Highlands, Scotland

Today’s Beauly station, situated 10-miles 16-chains north of Inverness, holds the distinction of possessing the shortest platform face in use on the National Rail network. At 16-yards-long, the platform opened on 15th April 2002 (ref: RCTS’ The Railway Observer, June 2002), comprising a basic glazed shelter, and has been unstaffed from the outset. Just 40-foot from the southern end of this platform, on the opposite side of the single-track line, is the grand former main station building of its predecessor, closed to passengers over four decades previously and the subject of this section.

The "Inverness and Ross-shire Railway" opened to public traffic between Inverness and Dingwall on Wednesday, 11th June 1862, a station at Beauly coming into use on that day (ref: The Elgin Courant newspaper (Moray, Scotland), 13th June 1862). All station buildings along the line — including those at Beauly — were of timber construction, those at Dingwall being the largest (ref: The Elgin Courant newspaper (Moray, Scotland), 13th June 1862), and the 18-mile route was single-track throughout. The Inverness and Ross-shire Railway was amalgamated with the "Inverness and Aberdeen Junction Railway" by an Act of 30th June 1862; a subsequent amalgamation with the "Inverness and Perth Junction Railway" on 29th June 1865 resulted in the formation of the "Highland Railway" (ref: Bradshaw’s Railway Manual, Shareholders’ Guide, and Official Directory for 1879). The Highland Railway’s May 1867 timetable shows three weekday (Monday to Saturday) departures from Beauly in the Dingwall direction, four towards Inverness, and a single service in either direction on Sundays (ref: The Elgin and Morayshire Courier, 10th May 1867).

The 1871 Ordnance Survey edition shows two platform faces either side of a long passing loop at Beauly — the latter’s extent was about 500-yards. The main station building was situated on the "up" (Inverness-bound) platform; being of wooden construction, your author assumes that this was a single-storey structure. Based on period maps, the "down" (Dingwall-bound) platform shows evidence of a diminutive building which would most likely have been a waiting shelter. Staircases descended from the road bridge at the northern end of the station, allowing passengers to walk between platforms without having to cross tracks on the level.

A goods yard existed behind the "up" platform, comprising two sidings that together formed a loop. One of these sidings passed through a goods shed and the layout is illustrated in the accompanying diagram. Much of the goods traffic handled at Beauly was that of sheep (ref: Aberdeen Evening Express, 1st November 1887).

When did the splendid symmetrical stone main building, depicted in the below photograph, come into use at Beauly? In the 15th March 1888 edition of The Dundee Courier and Argus newspaper, it was noted that the station at Dingwall had been rebuilt in the previous year at a cost of between £2,000 and £3,000. The architectural style of Dingwall’s main building — which still exists today — was as per that of the structure that was commissioned at Beauly, even down to the type and colour of stone used. Therefore, from your author’s perspective, it seems very likely that the original timber buildings at Beauly were dispensed with at this time and the substantial masonry structure on the "up" platform brought into use. This commodious two-storey-high structure demonstrated mild Gothic styling and provided ample accommodation for the Station Master. The "down" platform was equipped with a large single-storey timber building, topped off with a slated pitched roof, and a lattice footbridge was installed to link platforms on the Dingwall side of the main building.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

From your author’s perspective, it seems likely that signalling enhancements were made at Beauly around the time of station’s aforementioned rebuilding. The 1880s and 1890s was a time of intensive re-signalling nationwide, as independent railway companies replaced early equipment with much more advanced systems. Two signal boxes came into use: one was situated upon the north western extremity of the Dingwall-bound platform; the second was located adjacent to the points of the passing loop’s south eastern end. These became "Beauly North" and "Beauly South" signal boxes respectively, and their positions are marked on the diagram. The Scotland Register (Volume 6 Section V1: Inverness Station to Wick) of the Signalling Record Society suggests 1891 as the year the signal boxes at Beauly were commissioned.

About 200-yards south east of the station was Beauly Viaduct, carrying the single-track line over the River Beauly. This was a timber structure, 460-feet in length between the abutments, with eight spans of 35-feet and nine spans of 20-feet, carrying the rails 17-foot above the water (ref: The Inverness Courier, 12th June 1862). In the April 1909 edition of The Railway Magazine, it was reported that the contract had been let by the "Highland Railway" for the reconstruction of the viaduct. In the April 1909 edition of the same publication, it was stated that reconstruction of the viaduct was progressing rapidly: the steel girder work for the replacement structure had been delivered to the site, this of which was riveted together on temporary staging and formed into four spans. The abutments, piers, and steel cylinders were reported to be at an advanced stage of construction. The then new viaduct was completed in the first week of January 1910 by Messrs. Finlay & Co. of Motherwell, the contractor having seen their scaffolding washed down the river more than once during construction (ref: Highland News, 8th January 1910).

In early 1959, British Railways’ (BR) Scottish Region announced a cost-cutting plan that aimed to save £41,209 annually by withdrawing passenger services from small stations between Inverness, Wick, and Thurso (ref: The Scotsman, 13th May 1959). At the time, it was suspected in the press that there would be little opposition to many of the station closures, because few passengers used those stops and found the buses more convenient. The train service between Inverness, Wick, and Thurso was to be remodelled and accelerated, twenty stations — including Beauly — between these locations would lose their passenger services, and branches from The Mound to Dornoch and from Muir of Ord to Fortrose closed. Withdrawal of passenger services and closure of the branches was effective from the introduction of the summer timetable on 13th June 1960 (ref: The Railway Magazine, July 1960).

Newspaper snippets from 1959 do suggest that there was strong local opposition to the closure of Beauly station. In the 20th April 1961 edition of the Aberdeen Evening Express, it was reported that BR could not "see their way to reopen Beauly station as a passenger halt". The population of the village changed little over the years: 917 persons were recorded in the 1861 census; 879 in 1891; 882 in 1911; and 805 in 1921. By 2001, the year before today’s platform opened, this number had risen to 1,164 — a relatively stable population figure over a period of 140 years.

Goods traffic was withdrawn on and from 25th January 1965 (ref: Clinker’s Register, 1980), which paved the way for layout rationalisation. On 20th July of the same year, Beauly North and South signal boxes closed (ref: Volume 6 Scotland Register Section V1: Inverness Station to Wick, Signalling Record Society). Your author believes that this must have been when the passing loop at Beauly was abolished, all points being taken out of use and the track serving the former Inverness-bound platform lifted.

In March 1967, British Rail advertised the former main station building at Beauly for sale. The building was described as stone in construction, with slate, with five rooms and a house above of five apartments, complete with mains electricity and water (ref: The Scotsman, 9th March 1967). Today, part of the structure is let as holiday accommodation.

Circa 1966

The grand former main building — of sandstone construction — shares the same architectural traits as the single-storey variant at Dingwall, which dates the structure to about 1887. This view from the Dingwall-bound platform was captured in about 1966, by which time the "up" loop had gone, as had the footbridge, but the "down" waiting room and North signal box remained standing. By summer 1973, fencing had been erected along the former "up" (Inverness-bound) platform. © David Glasspool Collection