Monthly Archives: January 2019

Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52 & 1 Samuel 2: 18-20, 26)

I’ve discovered that as I’ve got older it has become easier to forget where I’ve put things. It’s actually quite worring.

Keys – losing my house keys would be a nightmare. But some of you will know that I have left church keys in all sorts of places in the last few years, fortunately without dire consequences as yet.

Notes for my sermon – imagine getting to church just before the service and discovering you’ve left your notes at home. I have managed it at least once recently and had to adlib the sermon. Some might say, why, couldn’t we have just got on with the service without a sermon?

Jo – I do know my wife’s name, I promise you but I have caught myself calling her Gill on a number of occasions recently. Gill is my sister’s name.

I hope you can sympathise with me!

I wonder, have you ever searched for something only to find that it wasn’t really lost? You ransack the house looking for spectacles, only to find that they’re on your head. You turn out the drawer looking for the tin-opener, only to find that it was already on the work-top. You search down the sides of the cushions on the sofa for your car-keys, only to find them in your pocket.

Embarrassing, isn’t it! You want to hide! If you’re like me you’re tempted to make up a good story about how you found them, especially if you’ve involved other people in an unnecessary search!

Mary and Joseph search Jerusalem for three days thinking that Jesus is lost. When they finally track him down in the temple they find that he isn=t lost at all. Jesus says very calmly, “Why were you searching for me?”

Jesus has recognised his identity as God’s son: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Just like Samuel in the Old Testament reading above, Jesus was at home, most at home in God’s house. He was not lost at all.

This visit of Jesus to the temple at twelve years of age – perhaps his bar-mitzfer – is like a homecoming. He’s in his Father’s house. For him, a theological principle has become an intimate, personal experience. The Jews believed in the divine fatherhood of God. For Jesus this was not just theory, it was a lived out experience – time and again throughout the Gospels we are reminded that he knew God as his Father. In the Temple, Jesus was at home.

You might know this quotation from a prayer of St. Augustine: “Lord, you have made us and our hearts are restless until they find their resting place in you.”

Jesus experienced a homecoming in his visit to the temple. We can similarly experience a homecoming – finding our resting place in Christ. Jesus says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Many people spend their lives searching for something – not sure exactly what it is they’re looking for. It is the Bible’s claim, not just St. Augustine’s, that we find ourselves when we find God – that our searching ceases when we find our rest in God.

For Christians that sense of belonging, of being at home, is embodied in the Eucharist. At God’s table, we are welcomed without condemnation, without question. As we take the bread and as we take the wine, we are at home, sharing in fellowship with the God who made us, is with us, and thinks the world of us. We’re not lost – we’re at home.

The Ballachulish Railway Line – Part 2

In Part 1 we covered much about the history of the line between Connel Ferry and Ballachulish. We start Part 2 with a few reminders of what was covered in Part 1 and provide some additional material from various sources before continuing our journey North along the branch.

Several sea lochs made road travel between Oban and Fort William difficult, and Argyll County Council had indicated that it would co-operate with the Callandar & Oban Railway (C&OR) if the railway were to build dual-use bridges; the C&OR was considering an ambitious railway from Oban to Inverness by way of Fort William. The C&OR decided to decline the idea, and to make the railway on its own, and to undertake the work it itself. The C&OR had difficulty in raising enough money for a survey of the proposed line, but undaunted, it presented a Parliamentary Bill for the line in September 1894, for the following year’s session. [1]

The C&OR made this move without consulting with its parent company, the Caledonian Railway (CR). When the CR heard of the plan, they announced that they would oppose the Bill in Parliament. The Bill was swiftly withdrawn. [1]

The C&OR converted their proposal into a branch line to Ballachulish from Connel Ferry. Ballachulish had a population of 1,800 at the time, and its industry was chiefly quarrying. The branch was authorised by Act of Parliament on 7 August 1896. [3] The C&OR line was to have a triangular junction a Connel Ferry, and to cross Loch Etive by Connel Bridge which was second in Britain only to the Forth Bridge in the length of the main span, and it was the largest single-span steel bridge in Britain. [5]. The route approved north of the bridge was later changed substantially, a hotel had been built at Loch Creran to serve a proposed station there; the hotel was never opened as the railway as built did not go there. The capital was to be £210,000 of which the Caledonian Railway agreed to fund £15,000. [5]

The Route North from Benderloch

In Part 1 of this survey we travelled as far North as Benderloch. We saw at Benderloch a station very typical of the branch line with buildings (now long-gone) which matched those at other stations on the line.

Leaving Benderloch the railway and the A828 ran closely parallel to each other with the railway running closest to the loch shore. This continued until the railway approached the location of Barcaldine House.The extract from the OS Map above shows the road turning inland at this point and crossing two rivers. The first is Death Abhainn, the second is Abhainn Teithil. The two rivers have over time created a small area of open land at the loch-side which the road avoided. The railway maintained a straighter route and was carried over each of the rivers on bridges.

Barcaldine Halt opened to passengers in 1914. It comprised a single platform on the east side of the line. A siding was installed at the same time, to the south of the platform. [9]Barcaldine Halt in 1950. [8]

Incidentally, a search for Barcaldine on the internet produces some very interesting information about railways and tramways in Queeensland, Australia. Something for another time!

