. 16118, one of a class of three locos designed by William Stroudley. Built in 1869 at the Highland Railway's Lochgorm works in Inverness, they became known as 'Lochgorm Tanks' and this loco carried the number 56 when first built and the name 'Balanin', and later 'Dornoch' . All three passed to the LMS in 1923 when they lost their names and are widely believed to be the basis of the LBSCR Terrier design that Stroudley produced later in his career. This loco and sister No.16383 were broken up in 1927, although the third lasted until 1932.
Photo from John Mann collection
Strathpeffer station c1930s. When the train arrived it stopped short of the canopy to allow the loco to uncouple and run onto the loop where it reversed and re-coupled to its coaches. It then propelled them under the canopy to await departure. The goods shed is seen on the right.
Photo from John Mann collection

A mixed train awaiting departure from Strathpeffer station in 1937.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Strathpeffer branch terminus in LMS days.
Photo from John Mann collection

Strathpeffer station looking east in April 1972.
Photo by John Mann

Strathpeffer station in April 1972, twenty years after the track was lifted.
Photo by John Mann

Strathpeffer station forecourt in 1977; the goods shed is seen in the distance.
Photo by John Hume

Strathpeffer station during restoration in July 1979.
Photo by John Woods

Strathpeffer station looking west in April 1985, five years after restoration.
Photo by Alan Young

Strathpeffer station looking towards the buffers in September 2011. The picture shows the three phases of construction. The original station building is behind the canopy. The building at the end of the canopy,which now houses the bookshop, was added in LMS days and comprised an open covered loading area between the platform and the station forecourt, with doors into the east end of the station building and into a new room opposite. The building closest to the camera on the right was built in 2010 as an extension to the Museum of Childhood.
Photo by Keith Long from his Flickr photostream

Looking east along Strathpeffer station platform in March 2013
Photo by Robert Clark

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[Source: Robert Clark




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