Past The Tracks
The Callander And Oban Line
The Callander and Oban line was one of a select few main railway lines in scotland to close during the late nineteen sixties. And along with the other main lines closed during this period (Carlisle to Edinburgh via Hawick, Edinburgh to Perth via Glenfarg and Perth to Aberdeen via Forfar), it is very sorely missed. Originally opened in 1870 from Callander to Killin, the line was later extended as far as Dunblane and Oban. Run by the Callander and Oban Railway company until grouped into the LMS in 1923 the line left the main line at Dunblane and traveled to Oban via Doune, Callander, Balquhidder, Killin Junction, Crainlarich and Connel Ferry. There were a few different branches and junctions on the line, and the first of these was at Balquhidder where the line met the line to Perth via Lochearnhead, Comrie and Crieff. After this the line made it's way up Glenogle and ran alongside several lochs. This section has long been acclaimed as one of the most scenic railway routes in Scotland. After Glenogle, the line reached Killin Junction, which was a remote station with no road access. From the junction ran the branch to Killin and Loch Tay. The line then ran on to Crainlarich where it met the Glasgow to Fort William line. There where two stations at Crainlarich and a loop line connected the Upper station (on the Fort William line) to the Lower station (on the Callander line)
The line was always fairly well used by passengers, but as time went by the influence of the motor car was starting to be felt. The branch from Balquhidder was the first to go, closing in 1951. The main line continued on, but the section from Dunblane to Crainlarich appeared on the 'Beeching Report' in 1964. The argument was that the line passed through very rural areas, and was not the only line in the area. The proposal would only close the Crainlarich to Dunblane section, allowing trains to still reach Oban from the Glasgow route. As with most closures there was considerable local protest but the date for closure was set as the 1st of November 1965. Curiously however, even fate had it in for the line, and a large rockslide in Glenogle on 28th September 1965 totally blocked the track and resulted in it's closure. A replacement bus service was provided until the official closure date, but the line essential closed over a month ahead of schedule. The Killin branch also closed completely at the same time. This was actually quite unusual, as most branch lines succumbed much more quickly than the main line that they where attached to.
Today there is still quite a lot of the line left to be discovered. Dunblane station is still open, and the junction formation can still be traced. Doune station has been demolished and built on, but the station masters house and several bridges over the old line still remain. The lovely little station at Callander, which had only recently been renovated was demolished not long after the closure of the line. Today the site is a large car park to handle all of the tourists that should really have been coming to Callander on the train! At Balquhidder the station itself has been demolished but the underpass remains. At Glenogle the line can be walked for several miles, including past the spot that sealed the lines fate. Killin Junction station is overgrown but the platform remains can still be seen. However, it should not be forgotten the line remains intact from Crainlarich all of the way to Oban, so it's important to be thankful that this section of the line still continues to thrive.
The closed section would undoubtedly have been profitable today, especially with Callander and the Trossachs being extremely popular with tourists. It is unfortunately another example of the narrow mindedness that robbed the UK of many of it's great railways. However, what remains still has an attraction of it's own, and this great line will be never be entirely forgotten.