(Image: TheTurfBurner. A train approaches Beauly station in Scotland)
Beauly: the name alone, meaning “beautiful place”, conjures a romantic image on the evocatively-named Far North Line. Nestled in the Shire of Inverness some 10 miles west of the Highlands city, Beauly railway station opened in 1862 as part of the Inverness and Ross-shire Railway. Back then it had two platforms and a passing loop. Fast forward a century and a half, and the tiny station is famous in railway circles as having the shortest platform in Britain.
Construction of the Inverness and Ross-shire Railway was given the go-ahead in 1860 to carry passengers between Inverness and the town of Invergordon, on the banks of the Cromarty Firth. Beauly was the first stop on the first stretch of the line, which ran to Dingwall.
But on June 13, 1960, a century after it opened, Beauly’s platforms and those of other stations between Inverness and Bonar Bridge were closed to passenger traffic. The cuts of the era and increased competition from omnibuses all conspired to put paid to the station, though the Far North Line itself remained open.
(Image: Ben Brooksbank. Beauly station in October 1961)
That wasn’t the end for Beauly station, however. More than four decades later, a passionate local campaign pushed for the construction of a new platform, station shelter and car park, at a cost of Â£250,000. After almost a century in hibernation, Beauly station was again open to passengers, albeit a smaller version of its original self.
Beauly’s single new platform, at just 49.4 feet in length, is officially the shortest in Britain. The platform at Conon Bridge, also on the Far North and Kyle of Lochalsh Lines, comes in marginally longer at 49.5 feet.
Due to its diminutive size, Beauly can only accommodate one passenger coach, and announcements are made on longer (a relative term on the Far North Line) trains warning passengers which door will open. Stepping out onto the tiny platform, the original station buildings, which have been repurposed over the years, stand proud.
(Image: Rob Faulkner. A train on the Far North Line)
The 1960s saw much of Britain’s Victorian rail network abandoned and torn up in favour of road transport. But as the decades passed, some of these routes (and abandoned stations) reopened, often driven by local campaigners who want their railways back.
When Beauly reopened in 2002, some 75 per cent of local commuters opted to use the railway over the road. Conon Bridge station followed in 2013, breathing new life back into commuter traffic on these remote northern railways.
Most prominent among Scotland’s reborn lines is the Borders Railway, or Waverley Route, which was controversially closed in 1969. It reopened amid much fanfare in 2015 between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, after a tireless, decades-long campaign by Scottish Borders residents. Its return has benefited both local commuters and tourism.
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