Travelling on from Barcaldine, the A828 and the railway swapped places and the railway too a very slightly more inland trajectory and began to rise to a height which would allow it to cross the next loch – Loch Creran. The A828 was forced to take a detour to the East to follow the shore of the loch. The railway took the more direct route.It crossed the loch at the narrowest point on a high level, Howe Truss Girder bridge. When the railway closed, the bridge remained as a pedestrian/cycle route until its foundations were used to divert the A828.Creagan Bridge from the East, taken after closure of the railway line. [10]The new bridge. The picture was taken in 2008 by Jack Russell from a very similar location to the one above. As can be seen, the new bridge made use of the foundations and lower piers of the previous railway structure. [11]

Creagan Station was then approached from the EastEast, as the railway turned westward along the loch-side. The railway ran on the north side of the A828. Creagan Station was the only station on the Ballachulish branch that had an island platform. There was a siding to the east of the platform, on the north side of the railway.

One platform was taken out of use on 1 April 1927. [12]The station at Creagan when still in use. [8]An earlier image of the station, taken when both lines were in use. [8]

The island platform building at Creagan in the 21st century. [12]

The line continued West from Creagan through the Strath of Appin to Appin Station, by which time the  railway was beginning to turn to the North.

Appin Station was once again typical of the stations on the route. The station building was a substantial two story structure of the same design as elsewhere. The station was laid out with two platforms, one on either side of a crossing loop. There were sidings on both sides of the line. A camping coach was sited here for a number of years.Appin Station building. [8]Branch goods at Appin. [8]Two passenger trains pass at Appin. The camping coach is just visible on the right of the picture. [8]1920s view of Appin Station. [8]A similar view in the 1950s. [8]Appin Station Signal Box. [8]The service from Ballachulish in the later years of the line. [8]

Heading out of Appin Station towards Ballachulish, the line travels Northeast along the coastline. The A828 runs alongside the railway on the landward side all the way to Duror Station. The next two images below show Duror Station while it was still in use for its intended purpose. The signal box can be seen beyond the main station building.Duror Railway Station. [15]Duror Station after the closure of the loop. [16]

The station was laid out with two platforms, one on either side of a crossing loop. There was a siding to the north of the station, on the east side of the line. One platform was taken out of use on 8th April 1927 along with the crossing loop.

The station building at Duror is still standing and is a well-maintained private house. The pictures immediately below show the property taken from its access road. The station building remains almost intact, as do the platforms which lie within the garden of the private property. These are also shown below.Google Streetview Image.Another view of the station (c) Nigel Thompson. [17]The station platforms in the 21st century. [16]

The line turned East for a short distance beyond Duror Station, and then turned to the Northeast. Its route is shown on the 1940s OS Map below and as a dismantled railway on the later OS Map below. On that map, Duror Station site is marked with a yellow flag.

The route North-east from Duoro took trains through a narrow valley hidden away from Loch Linnhe which brought the line and the A828 down to Kentallen and Kentallen Bay. The village was at the head of the bay, its station some distance to the North-east. By the time the station was reached the railway was on the seaward side of the A828.The station was laid out with two platforms, one on either side of a crossing loop. Alongside the station was a pier from which interconnecting steamers operated. The main station building was on the southbound platform and still stands in much extended form. There was a goods yard at the north end, on the east side of the line. There was a smaller shelter on the northbound platform. The pier survives, in cut back form.

To the south of the station site, and across the road, are railway cottages and the former water tank.

Following closure in 1966, the station buildings were enlarged and converted into a hotel and restaurant.Holly Tree Hotel and Restaurant on the site of Kentallen Station in 2005. [18]The Hotel from above on the hillside. [19]July, 1959. Ex-Caledonian Railway 439 Class (LMSR Class 2P) 0-4-4T No. 55200 stands at Kentallen Station with an Oban to Ballachulish train, (c) Keith R. Pirt. [21]

A steam train at Kentallen shortly before the line closed in 1966. [20]Kentallen Station and Pier. [8]Kentallen Pier. [13]

We have noted that train times and ferry times were designed to allow connections to be made between the station and the pier at Kentallen. The two pictures above show the pier in use by ferries. The ferry timetable is shown below:The Oban to Fort William Ferry timetable. [13]

The ferry made travel between Oban and Fort William manageable with a significant road journey. The stop at Kentallen allowed a combined train and ferry journey to be made.

To finish this post and before moving on towards Ballachulish we look at a few period images of Kentallen Station.The station immediately after closure and before conversion to a hotel commenced. [13]

Pick-up goods heading south through Kentallen. [13]




The local passenger service heading south through Kentallen. [14]

I had originally expect that there would be just one post relating to the Ballachulish line but the material has been mounting up and I have now (January 2018) discovered an article from November 1950 in “The Railway Magazine” which means that a third post is warranted. We finish this part of the journey at Kentallen and will commence again from here to complete the journey to Ballachulish in part three of the story of the line.


