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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 39 - Autumn / Winter 1980

Steam on Speyside - John Jones

qn_39_18.jpg (57,672 bytes)

W Robertson - An Ivatt 2-6-0 on the Strathspey - 1978

If you were to ask the question 'Which is the Preserved Steam Line furthest away from Quainton in Great Britain?' the answer is unquestionably the 5¼ mile length of the Strathspey Railway in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands.

As a setting, it could hardly be more different to Quainton. Pine-covered slopes, the visually superb Spey river running through its valleys, Loch Garten with its now famous breeding ospreys and, dominating the whole scene, the rugged Cairngorm Mountains with snow still lying on the upper slopes and carries.

Nevertheless, the QRS and the Strathspey Railway Society have one big common factor - their unswerving dedication to the success of Steam Railway Preservation. The accents and the venues are vastly different - the objectives are the same.

Thus it was on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon on the first day of July that I found myself once again on the platform at Boat of Garten Station. This was my fourth visit to the site, but this time there was a big difference. Not only was the line fully operational, but I was the proud possessor of a Footplate Pass to travel on Stanier Class '5' Loco Number 5025 from Boat Garten to Aviemore and back.

As I waited for 5025 to be coupled up to her rake of coaches, I thought back to my first visit to The Boat back in 1971. The idea of a preserved line had been mooted, but no work had actually started. The track was still down, but well rusted - the station buildings were derelict though, not as one might have imagined, badly vandalised. Perhaps the very close proximity of the Boat of Garten Hotel and nearby houses had something to so with it. By 1973, when I went again, work on cleaning up had started. By 1975, a great deal had been done - buildings restored and Locos and Rolling stock on site. Now, in 1979, the picture was complete.

The restoration of the buildings is of the very highest quality - in fact it has won an award. The Society Shop offers a wide choice of items, and there is ample car-parking. The actual run is recorded elsewhere (hopefully, if the Editor of the Kings Messenger accepts it). Suffice here to say it was a memorable experience.

At the Aviemore end of the line, the Society have virtually had to start from scratch, with the exception of their occupancy of the running-shed. A new platform has been built of local stone, by four girls, I was told, under the Job Creation scheme - and it could have been no easy task. Their names have been immortalised in the cement at the end of the platform. An old set of Highland Railway buildings obtained from elsewhere have been dismantled and are currently being re-erected. Access at the Aviemore end is being improved. The turntable formerly at Kyle of Lochalsh will be installed shortly.

Future plans - well, the ultimate aim is to take the line right through to Grantown on Spey. The first stage, to Broomhill, look's reasonable viable, and all sorts of help has been offered, but between Broomhill and Grantown there will be two bridges and one level-crossing to negotiate. So this looks like a longish job.

For my part, I am convinced they will succeed. Scottish determination and their ability to cope with engineering problems is world-famous. It was nice also to chat to one or two of the Strathspey members who had visited Quainton, and to be able to answer their questions and they did mine. I hope any QRS member who visits the Scottish Highlands during the summer will pay a visit to 'The Boat' and support this latest example of a working preserved Steam Railway.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1980 and so does not reflect events in the 34+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Steam on Speyside - John Jones - Quainton News No. 39 - Autumn / Winter 1980

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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