FoFNL now has a page on Facebook.
We are hoping our page will stimulate interest in what we do and the Far North Line in general. Please have a look at our page, like it (if you do!) and share it with your friends.
The 'All The Stations' project comes to an end in Wick next week. This crowd-funded venture by Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe aims for the couple to visit, and document, all 2,563 railway stations in Britain. Stories of the railways and the people who use them are being collected and will form the basis for a book about the venture as well as a feature-length documentary which will be available on YouTube.
On Thursday 5 October our President, Jamie Stone MP, will unveil a plaque at Thurso Station to commemorate the centenary of the first "Jellicoe Express" to run from London Euston through to Thurso, conveying servicemen to Scapa Flow on Orkney.
This is a photo of a similar plaque which has been placed in Edinburgh Waverley Station.
The Scottish National Heritage website carries some excellent audio guides to the Far North Line . They are in MP3 format and are ideal for listening to on the train.
Our 2017 AGM took place on Friday - 23 June and was followed by our Conference.
This was a very enjoyable event, particularly hearing about matters that concern us "from the horse's mouth".
Among the speakers were Alex Hynes, the MD of the Abellio ScotRail/Network Rail Alliance; Bill Reeve, Head of Rail, Transport Scotland and Alex Sharkey, Network Rail. There was also a short video from Fergus Ewing MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy & Connectivity), who had planned to attend, and a presentation from Tony Glazebrook, whose report into the FNL last year was instrumental in bringing FNL problems to everyone's attention.
If you are travelling along the Far North Line you might like to enhance your journey by downloading our guide, written by Richard Ardern, one of our committee members and very prolific article writer for Far North Express!
The Guide is in .pdf format so you will be able to follow it on any smartphone or tablet.
David Spaven's new book, Highland Survivor: the story of the Far North Line was launched on 21st September and has now won the 2017 Railway Book of the Year award from the Railway and Canal Historical Society.
It's hard to imagine that anyone reading this wouldn't want to get their hands on a copy straight away, especially if they have recently read David's book, Waverley Route: the Battle for the Borders Railway. The Story of the Far North Line is a great read and explains exactly how the Far North Line has arrived at this point in its history
Published by Kessock Books
Also available from:
The May newsletter was posted to FoFNL members today.
As always this is where I mention that if you were a member you would have received this edition of Far North Express in May and not have had to wait a few weeks until it's published here. In any case, a hard copy of the magazine is always better than the online version!
Plus by joining you would be helping to strengthen our arguments even more for the work that needs to be done on the line.
We've had a request from our colleagues at the Friends of the Kyle Line who ask:
Would you have any member in Dingwall or Inverness who could work part time for our Charity selling Kyle Line maps @ £10 per hour. Daily 10-2?
As always, our newsletter is published online about a month after our members have received their hard copy.
And when you do join you'll be supporting a very good cause - the more members, the stronger our voice!
At the Rail Stakeholder Conference on 16 December Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, announced he has instructed Transport Scotland to set up a Review Team to look at the Far North Line in detail and come up with a suite of actions. The team consists of Abellio ScotRail, Network Rail, HITRANS and FoFNL.
This is a major step towards achieving necessary improvements including the installation of the Lentran Loop.
The Review Team's work is now in full swing.
FoFNL has commissioned Tony Glazebrook of Aliona Ltd to carry out a detailed study of the Far North Line.
Tony was given full access to the line during the first week of October, including a full-length journey in the cab of a service train, the best position to see the state of the infrastructure.
Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance, ensured that Tony had full access to the railway and the operational staff. This enabled a comprehensive review of the difficulties the line has been experiencing.
FoFNL Convener Mike Lunan commented, "FoFNL has made its views known to politicians and funders for many years: this Report will allow us to be more focused and evidence-based, and we record our gratitude to its author, Tony Glazebrook."
The full report is available here.
If you're interested in golf, and if you're not, you'll find Scottish Golf by Train well worth a look. It is packed with information about over 400 Scottish golf courses with all the information you need to reach them by train. Can't help thinking that someone will want to attempt the complete collection!
It is lamentable that you currently need to change onto a bus for the last five miles of your journey to the Home of Golf. Campaigners in St Andrews are working hard to rectify that.
FoFNL has been asked to lend its support to a project to restore a large house in Inverness. The house was designed by and built for Joseph Mitchell who was a civil engineer and surveyor responsible for many Highland and Far North projects, including, on the Far North Line, Tain Station and the Oykel Viaduct.
The proposal is to convert the house to flats and to include a small museum showing Joseph Mitchell's work.
Have a look at the Highland Historic Buildings Trust for full details.
We have received the following request from Anne-Mary Paterson of the HR Society:
I am starting research for a new book on the bridges and viaducts of the Highland Railway to be published by the Highland Railway Society.
I would like to include stories with a human interest rather than just presenting the bare facts. If you can help me with any anecdotes about the bridges and viaducts please contact FoFNL who will forward your details to me.
T his should really be a thought for every day for government ministers, politicians in general and commentators on railway matters:
Single track railway with passing loops = single track road with passing places (in the case of railways such as ours it is many miles between passing places - on the roads they are every few yards to avoid inconvenience).
Double track railway = single carriageway road.
Quadruple track railway (e.g. West Coast mainline out of London - rare in UK) = Dual Carriageway.
In road terms the four rail routes out of Inverness are all single track roads with passing places apart from a 30 mile stretch of "single carriageway" north of Blair Atholl.
Interesting that work has now begun on the Perth-Inverness section of the A9 to widen it to the rail equivalent of four tracks.If you have any comments or require any information please contact FoFNL by E-mail
The Friends of the Far North Line is the campaign group for rail north of Inverness, lobbying for improved services for local users, tourists and freight.
Our website will give you an insight to FoFNL's successes and concerns. You will find a complete collection of newsletters dating back to 1998 as well as an archive of interesting documents.
This is a map of the Far North Line which is situated in the northernmost part of Scotland. Hovering the pointer over the name of a station will display a local photo.
Our aims include:
Our 1995 conference for rail interests was the precursor of the Highland Rail Partnership a collaborative body spanning the Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, local Enterprise companies, rail operators, the Friends Groups and others.
Achievements include the Easter Ross commuter train, Beauly and Conon Bridge stations, all-year Sunday trains, initiating the re-introduction of significant freight, the transporting of extremely long lengths of pipe to Wick, and the building of a footbridge alongside the Shin Viaduct. A substantial increase in freight is still needed and we will continue to persuade haulage contractors that there is an alternative to driving long distances over inadequate roads.
We continue to seek shortened journey times and hourly services between Inverness and Tain. We aim to work in partnerships, we publish a thrice yearly Newsletter, we are democratically governed through our AGM and a geographically representative committee.
If you would like to join The Friends of The Far North Line please download, print out and complete the application form. If you prefer, you can phone our Membership Secretary on +44 (0)1334 475311. Annual membership is only £15.00 (£12.00 if you set up a standing order) for individuals and £17.00 for corporate or organisation membership.
Jamie Stone MP
Joint Vice Presidents:
Rhoda Grant MSP
Gail Ross MSP
Malcolm George Wood
29, Ethelwulf Road
36 Learmonth Place
Bob Barnes-Watts, Inverness
Iain MacDonald, Alness
Anne Sutherland, Tain
David Spaven, Edinburgh
Richard Ardern, Inverness
The photo of Culrain station was taken by Peter Van Den Bossche and the photo of Altnabreac by Dennis Troughton. Both are used under the Creative Commons Licence.