Peter's Web Page - About my layout
A History of the line

This is the second revision of the history, and I don't think that it'll change much more. Unless Miles Bevan decides to rewrite it!


The line between Arrochar and Tarbet and St Catherine's Pier was proposed in 1897 by the West Highland Railway. When it became apparent to the locals and Lord Campbell that the line was not going to be built they raised the money themselves. The line to Strachur was opened in 1905. Extensions to Dunoon were planned, but were delayed by the war. The line finally reached Dunoon in 1924.

The line remained independent until the 1930's when it was taken over by the LNER. It built a rake of new carriages for the line, in teak and mahogany. Unfortunately for the LNER, by the time the line was ready to accept tourists war had been declared. After the war the line was neglected, and was absorbed without any fuss into British Railways. One wonders whether British Railways realised they owned it!

In the late '60s and early '70s BR, as it was now called, bought some diesels to work the line. These diesels were bought from Austria and replaced the ageing steam fleet. BR also experimented with building their own diesels, which, like most other British built diesels, were most unreliable! It was also a time of austerity for the line. Radio signalling replaced the semaphore signalling and the train service was cut back.

Click for a larger image (100 kb)

In 1988 the line was sold to a group of enthusiasts, locals and staff, the first BR line to be privatised. In the beginning, the new ownership concentrated on improving the infrastructure and the service to the locals. Soon they were running steam trains, which provided much needed revenue. Since then the line has kept going, and it has proved to be profitable, with the Forestry Commission using it to transport wood from the surrounding area out to the main line at Arrochar and Tarbet.

As an aside, the line would have probably been built to a gauge of 2'6". However, this would have prevented me from running most of Ian's garratts on the layout, so I have not made this distinction, and run stock which would have run on 2' and 2'6" lines - not correct, but it makes for a more interesting layout!

Further Reading

To Buy (In association with

The West Highland Railway" by John Thomas.
This book charts the building and operation of the West Highland railway, which was opened in 1894, linking Glasgow and Fort William. Invaluable reading for anyone interested in the development of this beautiful railway. Recommended.

"Loch Lomond & Inveraray" Ordnance Survey Landranger Map No. 56
This map covers nearly the whole route of the railway, save for the last few miles into Dunoon.


Scottish Tourist Board Website
The official guide to Scotland.

Argyll Online
Walks and news from the area surrounding the railway

Disclaimer: this history is fictitious, but based on actual events. There never was a railway running through Glenbranter.




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© Peter Bowyer. Last updated 21 January, 2003.