Fort William Rail Trail – Additional Resources

If you have enjoyed the Fort William Rail Trail, you may be interested in these additional photographs and facts about some of the stops along the trail.

Stop 1. Modern Railway Station

This image shows the Modern Railway Station in the course of construction. The railway past the site to the old station was still in use at this time.

Graham Maxtone Collection

Stop 3. Old Fort – Engine Shed & Turntable

When you stand in the Old Fort today, it is important to realise that the grassy area and ruined walls you can see represent only a small portion of the original site. When in use as a military stronghold, the fort also encompassed most what is now Morrisons car park.

The original turntable was 52 feet in diameter and its location was roughly where An Aird Road runs today. This was replaced by a 70 foot model in 1948, which was located in what is today the grassy area of the Old Fort. The steel deck of the 1948 turntable is still in use today, some 400 miles away at Kidderminster on the Severn Valley Railway. However, it is believed that at least part of of the turntable pit still remains in Fort William, buried under the grass of the Old Fort.

Stop 4. Opening Ceremony Platform

The platform used for the opening ceremony was a temporary affair and was quickly removed. However, a loading bank (a platform used for loading goods) was created on roughly the same site and this later became part of the LNER Goods Station. Although intended primarily for cattle, the loading bank was occasionally pressed into service as a passenger platform when access to the passenger station was blocked (e.g. by flooding).

The picture below shows the loading bank and LNER Goods Shed beyond, shortly before they were demolished. It is taken from the sidings near the turntable and is looking in a similar same direction to the opening ceremony photo (stop 4) in the trail. Once again, the spire of St Andrew’s Church is an enduring landmark.

Image by Ian C Clark, Courtesy of the West Highland Museum

Stop 6. Lucas & Aird Construction Pier

Lucas & Aird’s construction ‘base’ was sited just west of the Craigs, approximately behind today’s Belford Road church and ‘Ben View’ guest house.

Stop 7. Platform-End Crossing

The Reverend David Railton, originator of the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, was killed in an accident near this spot on 30th June 1955. Railton had been an army chaplain during the First World War and his experiences on the Western Front inspired him in 1920 to write to the Dean of Westminster, suggesting a permanent memorial to the fallen who had no known grave. He later retired to the Highlands, but tragically died after falling from a moving train as it approached Fort William station. He was buried in the graveyard of St. Bride’s Episcopal Church, North Ballachulish.

Stop 9. Town Pier

By the mid 19th century, the recognised passenger steamer route from Glasgow was Broomielaw/Greenock-Ardrishaig; Crinan Canal; Crinan-Oban; Oban-Fort William (Corpach). There was a regular cargo vessel between Liverpool and Inverness, serving Oban and Fort William, besides MacBrayne’s and other sailings from the Clyde.

The pier in its original form (an L-Shaped construction of granite blocks) can be seen in this Erskine Beveridge image on the Canmore Website.

Stop 10. New Pier and Sidings

In this 1974 image, the photographer is standing next to the New Pier, looking back NE towards the Town Pier and the Old Station. By this time, one of the two sidings had been removed.

Image by John Ford, collection David Ford

Stop 15. Fort William Signal Box

In this photo, construction of the A82 dual carriageway road is well underway. The railway track has been removed and the signal box is out of use and will shortly be demolished.

A. G. Murdoch / Great North of Scotland Railway Association

Stop 18. LNER Goods Station

The image below gives a much closer and more detailed view of the LNER Goods Station (left) and the Parade Garage (right).

Image by Ian C Clark, Courtesy of the West Highland Museum