Past The Tracks
The Aberfeldy Branch
The branch line between Ballinluig and Aberfeldy was always going to be one of those lines that never really reached it's full potential. Opened in 1865 by the Highland Railway, there were three stations in total. The junction station at Ballinluig on the Highland main line is where the branch began, with the terminus station being at Aberfeldy. There was one intermediate station at Grandtully, which was joined in 1935 when the LMS opened a halt at Balnaguard. In it's early days the line had a reasonable service of six return trips a day, Monday to Saturday, with no Sunday service. The line follows the path of the River Tay, and in places runs directly adjacent to the river itself which would have provided some fantastic views. The communities it served were of fairly low population, and as it was a branch line there were never really any proposals to extend the line.
After nationalisation the line continued pretty much as it had before, until in the 1960's all smaller rural lines came under increasing scrutiny. The branch was recommended for closure under the Beeching Report, and it, together with most of the remaining smaller stations on the Highland main line closed on the 3rd May 1965. In the months before closure, British Railways had trialed using a diesel railcar on the branch. Far from improving the branch finances, this made the branch increasingly more expensive to run! Upon closure the line was quickly lifted, as good traffic had ceased in January 1965.
Today there still remains much to be seen. The junction station at Ballinluig has just recently been totally obliterated by a junction improvement on the main A9 road, but the bridge carrying the line over the River Tay has been recently restored for use by road traffic. West of the bridge, the trackbed can be traced for several miles, and in places it is easily walkable, if rather overgrown. Several overbridges still remain and the station platforms at Grandtully are still in situ. Aberfeldy station site is now a car park, but a relic of the area's railway past is present in the steam locomotive on static display at the local distillery which was at one point served by the line.
The Aberfeldy branch is in some ways a typical example of a rural passenger line that was never going to attract profitable amounts of traffic. However, it ran through some amazing scenery and it is shame that it was eventually closed. Prospects for reopening remain a dream, mainly for the fact that with today's heavy car usage, even with Aberfeldy being a major tourist center, a railway would most likely never be profitable. However, much remains to be sampled by the railway enthusiast and it remains a most interesting and enjoyable line.