Book: The Insider Rail Guide - Aberdeen to Elgin & Inverness

David Spaven and David Fasken

Review by Malcolm Chattwood

Deveron Viaduct: Just published by Kessock Books, the new Insider Guide on the Aberdeen to Elgin and Inverness Railway by David Fasken and David Spaven. [Amazon] [Kessock Books] Ewan Crawford 19/11/2017

It could be said that the line between Aberdeen to Elgin and Inverness is the Cinderella of railways in the Highlands with those to the west and north being better known and popular as journeys in their own right. Whilst those other lines may undoubtedly pass through grander scenery, as this pocket-sized Insider Rail Guide to the line shows, the route is certainly not lacking in history, variety and interest.

The format of the book is the same as the first in the series which is reviewed at The Insider Rail Guide - Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh to which the reader is directed for details to avoid repetition. David Fasken and David Spaven have used the same blend of text, maps, photographs and sketches which works well and makes for a book which is jam-packed with information yet in an easily readable form. To gain the full benefit from this guide it is advised that it is opened well before the start of your journey. The description of the line starts in Chapter 4 and if the first three chapters are to be read on the train then advice on planning your journey and much of interest through the train window would be missed.

Chapter 4 is the meat of the guide, describing a journey on the line from Aberdeen to Inverness, broken down into sections devoted to the main towns and more rural parts. Sprinkled with history, anecdote and observations I suspect the reader will wish the train to slow down so that they can take it all in, such is the volume of information. The format perhaps invites the reader to take a trip from one city to the other in a journey taking just over two hours but upon reading the guide it becomes apparent that there would be greater pleasure in spending more time and breaking the journey to explore some of the places described en route. This would allow not only the towns themselves to be visited but also give the traveller an opportunity to explore at close quarters some of the historic railway buildings which are now subject to other beneficial use.

It is over 40 years since this reviewer travelled the full length of the line during the time when Swindon Cross-country DMUs provided the service. Memories were inevitably a bit hazy until reading this excellent guide when many were rekindled and, inspired by its contents, thoughts have turned to planning a revisit – perhaps upon the forthcoming return of vintage traction in the form of HSTs.

Malcolm Chattwood November 2017

The Insider Rail Guide – Aberdeen to Elgin & Inverness by David Spaven and David Fasken is published by, and available from, Kessock Books . 128pp - £7.99

It is also available from Amazon

Deveron Viaduct: The girder bridge carrying the Inverness-Aberdeen line across the River Deveron by Rothiemay (between Keith and Huntly), looking south on 14th September 2013. David Spaven 14/09/2013
Millburn Yard: A snow-clad class 20 stands at the western end of Millburn yard, Inverness, in the winter of 1974-75. The hill in the Crown district in the distance - mooted as the possible location of Macbeth's castle - was a popular photography spot until the surrounding vegetation became impenetrable.
David Spaven //1974