  1., accessed on 1st January 2019.
  2., accessed on 1st January 2019
  3. E F Carter, An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Cassell, London, 1959
  4., accessed on 2nd January 2019.
  5. David Ross, The Caledonian: Scotland’s Imperial Railway: A History, Stenlake Publishing Limited, Catrine, 2014.
  6. R. V. J. Butt; The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1995, p23.
  7. Table 33, British Railways, Passenger Services Scotland summer 1962, quoted in, accessed on 1st January 2019.
  8., accessed on 26th December 2018.
  9., accessed on 2nd January 2019.
  10., accessed on 2nd January 2019.
  11., accessed on 2nd January 2019.
  12., accessed on 2nd January 2019.
  13., accessed on 5th January 2019.
  14., accessed on 5th January 2019.
  15., accessed on 3rd January 2019.
  16., accessed on 3rd January 2019.
  17., accessed on 3rd January 2019.
  18., accessed on 4th January 2019.
  19., accessed on 4th January 2019.
  20., accessed on 4th January 2019.
  21., accessed on 6th June 2019.


The Ballachulish Railway Line – Part 1

An old copy of Hornby Magazine fell open at a modelling idea – the creation of a model representing the Ballachulish line in Western Scotland. Having walked a length of this line in the past, the article grabbed my attention and prompted some research. [1]

Ballachulish Railway Station.[4]

Ballachulish is a village at the foot of Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands. Glencoe is a deep valley which forms the natural road route into this remote part of Scotland. During the Victorian era it’s transport links centred around a steamer connection with Fort William, about 15 miles North, and Oban, a little further in a southerly direction.

Despite its remote location, Ballachulish had extensive slate quarries and during the 1880s it was hoped that local interest would be served by a railway line from Crianlarich up Glencoe and on to Fort William. This was not to be. The Rannoch Moor route was chosen instead. Other lines, such as an Oban to Fort William Railway failed to materialise.

Instead, rather late in the day in 1896, a branch line was authorised from the Oban-Crainlarich line at Connel Ferry. It was hoped that this would meet a similar line from Fort William but, although powers were obtained, it was never built because of problems gaining permission for bridges across sea lochs. [1]


Ballachulish is a slightly confusing place. It’s not unusual to find places that come in two halves. But Ballachulish comes in two halves plus another, larger, settlement two miles along the road towards Glencoe.

The name comes from the Gaelic for village of the narrows, and the first settlement to bear the name lay where North Ballachulish is today. Its twin, on the south side of the loch, rapidly followed. Loch Leven narrows dramatically here and North and South Ballachulish grew up around the slipways used by ferries crossing the loch from a very early date. A vehicle ferry started to cross the narrows in 1912, but the service finally disappeared in 1975 when the bridge opened. With it disappeared the choice facing drivers of the sometimes long ferry queues at busy periods or the nineteen mile detour via Kinlochleven.

While the ferry has long gone, the slipways that served the ferry remain: though they are by no means opposite one another. The steel truss bridge that opened here in 1975 fits nicely into its environment. Indeed, it comes as something of a surprise to find it is such a relatively recent addition to this part of the Western Highlands.

South Ballachulish largely comprises the slipway and the nearby Ballachulish Hotel. Close to the steps leading down from the bridge to the Oban road near the hotel is a memorial to James Stewart, hanged here in 1752 for the Appin Murder. This was the killing of Colin Campbell, an event used as the basis for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped. Stewart’s execution was a result of the greatest miscarriage of justice in Scottish legal history. A number of the sites associated with the Appin Murder have been linked by the Last Clansman Trail.[2]

Ballachulish Bridge should not be confused with the Connel Ferry bridge closer to Oban.

North Ballachulish is a little more developed and is home to an art gallery, lochside hotel and the slipway for the old ferry.

The largest settlement carrying the name of Ballachulish lies on the south side of Loch Leven, a mile or so west of the village of Glencoe. This started life as the hamlets of East and West Laroch in the 1500s, names still attaching to parts of the village on detailed Ordnance Survey maps. In 1693, slate was first quarried here in the Ballachulish Slate Quarries (only a year after the Glencoe massacre took place nearby). By the early 1700s, this had developed into a major slate quarrying operation which continued for over 250 years until 1955, when the quarries closed. The name of Ballachulish simply seems to have attached itself to the larger village that grew out of the earlier settlements to house the 300 workers and their families.

The Ballachulish Medical Practice today stands on the site of the railway station that formed the terminus of a branch line railway running from Connel via Ballachulish Ferry. This opened in 1903 and closed in 1966. Ballachulish now has its own Visitor Centre, which comes complete with ample parking and public conveniences. Just across the road from the visitor centre are the old Ballachulish slate quarries, which now provide scenic walks. There’s no mistaking what they are, but in the half century since they closed, nature has made a start on the task of reclaiming what was once taken from it. The main settlement of Ballachulish is now largely bypassed by the A82, which passes along the Loch Leven side of the village. [2]

The Railway

Construction work on the line started in 1898 and was completed in 1903. This was one of the last branch lines to be built in the UK. [1] The following notes in italics are taken from an on-line article published on the website “Unseen Steam” on the 50th Anniversary of the closure of the line in March 2016. [5] Images used are credited where possible and taken from a variety of sources.

