A History of the Kyle Line
The initial section of the Kyle Line ran from Dingwall as far as Stromeferry and was opened on 19th August 1870. The final difficult section to Kyle of Lochalsh was started in 1893 and took so long to get approval to build because ultimately the engineers (and over 80 'navvies') had to construct 29 bridges, cut through 31 sections of solid rock at an average cost of £20,000 per mile - that would be a total cost of around £18million in today's money. It was eventually opened on 2nd November 1897.
The Middle Years
When the motor car became the de facto mode of transport in the UK, the railways suffered and traffic along the Kyle line fell dramatically to the point where the railway management decided that the viability of the line should be studied and its continuance decided. Dr Beeching (in the Beeching Report) marked the line for closure in 1963 but the line was reprieved. In 1970 the line was again destined to close but again reprieved in 1974.
Discussions about the line's viability continue to this day and it is the continuing threat of closure that prompted Tom Campbell and other Highland Line enthusiasts to form The Friends of the Kyle Line in 1995. It is the work of the Friends that has helped to ensure the current success of the Kyle Line.
The line generally has at least three trains a day (four in summer) running back and forth to Inverness as well as occasional visitors such as the Royal Scotsman, Orient Express and even the odd steam train.
The station now sports a museum, gift shop and restaurant as well as the ticket office and of course access to the pier where you can still see the ramp where animals were herded off the train and on to the waiting boats. The picture shows logs lined up on the pier adjacent to the platform before shipping to Finland from Kyle.
The Friends of The Kyle Line continue to raise awareness of this most spectacular of routes by all means which recently include: marketing the line nationally and internationally, running the museum on the platform, organising heritage rail trips on the line (including steam), production of a historical video as well as the usual banners, posters, leaflets and books.
"The day will come when long strings of carriages without horses shall run between Dingwall and Inverness, and more wonderful still, between Dingwall and the Isle of Skye." Kenneth MacKenzie, Brahan Seer circa 1675.
The route of the railway in 1870 was sparsely populated and in fact there were only half a dozen houses in Kyle with its little ferry across Kyle Akin to Skye. The founders raised £350,000 on the purpose of the railway ... "to promote tourism and convey fish and livestock to markets distant more quickly."
Previously beasts for market were made to go on the hoof making the journey take six weeks on drove roads (in good weather). Fish was previously taken by boat to the Firth of Clyde. The time to market via steam train from Kyle to London (in 1870) was estimated at 21 Hours!