THE COMING OF THE RAILWAY
For centuries travellers of all sorts have come by Glen Orchy and Loch Awe on their way to and from the Lorn coast. But travel by horse or by boat was always slow, arduous and uncertain.
THE BENS, THE GLENS AND THE LOCHS...
The coming of the railway in 1880 opened the West Highlands up to mass tourism. Suddenly 1000 passengers a day - i.e. in Fairs Week, could have a day out, leaving Glasgow at breakfast time, arriving at Oban by noon ( earlier at stations in between ) and still be home before dark. In the two years when the line terminated at DALMALLY, having cash-flow problems, excursions like that on the left were advertised.
RIGHT ROYAL HOLIDAYS
In their First Class compartments from London Euston the well-to-do Victorians could follow the fashion established by their Queen for "holidaying in the Highlands". Steam-trains brought them and their servants to the new LOCH AWE STATION, where the new SS "Countess of Breadalbane" waited to take them across the loch to great hotels like ARDANAISEIG, PORT SONACHAN and TAYCREGGAN. Like the LOCH AWE HOTEL itself these loch-side hotels still offer a standard of comfort and style which recalls the grandeur of this Victorian heyday.
Because of the wild terrain the 70 miles of track took some 15 years to build. The spectacular result is a journey that is always picturesque and sometimes even sublime. Who will not thrill at the approach of the terrible BRANDER PASS, where the fast-flowing River Awe rushes beside the train on its way to Loch Etive and the sea? (see picture - left)
FIRST VIP LOUNGE
The imposing red sandstone of DALMALLY STATION suggests the high hopes the Railway entertained for its future - as a junction for a branch to INVERARAY. A room was even set aside permanently - the "Duke's Room" - for the use of the Duke of Argyll and hoped-for distinguished guests. Unfortunately, he was not impressed and he easily persuaded peers in the House of Lords to reject proposals which would have spoilt the view from Inveraray Castle. (see picture below)
THE WHEEL COMES FULL CIRCLE
Competition this century from coach and motor car brought gradual decline. After 1945 passenger numbers declined, steam gave way to diesel and diesel to 'sprinters'. Stations became drab and deserted, some closing altogether. Happily things are looking up: the LOCH AWE PIER boasts a little steamer again and a station tea-room in season. DALMALLY STATION buildings are being restored privately and the ARGYLL RAILWAY TRUST plans to re-open the sidings for trains again. So, after 100 years, Scotland's "Railway Mania" finds an encouraging echo in today's renewed enthusiasm and enterprise.