The authorised capital of the new line was £210,000, of which the Caledonian Railway agreed to fund £15,000. There were two major engineering structures required: the viaducts over Loch Etive and Loch Creran at Creagan. The former, constructed by the Arrol Bridge & Roofing Co, was started in 1898. The cantilever bridge that resulted was the second only in length to the Forth Bridge and was the longest steel single-span bridge in Britain.Construction Drawing – Connel Bridge. [8]

Connel Bridge under construction. [4] Connel Bridge under construction. [4]Connel Bridge. [7] Creagan Railway Bridge, Loch Creran. [6]

The Connel Ferry Bridge, the world’s 2nd largest steel cantilever bridge, Argyllshire, Scotland, opened in 1903. [9]

Although a triangular junction was authorised at Connel Ferry to permit direct Oban-Ballachulish services, in the event the north-west curve was never constructed. Originally both the viaducts had footpaths alongside; however, in order to counter a proposal by MacAlpine Downie to operate a ferry across Loch Etive in 1913, the Callendar &Oban Railway decided to make the railway bridge capable of handling road traffic. This was completed in June 1914 and saw the railway charge tolls for road users crossing the bridge; special signalling ensure the safety of the arrangement.

The 27½-mile long branch opened throughout to passenger services on 28 March 1903. There were intermediate stations at North Connel, Benderloch, Creagan, Appin, Duror, Kentallan and Ballachulish Ferry that opened with the line. Barcaldine Siding (Halt from 1960) followed in 1914; this station was closed during World War 2 and was used for summer services only for a period after reopening postwar. Ballachulish Ferry was to be closed between 1 January 1917 and 1 March 1919 as an economy measure during World War 1. The population of Ballachulish when the line opened was less than 2,000 but quarried stone represented a useful source of freight traffic.

During the summer of 1910 there were three return workings over the branch each day, making a connection with the ferry to and from Kinlochleven. Services ran to and from Oban, with reversal at Connel Ferry. Down services departed from Oban at 8.20am, 11am, 5pm (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only) and 8.30pm (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only; this was the only working that did not connect with the Kinlochleven ferry). Up workings departed at 7.15am, 11.15am and 3.45pm. A single journey from Connel Ferry to Ballachulish took about 70 minutes. There was no service on Sundays.

By the summer of 1947, the final year of the line’s operation by the LMS before Nationalisation in January 1948, there were still only three return workings per weekdays. Departures from Oban were at 8.10am, 12.5pm, (except Saturdays) and 8.50pm (Saturdays only). Services departed from Ballachulish at 7.30am, 10.50am, 3.50pm (Saturdays only) and 4pm (except Saturdays). There was no Sunday service. A revised pattern of service was operated by British Railways (Scottish Region) during the period from September 1964 through to June 1965. There were two down departures from Oban, departing at 8.15am and 5pm with a third service starting at Connel Ferry at 12.30pm. The station at North Connel was a request halt for both the 8.15am and 12.30pm services. In the up direction there were departures from Ballachulish at 7.14am (to Oban), 10.40am (to Connel Ferry), 4.20pm (to Oban) and a Saturdays only 6.57pm (to Oban). For all, apart from the 7.14am, the station at North Connel was a request halt.

In terms of motive power over the line, the early years witnessed the operation of three generation of 4-4-0s specifically designed for the C&OR — the ‘Oban bogies’. During the war Class 5 4-6-0s are known to have operated troop trains to Benderloch. In the later years, steam passenger services were dominated by Macintosh-designed ‘19’ class 0-4-4Ts. By the end of 1961, three of the class were based at Oban — Nos 55204/217/260 — but before the final demise of steam over the branch, these were replaced by ex-LMS or BR 2-6-0s. With the dieselisation of the C&OR main line and its branches to Killin and Ballachulish, 45 steam locomotives were replaced by 23 Type 2 diesel-electrics plus four diesel shunters. It was the diesel-electrics that operated the final passenger services over the line to Ballachulish.

Whilst both the Crianlarich-Oban and Crianlarich-Fort William-Mallaig lines were not listed for closure under the Beeching Report of March 1963 — albeit a number of intermediate stations on the former were — the line to Ballachulish was not so fortunate. Passenger traffic ceased over the on 28 March 1966; with freight having ceased in June the previous year, the line was closed completely from that date.

Today many of the structures that once served the line are still extant or have been reused for new purposes. The station at Ballachulish remains, having been converted into a medical centre. Platforms remain extant at Ballachulish Ferry with a section of the line westward having been converted by Sustrans into a cycleway. At Kentallen, the platforms of the station have been incorporated into a new hotel. At Duror, the station has been converted into a private house. The station at Creagan, which was overgrown for many years, has now been restored. The piers of the bridge across Loch Creran at Creagan remain, having been used in the late 1990s for a new bridge for the A828. The bridge at Connel Ferry also survives; following the closure of the line it was converted to take road traffic exclusively. [5]

The Route of the Ballachuliush Branch. [3]

The Connel Bridge

The red ‘x’ on the plan above marks the Connel Bridge which sits just to the north of the Calendar to Oban line. The bridge was the largest cantilever span in Great Britain aside from the Forth Bridge when completed. A truly unique bridge, it features several members positioned in unusual angles and inclines, resulting in a striking appearance that looks ahead of its time and may even call to mind images of modern cable-stayed and steel rigid-frame bridges.

