The History of the Ballachulish Railway

Hi, I’m Ross Maynard and this is a brief history of the ballachulish railway. Welcome. The village of Ballachulish is situated in the West Highlands of Scotland. It has around 1800 residents and is a very scenic location. This is the modern map from OpenStreetMap balika coolish lies and Loch leven at the head of Glencoe. To the right we see the road up through Glencoe from tyndrum with Glasgow further south. To the left is the coastal route to open 33 miles away by the modern road. And to the north across the ballachulish Bridge, which was built in 1975 is Fort William around 15 miles away. If you’ve read Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, kidnapped or seen one of the film adaptations, you may remember that David Belfer and Alan Breck Stewart get caught up in the murder of Colin Campbell, called the red fox for his red hair. This is Based on a true story, Colin Campbell was a government factor for the lands around ballachulish. And his job was to keep the local clans in check. After the Jacobite rising of 1745 Colin Campbell was assassinated by a sniper in 1752 nearby licorice, and have marked the site of the murder with a blue.on. The map there is a small plaque on the site on the track above the road. The local plan chief James of the Glenn was convicted of participation in the murder, that we certainly did not find the shot. He was hung at the site of the modern ballachulish Bridge, and a monument under the bridge marks the spot. Today ballachulish is a lovely tourist village and an ideal location for exploring the heart of the beautiful West Highlands. But even only 100 years ago, it was pretty remote. This is the Ordnance Survey map from 1897. There was a track through Glen’s Whoa, but it was only made into a metal road in the 1930s. Similarly the track to open was of poor quality. Only the road up to Fort William was of reasonable quality. So goods in and out of the village probably mainly came by sea. So why was around we built the 33 miles from open across difficult terrain to this tiny village? The answer is slate. ballachulish slate quarry was established in 1694 and operated until 1955 250 years of continuous use. The slate was used as roof tiles and building materials in locations all over the west of Scotland. With Glasgow being a major market ballachulish exists because of slate, and with the road so poor the slate was transported by sea. On this 1899 Ordnance Survey map. We see a tramway from the quarry down to the area marked The harbor hotel now stands on the site of the harbor. And this is the modern aerial view of the valley cooler slate quarry from Bing Maps. Now pleasant Country Park. There are paths around the large pool of water in the center and attract up the side of the quarry leads onto the hill behind, which gives lovely views across Loch leven and down towards Glencoe. Back to the railway, the calendar and open railway It was built in stages between 1866 and 1880. The aim was to connect the port of obon with the wealthy cities in the central belt of Scotland, from calendar of the railways connected the line to Sterling, Perth, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The line is 71 miles long through difficult terrain, and finally opened to open in 1881 of the main sources of revenue for the line was fish. branch line to kill in on locked a job In 1886, and brought tourists traffic as well. As the roads improved, traffic on the line decreased while maintenance costs were high. The line finally closed in 1965 after a rock fall on the track, the track bed from calendar to killin is now part of National Cycle route number seven, a lovely route. In an attempt to boost the revenue of the railway by capturing the slate trade, the calendar and open railway began to plan an extension to ballachulish the extension was approved in 1896. In the same year, a railway line from Fort William in the north down to Bella coolish was also approved, but that one was never built. The ballachulish extension was opened in 1905 and operated until 1966 10 years after the closure of the quarry. The line to buy licorice was never profitable. It is however a very scenic route Cardinal bridge was the main piece of engineering on the balaka finish line. And at the time it was built it was the longest single span steel bridge in Britain. The bridge is still in use now converted for road use. This Ordnance Survey map from the 1920s shows the ballachulish railway arriving into ballachulish with a station ballachulish Ferry for the crossing to the road north to Fort William nalli minium smelting works was opened at Kinlochleven, at the head of Loch leven in 1905. And it was considered to extend the line from ballachulish to Kinlochleven a further 10 miles, but this project was never realized probably due to cost. This 1960 Ordnance Survey map shows the line in its last days coming around the coast of Alico rush. By this time the quarry had closed and the main traffic on the line was schoolchildren. Going to secondary school in obon. In 1966, the lion closed and the track bed was lifted. It remained disused and overgrown for 40 years. Happily, the ballachulish line has a new life now, the track better has been improved and is now the route of National Cycle route 78. It’s a beautifully scenic and traffic free cycle path up the side of local me, I suppose all’s well that ends well. A few traces of the railway remain in Bella coolish today in this residential street tellingly named old railway goods yard. We see at the end an old good shed, which for some reason hasn’t been demolished. And perhaps best of all, the old ballachulish station building has been refurbished and is now the doctor’s surgery. Thank you for watching. I hope you found this interesting. I just want to finish with a note about Other resources used in the making of this video. All the mapping is from the National Library of Scotland website, a wonderful resource and is Licensed under Creative Commons By Attribution. Other sites used our rail map online, rail, Scott, Wikipedia and Sustrans and I’ve noted their copyright notices there. Thank you very much for watching. Goodbye.