Keeping steam alive in the Scottish Highlands over the last 40 years has been challenging but rewarding.
The Strathspey Railway continues to provide passengers who come from all over the world to visit the Cairngorms with a unique railway experience, travelling on a restored section of what was the original Highland railway line.
The Strathspey Railway Company Limited was formed in 1972 but did not start operating until 1978. This year marks the 40th year of timetabled operation.
Originally the service operated from Boat of Garten to Speyside station – which was located just outside Aviemore – but in 1998 the railway gained access to platform 3 of the then newly refurbished Victorian station in Aviemore and now services run from there to both Boat of Garten and Broomhill – the latter also known as Glenbogle, having featured as the railway station in the popular Monarch of the Glen TV series. The railway's ultimate ambition is to extend its line to the historic 18th century-planned town and Victorian holiday resort of Grantown-on-Spey.
The Strathspey Railway now carries over 70,000 passengers annually and runs the extremely popular Santa Express and mince pie services on weekends through December and early January.
Operating from Easter to the end of October, the railway maintains a number of historically important locomotives and carriages which enables it to recreate an authentic experience of travelling by train in the 1950s through the Highlands. The railway employs a number of people for specialist roles but is mainly operated by enthusiastic volunteers. It is also unique among heritage railways in Scotland in that it is accessible by train; the other two platforms at Aviemore station being served by ScotRail, Caledonian Sleeper and East Coast trains
The three daily train services depart at 10.30, 12.30 and 14.45 on operating days. There is a catering service available in the restaurant carriage which has a well stocked bar with many Speyside whiskies for the visitor to enjoy. Light lunch is available on the 12.30 service and traditional afternoon tea on the 14.45.
On Sundays our exclusive dining train – with its distinctive 1950s red and cream liveried carriages – departs to the sound of the pipes at 13.00 and provides up to 90 diners with traditional Sunday lunch in an ever changing view. This together with our Friday evening dining service are two of the 'must-do' holiday experiences while staying in and around the Cairngorms.