The bridge was originally built as a single-track railway bridge to carry the Callander and Oban Railway. In 1909, a special railway service was added that carried motor vehicles across the bridge, albeit only one car at a time. This unusual arrangement did not last long, however. By 1914, the bridge was reconfigured with a roadway along the western side of the deck and the railway on the east side of the deck. Despite this arrangement, the relatively narrow width of the bridge prevented cars and trains from crossing the bridge at the same time. When a train needed to cross the bridge, the crossing was treated like a grade crossing, with gates to keep cars off the bridge. In 1966, the railway line was closed and bridge was reconfigured as a highway-only bridge, with the rails being removed. The narrow bridge operates as a one-lane bridge, with traffic signals controlling the flow of traffic over the bridge. [8]

The distinctive design of the cantilever truss is due to the configuration of the trusses over the piers. Typically, cantilever trusses have a vertical post, sometimes called the “main post,” located directly over the pier that is also at the deepest section of the truss web. For the Connel Bridge, these posts are instead inclined, not only inward toward the center of the span, but also inward toward the centre of the roadway. As such, the inclined main posts extend out beyond the truss lines to the pier below, giving the bridge a bowed out appearance when viewed from certain angles. The inclined posts also mean that the deepest “tower” section of the truss is located not over the pier, but partway into the central span of the truss. [8]

The inclined main post is countered by what engineering periodicals described as a “back strut” extending from the bearing on the piers back to the abutment at the roadway level. The back struts angle out to meet the main post locations outside of the truss lines, adding to the bowed out appearance of the bridge. The end post of the truss, also inclined, extends all the way to the main post of the truss, meaning there is no upper chord for this entire length, an unusual design that gives the bridge a striking appearance when approached on the road. If the end post, the main post, and the back strut at each end of the bridge are looked at as a single shape, the bridge has the appearance of two giant triangles resting on their apex at the piers. Another unusual detail of the truss is found at the deck level, where a beam that may look like a lower chord of the truss to casual viewers also angles out to meet the inclined main post at the roadway level, and was described as an “outer boom” in engineering periodicals. [8]

This bridge used steel from a large variety of companies and mills. Numerous names can be found on the steel and are documented in the enormous detail in the photo gallery available for this bridge.[8]

The bridge crosses the Falls of Lora, turbulent rapids that are strongly affected by tidal flows. This is one of the reasons a cantilever truss bridge was constructed at this location. it could be erected over the waterway without the use of falsework in the fast-flowing rapids.

The Transactions of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, 1903 had an obituary for Thomas Arthur Arrol the builder of this bridge. Thomas Arthur Arrol should not be confused with the more famous Sir William Arrol, who also built bridges.

Thomas Arthur Arrol was born in Glasgow on the 24th August, 1852, and was educated at the Collegiate and High Schools of Glasgow, and at the Glasgow University. He served his time as an engineer with Messrs P. & W. MacLellan and remained in their service till he became general manager. After spending a few months in the United States he returned to his native city and entered into partnership with his brother, the late Mr James Cameron Arrol. Together they founded the Germiston Works, at which roof and bridge building and general engineering were carried on until 1892.

The concern was subsequently converted into a Limited Company under the designation of Arrol’s Bridge & Roof Co., Ltd., with Mr T. Arthur Arrol as managing director. Under his supervision many important contracts were successfully carried out, and among others in hand at the time of his death were those for the Connel Ferry Bridge, which is the second largest cantilever bridge in Europe; the Larkhall and Stonehouse viaducts for the Caledonian Railway; and the transporter bridge across the Mersey at Runcorn, which is the first of its kind in Britain. He died suddenly at Aberdeen on 29th October, 1902. Mr. Arrol joined the Institution as a Member in 1875, and took an active interest in its affairs. He was a Member of Council for Sessions 1882-84, and a Vice-President for Sessions 1884-86. He was again elected a Member of Council in April, 1901. [8]A striking overhead image from Google Earth showing the bridge and the Falls of Lora.

Immediately north of the bridge the railway entered the first railway station on the Branch. Road and rail first had to separate and the railway then entered North Connel railway station which was adjacent to Oban Airport.  A train approaches the bridge from the north. [10]A train leaves the bridge and heads towards North Connel Station. [4]

1955: North Connel. (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)

Further North the line followed the line of what is now the A828. The original road north ius now an access road for Oban Airport.

The roads crossed the line just south of North Connel Station and dropped down to meet the roads on the north side of Loch Etive before passing under the line in a westerly direction. The road then turned sharply to the north and passed over the line on a bridge at South Ledaig.

The old road and the railway ran parallel to each other heading north through North Ledaig and on to the next station at Benderloch.

Approaching Benderloch the two ran immediately next to each other as can be seen on the adjacent OS Map.

The station at Benderloch was laid out with two platforms, one on either side of a crossing loop. There were sidings on both sides of the line. There was a large two story station house in the style typical of the line, one of which still remains at Duror. There was also a standard design signal box.

The south bound track was the faster line with the north bound track forming the loop. Goods facilities/sidings were to the south of the station. The station was attractive and appears to have been cared for well.Benderloch Station. [11]Benderloch Station taken from a north bound train. [4]Benderloch Station taken from the south with a branch goods heading towards Connel Ferry. [4]


1. Evan Green-Hughes; Ballachulish; Hornby Magazine Issue 61, July 2012, p44-46

2., accessed on 1st January 2019.

3., accessed on 1st January 2019.

4., accessed on 1st January 2019.

5., accessed on 1st January 2019.

6., accessed on 1st January 2019.

7., accessed on 1st January 2019.

8., accessed on 1st January 2019.

9., accessed on 1st January 2019.

10.,%20the%20train%20crosses%20the%20road%20before%20moving%20on%20to%20the%20bridge_jpg.htm, accessed on 1st January 2019.

11., accessed on 1st January 2019.



