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Studying the railways of the Scottish Highlands  

Researching the Railway

There is a vast amount of published information on the railways of the Highlands, but questions still get asked which cannot be answered. It may be modellers who want to get details just right, families who want to know more about their ancestors and how they lived and worked, tourists who have found the railway on their travels or just enthusiasts who want to know all that can be found about a particular subject. With a history going back over 150 years, there is a lot more which can be discovered.

The Bibliography page lists many books which might help and the Society's Journal, which has been published now for almost 25 years, contains much more detail. Society members have access to a digital version of the Journal, making searches much easier. There are a number of other books, particularly photographic albums, which may contain relevant photographs among larger selections; often these cover specific periods or geographical areas.

A number of public bodies hold relevant records. Those relating to the Highland Railway and its constituent companies are held in the National Archives of Scotland and can be consulted at General Register House in Edinburgh. The Highland Archive Centre in Inverness holds some material relating to the railway, including deposits made by the Society. LMS and British Railways records are lodged with the National Railway Museum, York or in the National Archives of Scotland. Board of Trade and Ministry of Transport papers are held by The National Archives, Kew, London. Several of the publications describe other sources as relevant. Newspapers can be consulted at the Archive Centre in Inverness and the British Library Newspaper Collections at Collindale, London. Before visiting any archives, check their web sites for access arrangements, registration requirements and advance ordering facilities.

The range of online facilities is growing rapidly. Wikipedia contains ahuge range of information, although it is only as reliable as its contributors. Several newspapers are available online, including the Scotsman to date. The nineteenth century issues of the Glasgow Herald and Aberdeen Journal are available through the British library. Many individuals have set up web sites which have information; a web search is usually necessary to find these. A huge range of maps is available through the Scottish Map Library, including first edition 6 inch maps which show track details.

Among the published books, Vallance's History of the Highland Railway, originally published in 1939, provides a general history of the railway; the latest edition has added chapters to cover more recent history. David Ross's Highland Railway is a new history, now available in a revised edition, providing more comprehensive cover up to 1923. The Highland Railway, its Constituents and Successors, publshed in 1955, is useful for its chronology. Neil Sinclair's Highland Railway, People and Places, provides an analysis of aspects not often covered in other publications. The financial problems of the early years are detailed in Peter Fletcher's Directors, Dilemmas and Debt.

Several photographic albums cover the railways of the Highlands, notably Antony Lambert's two volume Highland Railway Album and Peter Tatlow's Highland Railway Miscellany. David Hunter's Highland Railway in Retrospect is a slimmer volume with some intersting detail.

Locomotives are fully described in the two volumes of Highland Railway Locomotives, RCTS, and in History of Highland Locomotives, which also has useful drawings. David Hunter's Carriages and Wagons of the Highland Railway is the basis for studying those topics; the text of a planned second edition is available from the Society. Highland Railway Liveries provides all that has been found on that subject for locomotives, rolling stock and buildings.

Various books cover individual parts of the system, notably Neil Sinclair's Highland Main Line. The Kyle line has two books, the Skye Railway by John Thomas and David McConnell's Rails to Kyle of Lochalsh.