David Spaven and David Fasken

Review by Mark Bartlett

Book: Cover of The Insider Rail Guide – Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh by David Spaven and David Fasken published August 2017. See a short review by Mark Bartlett. David Spaven 28/08/2017
Book: The pocket Insider Rail Guide for the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line. Co-authored by David Spaven and David Fasken and published by Kessock Books in August 2017. See a short review by Mark Bartlett. Mark Bartlett 28/08/2017

The new Insider Rail Guide to the Kyle of Lochalsh line by David Spaven and David Fasken packs a lot into a pocket-sized package. 128 pages, 40 historic and contemporary photographs, 11 pencil drawn illustrations, excellent hand drawn maps and a wealth of information. There have of course been other guides to this scenic line but this one is different from any predecessors, not least in that all the images are deliberately reproduced in black & white

The two Davids start their book with a history of the line, from its construction, initial opening to Stromeferry in 1870 and later extension to Kyle of Lochalsh. The taxing diversion around Strathpeffer is also covered and then the role of the line during wartime, dieselisation, closure threats, radio signalling, the Ness Viaduct collapse and then right up to date with the Scotrail franchises. This is followed by a short but interesting section on ‘Preparing for your Journey’ which discusses the experiences of travelling at different times of the year (and day) and the various ticketing options. A third section ‘Making the most of your Journey’ includes a description of the accommodation in the Class 158 trains used on the line, interpretation of ‘railway jargon’ in announcements, explanation of sign and boards alongside the line and advice on using request stops.

Duirinish: This looks like Scotland's rail equivalent of the Kinder Scout 'mass trespass', but in fact is almost certainly a 1973-74 official visit (via Duirinish station and the railway track) to the proposed oil platform construction yard at nearby Drumbeg by the Public Inquiry team, witnesses, objectors and supporters. The scheme was thrown out, and an alternative, less controversial, site developed on the north side of Loch Carron at Kishorn, which generated valuable freight traffic for the Kyle line at the Strome Ferry railhead for some five years. Frank Spaven Collection (Courtesy David Spaven) //
Stromeferry: General view of sidings at the Howard Doris fabrication yard at Strome Ferry in 1977. Bill Roberton //1977

The second half of the book is entitled ‘View from the Window’ and this breaks down the 82 mile route into five distinct geographical sections: Inverness to Dingwall, Dingwall to Lochluichart, Lochluichart to Luib Summit. Luib to Strathcarron and then the final coastal stretch to Kyle of Lochalsh itself. Railway infrastructure old and new, mountains and rivers, the various stations are all pointed out and described and features are often accompanied by stories and anecdotes from the line’s history.

As a cracking little guide to this well-known route the book deserves to be popular. Even better, David Spaven has confirmed it is the first in a series and other route guides will follow. The next in the series will be Aberdeen-Elgin-Inverness in October

Mark Bartlett
August 2017

The Insider Rail Guide – Inverness to Kyle 0f Lochalsh by David Spaven and David Fasken is published by, and available from, Kessock Books . 128pp - £7.99

It is also available from Amazon

Kyle of Lochalsh: The multi-purpose railway at Kyle of Lochalsh in the late 1960s - passengers, parcels, mail, freight, and direct interchange with MacBraynes buses - plus of course the Skye ferry. Frank Spaven Collection (Courtesy David Spaven) //
Dingwall: View south from the footbridge at Dingwall on 31 March 1989. 37417 Highland Region is receiving attention in the former goods yard while a Mk1 coach and 156 unit are stabled beyond. Taken during the isolated operation of the Far North line due to collapse of the Ness Viaduct. Bill Roberton 31/03/1989