The Flam Railway in 1950

Reading old copies of The Railway Magazine has been an enjoyable pastime over Christmas (2018). In the June 1950 issue of the magazine there was an article about travelling to the Sognefjord by rail.

The railway from Bergen to Voss was projected as the first part of a through route from the West coast to Oslo. The line from Bergen to Voss was completed in 1883 but it was not until 1894 that the remainder of the line was authorised. Ultimately the shortest route for the line was chosen even in the knowledge that this would involve the longest and highest mountain crossing.

To overcome the difficulty of transporting men and materials to the construction camps in the mountains, many miles of road were constructed. One if the most remarkable of these was constructed from Flam at the head of the Aurlandfjord, to the railway at Myrdal, a distance of about 10 miles.

Before the mainline from Bergen to Oslo was completed, it was proposed to supercede this steep and winding road by a railway from Myrdal to Flam. The rise to Myrdal was 2,800 ft., the majority of which occurred in the short length at the head of the valley. Exceptionally severe gradients were unavoidable. It was obvious that, if the railway was to be operated by adhesion, it would be necessary to increase the length of the line by a spiral. The idea was, as a result, shelved for a number of years.

The railway was authorised in 1924, and construction began almost at once,
with the boring of Vatnahalsen Tunnel, near Myrdal. This remarkable tunnel is 1,000 yd, long, and describes a reverse curve of 7.5 ch. radius in the mountainside, on a gradient of 1 in 19. The upper portal is 132 ft. above the lower. About 700 yd. of the bore were driven from the
lower level. Only a small staff was employed, and ten years were occupied in the construction of the tunnel. The headings driven from each end met on 15th May 1934, with only a negligible error Altogether there are 20 tunnels on the line, with an aggregate length of over 3.5 miles. Quite apart from the tunnels, a considerable portion of the railway at the head of the valley is protected by snow-sheds.

The construction of the railway was completed in 1942, at a cost of more than £1.25 million, but the wartime shortage of rolling stock delayed the opening of the line, and regular traffic did not begin until 24th November 1944. The main line from Bergen to Oslo is steam-operated (1950), but the branch to Flam is electrified on the overhead principle. The track conforms to standard Norwegian main-line practice, and is laid with flat-bottomed rails weighing 72-lb per yard. It is heavily ballasted and well-maintained. The railway is single throughout, and is worked on a train despatching system, without fixed signals.

Reading through the article in The Railway Magazine, I was struck most forceably by the maps showing the line, and most particularly by the maps which show the spiral arrangement of the line close to Myrdal. The relevant pages of the magazine is reproduced below.The Flam Railway. [2]

The June 1950 edition of the Railway Magazine contains a number of photographs of the line a couple of which are reproduced below. [3]

More information about the line is available on-line. Visit, for up-to-date information, and, for more on the history of the line.


1. By Rail to the Sognefjord; The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, June 1950, p406-409.

2. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, June 1950, p407.

3. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, June 1950, p396-397.



Uganda Railways – Part 30 – The Railway Magazine 1950 – June 1950

Reading through old copies of The Railway Magazine, I came across this article in the June 1950 copy. I thought it might be of interest alongside my earlier post about traction on the East African Railways:

and my previous (most recent) post in this series ….

Kenya and Uganda Railway Locomotives

by G. Gibson CME, E.A.R.&H. [1]

Class F 0-6-0 Locomotive. [2]

Class B 2-6-0 Locomotive. [2]

Class N 2-6-0 Locomotive, introduced in 1896. [1]

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, attained the dignity of a city on 30th March (1950) when the Duke of Gloucester presented the Royal Charter as the highlight of a week of Golden Jubilee celebrations, and it is of interest to recall briefly the part played by the locomotives of the metre-gauge East Africa railways in the development of the colony.

As has been recorded in an earlier article in this series, in 1895, construction was commenced at Mombasa on what was then known as the Uganda Railway. The track crossed from the island to the mainland over the Salisbury Bridge, since replaced by a road and rail causeway. It then passed through the coastal belt, with groves of coconut palms and tropical trees, to emergea at about 900ft. above sea level on to the Nyika Desert, where the line travelled for some 80 miles through sparsely-populated unwatered red earth and thorn scrub land. From Voi, 103 miles from the coast, and at 1,834 ft, above sea level, the country changed to contrasting scenes of rocky outcrop amid the thorn scrub. The Tsavo River, 135 miles inland, the permanent crossing of which was later hampered by man-eating lions, marked the boundary of a section of some 65 miles of thick thorn bush and forest, now forming part of the Tsavo National Game Park. From Makindu, more open country was encountered, and at mile 286, at Konza, 5,428 ft. above sea level, the line commenced its crossing of the Kipiti and Athi Plains, reaching Nairobi at mile 330, and at 5,453 ft. above sea level, where in July, 1899, the railhead was established and headquarters were moved there from Mombasa later in the same year.

At Nairobi the construction gangs paused to gather strength for their assault on the highlands. A tent town sprang up while stores were being accumulated and fresh labour recruited. Before long, the few European traders who had followed erected stores, while other pioneers commenced farming in the district. Administration offices and maintenance workshops for rolling stock were constructed, quarters and offices for railway staff built, and almost over-night Nairobi was established. Administered and supplied from Nairobi, the track struggled onwards through the forest-covered highlands, down the escarpments and across the floor of the Great Rift Valley, situated in which was then the boundary with Uganda. Kisumu, then Port Florence, on the shores of the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria, was reached in December, 1901.

