Scottish Railway Stations

Recollections of





Jim Dunnett

Somerset, England

Thank you to Jim Dunnett, now living in Somerset, England, for sending me his memories (below) of life at Altnabreac Station, Caithness, in the far north of Scotland.

Scottish Railway Stations  -  Altnabreac  -  5 Sep 1999

   Jim wrote:

School and Home

"My first school was that at Altnabreac right next to the station.

We used to live in a railway house at Clashaig, about a mile north of Altnabreac station, just by the first over-bridge on the right of the railway. The other occupants of the semi-detached house were the Altnabreac signalman and his railway ganger father.

The house no longer stands and the whole area is now covered in bloody pines!"

Around Altnabreac

"There was another such dwelling about half a mile south of Altnabreac,  housing two railway families (as I recall) and another single dwelling a few miles past oor wee house in the Scotscalder direction.

All our groceries etc. had to come from Halkirk by train and had to be collected from the station.

Occasionally all the family would go for a weekend to Halkirk in our Austin 7 car.  I really don't know why we didn't take the train!  The road trip took hours and the roads were awful. They still haven't improved much although there is now a bus service between Altnabreac and Halkirk."

Station and Railway Workers

"I remember Sir Archibald Sinclair, the owner of the Lochdhu estate using the station.

The station would also take letters for delivery to the GPO in one of the towns

Scottish Railway Stations  -  Altnabreac  -  5 Sep 1999

In those days the station sported a passing loop, a water tank and a signal box in which I spent many happy hours with our neighbour the signalman.

We had a stationmaster, a porter and as I recall more than a few permanent way maintenance staff. One of their tasks was to patrol the railway with a sledge hammer to replace any of the missing wooden keys that were inserted between the shoe (?) and the rail.  This 'patrol' had to be done over all of the line regularly.

It being a single-track railway, we had a block token system with an automatic tablet changer for the faster trains which fascinated me and which worked very well."


"I only ever remember the Ben class locomotives; I think we had left  before the introduction of the Class 5s which replaced them.

I well remember the fish specials which used to carry herring from Wick to the south as well as very long trains of cattle wagons carrying sheep from the large agricultural auction marts in Thurso and Wick.

I only just remember the 'Jellico' passenger trains which I think were something to do with the forces movements.  Here I may be mistaken - I remember them but that may have been when I lived near Georgemas earlier.

Scottish Railway Stations  -  Georgeamus Junction  -  9 September 2005

The Jellico and the fish-trains were the fastest non-stopping trains we ever saw on that line."

Railway Trolley

"My father was a railwayman.  He drove one of these little covered 4-wheeled trolleys with a little trailer which were common on that part of the railway network, back in the days of the Ben locomotives.

They were so light that they could easily be removed from the line by the driver to let a train pass.  There were 'parking places' for these trolleys, basically very short sidings (10 feet or so of track) at right angles to the main track, but not connected to it by points or anything like that.

The trolleys were used to transport the gangs of railwaymen, their tools and spare wooden keys. They  were powered by a small petrol engine (I should think) and had a  weird mini-turntable with two rails to hold the trailer mounted on a frame."

Jim Dunnett, Somerset, England:  26 November 2005




Tom Brown

Scone, Perthshire, Scotland

Tom Brown replied:

Railwaymen's Cottages

"Jim Dunnett mentioned two railwaymen's cottages, half a mile south of Altnabreac Station.

My late Mother in Law was born in one of these cottages in 1911.   She  grew up, went to Altnabreac School to age 14, then went south to near St Andrews to work in service.

The family name was Munro.  Her father, Murdo Munro, was a linesman on the railway.  The family in the other cottage, I think, were called Hendry.

My wife and I have been to the cottages (Badenean, I think they were called) a few times in recent years.  We find it to be a very interesting area, and so peaceful.

Any more information on these topics would be very welcome."

Tom Brown, Scone, Perthshire, Scotland:  April 9, 2014

Reply to Tom

If you'd like to send a reply to Tom about the subjects that he mentions above, please email me, then I'll pass on his email address to you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  April 12 2014


Scottish Railway Stations

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Scottish Railway Stations  -  Altnabreac  -  5 Sep 1999

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