To start the initial construction of the line, two locomotives and 25 wagons had been imported from India. There appears to be no detailed description of the locomotives available today, nor is it certain that they were both of the same type, as both ” A ” and ” E ” class engines are mentioned in early papers. They were certainly very small, and the Chief Engineer reported them as being incapable of hauling more than two wagons on a 1 in 30 grade.

The first locomotives for which details are available were those known as the ” N ” class, of which eight were placed in service in 1896, and a further eight in 1899. Principal dimensions are given in the accompanying table.Principal Dimensions of Locomotives. [5]

Three were fitted with Joy’s valve gear and the balance with Walschaerts link motion. These engines suffered from one serious defect, in that they continually derailed. History has recorded that one guard; suffering from acute verbosity, was instructed to condense his telegrams. Thereafter ” on again ” or ” off again,” as the occasion warranted, was all that was heard of these incidents. The last three of this class were scrapped in 1931.

To meet increasing demands for power and to provide a more reliable locomotive than the ” N ” class, eight ” F ” class engines were received in 1897 and a further 26 in 1893. They were made by Neilson Reid and Vulcan Foundry.

In the latter part of 1897, orders were placed with Baldwins for 36 engines, known as the ” B ” class; 20 were received in 1899 and the balance in 1900. They proved reliable in service, but more expensive to maintain than the ” F ” class. They were typical of American design at that time, with bar frames, and sand box mounted on the boiler top. The ” F ” and ” B ” class locomotives suffered all the wear and tear of the construction days and by 1910 were in poor shape. Because of the difficulty in obtaining locomotive power, and to heavy military demands during the 1914-1918 war years, they were kept in service, however, although uneconomical, and were not finally written off as a class until 1931. Several of them were des-troyed by the mines of enemy raiding parties. In April and May, 1915, some 50 attempts were made on the railway by such parties, often resulting in fatal casualties among train crews.

By 1910 the tonnages hauled were rising rapidly and more locomotive power was essential. Orders were placed with the North British Locomotive Company, in 1911 for 18 Mallet type compound locomotives.The Mallet Type 0-6-6-0 compound tender locomotive. [3]

They were received in 1913 and 1914, but troubles were experienced with failures of the articulating bracket and maintenance proved heavy. Some redesigning was effected locally and improvements in performance resulted, but drivers did not like them, and stories were whispered of the strategies adopted by the crews to ensure that the engines did not run. Failures were certainly very frequent. After one engine of the class had been used for various experiments in 1929, they were scrapped in 1930.

At about the same time as orders were placed for the Mallet locomotives, three side-tank engines were ordered from Nasmyth, Wilson, known locally as the ” E.D.” class, and placed in service in 1913. They proved successful and were employed on main line traffic; additional water and fuel was supplied from auxiliary vehicles attached behind the engine. Reports at the time spoke of their ability to haul heavier loads, but with fuel consumptions equal to the older engines. They were scrapped in 1938.Class E.D. 2-6-2 Locomotive. [4]

Seven ” E.B.” class engines were ordered about a year after the ” E.D.” class tanks and put into service in 1914. In 1919 the order was repeated for a further 34 of the same pattern but be-cause of changes in a few details, these were designated “E.B.1″; 17 were placed in service in 1920 and the remainder in 1921. The original seven ” E.B.” class, and 28 of the ” E.B.1 ” class were scrapped in 1934, but the balance of six “E.B.1” engines are still in use today (1950) on shunting and departmental duties. Until 1914, the longest rigid wheelbase of any locomotive had been the 11 ft. 0 in. of the ” F ” class. In view of the extension of this to 12 ft. on the ” E.B.” Class, it was thought advisable to order the engines with flangeless leading coupled wheels. On arrival in the colony, they were found to have flanged wheels throughout, and were withheld from traffic for some time pending receipt of the correct tyres. Circumstances, however, forced their use in traffic with flanged wheels in which they proved completely successful. The ” E.B.” class were built by Nasmyth, Wilson & Co. Ltd., and the ” E.B.1 ” class by the North British Locomotive Co. Ltd. Oil fuel equipment was first tried out in the colony on one of these engines.

To return to 1913, as a consequence of the success of the ” E.D. ” class, a modified form of tank engine was ordered from Nasmyth, Wilson & Co. Ltd. They were known as the ” E.E.” class; five were placed in service in 1913 and a further three in 1914. They were due for withdrawal in 1939, but were retained in service as a result of wartime conditions, and are still giving useful service today (1950). In most respects they were identical with the ” E.D.” class, but the change from trailing pony to a bogie permitted an increase of water capacity from 800 to 1,200 gallons, and fuel from 1.5 to 2.5 tons. The adhesive weight was increased to 33.54 tons.

Up to 1921, superheaters had not been introduced, but in that year two experimental locomotives, ordered from Nasmyth, Wilson, in 1919. were placed in service. Based on similar specifications to the ” E.B.” and ” EAU ” class engines, but fitted with Robinson superheaters, they were known as the “E.B.2″ class. The resulting economies proved their worth but the locomotives were written offoff 1934 as they had been heavily worked as trial engines.

Following on the trials of the ” E.B.2 ” class, a total of 62 ” E.B.3 ” class engines were ordered between 1922 and 1930, all of which are in service today (1950). They proved a reliable class, and were originally employed on all mail links and through goods trains.Class EB3 Locomotive. [3]

Consequent on the advent of bigger and faster types, today they have been relegated to branch line and main line pick-up traffic, but are still regarded with considerable affection by the older hands who learnt their worth when they were, the pride of the railway. They were built by Vulcan Foundry and Nassmyth, Wilson.

In 1926, 21 shunting tank engines, similar in most respects to the “E.E.” class, but reverting to the original 2-4-2 wheel arrangement, were placed in service and were followed by a further six of the same type in 1930 and 1931. They were built by Vulcan Foundry and the Hunslet Engine. Co. Ltd., and their leading particulars, with the exception of the wheel arrangement and the slightly higher adhesne weight of 33.75 tons, are identical with the ” E.E.” class.

The year 1926 also witnessed the first arrivals of the Beyer-Garratt type engines, which later were to become the mainstay of the railway’s motive power. An initial order for four “E.C.” class was received and they were put into service immediately. The wheel arrangement and the motion was based on the “E.B.3” type, with slightly smaller cylinders, and the axleload limited to 10 tons to enable the engines to be used on the 50-lb track of branch lines.Class EC3 4-8-4+4-8-4 Beyer-Garratt Locomotive. [4]

In 1939, these four engines, with two of a later class, were sold to Indo-China to make room for six engines of a heavier type. Following on the successful operation and increased load capacity attainable by the ” E.C.” class, orders were placed with Beyer, Peacock & Co. Ltd., for a further 12 Garratt type, modified in a few details from the earlier engines. These were placed in service in 1928 and were designated “E.C.1” class. The main difference between the two classes is in the adhesive weight, which is increased to 83.85 tons. Total weight is increased to 134.6 tons, water capacity to 5,250 gal. and fuel to 10 tons.

In 1931, ten ” E.C.2 ” class Garratt locomotives, made by the North British Locomotive Co. Ltd., were imported. They are a little heavier than the ” E.C.1 ” class, having an adhesive weight of 87.95 tons and a total weight in working order of 142.1 tons. In all other leading particulars they are identical although there are a few differences in detail where infringement of established patents might occur.

At about the time of the receipt of the first Beyer-Garratt, orders were placed with Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd., for six 2-8-2 engines. They arrived in the colony in 1925, but were not placed in service until 1927-28 ; these six ” EA.” class locomotives have given very fine service on the fast mail link between Nairobi and the coast.Class EA and EC5 Locomotives. [3]

Today they have been relegated to long distance through goods traffic between the capital and Mombasa, being limited by their 17.5 tons of axle load to this section, which until recently was the only line laid with 80-lb. rails. Orders have been placed for fittings and materials to rejuvenate the class and they should then give many more years of useful service. In December 1948, one of these engines completed its first million miles in service.

Since 1930, the only locomotives placed in service have been of the Beyer-Garratt type. In 1939, six ” E.C.3 ” engines were received, followed by two more of the same class in 1940 and a further four in 1941. They recorded large mileages during the late war, when traffic demands were the heaviest in the history of the railway. One engine covered 243,000 miles between shopping for heavy repairs, while several ran over 200,000. The boilers are fitted with arch tubes and thermic syphons. The maxi-mum axleload is 11.75 tons, which limits their use to anything but main line traffic, where they are used on mail and through freight trains, hauling loads of up to 575 tons on 2 per cent. grades.

In 1944, were delivered seven ” E.C.4 ” class Garra tts from the War Department. With smaller wheels and larger cylinders than the “E.C.3” class, they are the most powerful locomotives in use on the railway today. They are limited to main line use because of their axle load of 13.75 tons, and are used on through goods traffic between the coast and the capital. The boilers are fitted with arch tubes and have the largest firegrate area of any class.

Two ” Burma ” type ” E.C.5 ” class locomotives were placed in service in 1945. They were transferred to Tanganyika in 1949 after a comparatively short period of service in Kenya and Uganda; Tanganyika already had four of the class in service. The engines were replaced in Kenya with six ” E.C.6 ” locomotives almost identical in design, but with 11 tons axle load and modified firebox. At the present time, a further consignment of Garratt type locomotives, representing a modernised form . of the ” E.C.3 ” class are being unloaded at Mombasa and prepared for service.

With the exception of the three ” N ” class engines with Joy’s valve gear, all locomotives have been fitted with Walschaerts link motion. Electric lighting was first introduced during the 1914-18 war years. Since 1922, all engines have been fitted with turbo-generator equip¬ment.

Up to 1900, Welsh coal was imported as locomotive fuel. When, however, the track had reached forest areas in or near the highlands, a change was made to wood fuel, which was cut and stacked at suitable points on the line side. In 1926, coal again was imported, but from South Africa, when it was required for the first Beyer-Garratts. Oil as a fuel was first considered in 1899, but no action was taken Until 1915, when an ” E.B.” class engine was fitted for trials. It was not finally accepted until 1948, however, and now all classes, with the exception of the “E.B.1s,” have been converted to burn liquid fuel.



1. G. Gibson; Kenya & Uganda Railway Locomotives; The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p401-405.

2. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p398.

3. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p399.

4.The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p404.

5. The Railway Magazine, Volume 96, No. 590, p402-403.