Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR) - A

Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR) - A

GNSR had a main line and several straggling branch lines. Great North of Scotland Railway is a small line which ran north from Aberdeen and did not even get to its intended destination of Inverness. The Great North was a fascinating line which is well worth a second glance.

GNSR Railway Mania

The Company was set up in the railway mania of 1845/46 to build a line from Aberdeen to Inverness. The original plans envisaged a double track line which would have cost £1.5 million - quite a tidy sum in those days and way beyond the means of the people of the area to raise. Several branches were planned at the same time to bring the advantages of railway transport to the whole area. What happened in fact was that the GNS eventually built its line as far as Keith and the rest of the route to Inverness was built by a separate company, later part of the Highland Railway, promoted by the people of Inverness and the surrounding area who would have nothing to do with the Aberdeen folk who promoted the GNSR. 
Branch Lines

Once the main line was open, interest turned to building branches to bring the advantages of rail travel to the other parts o f the north east. Separate companies were set up to build these lines. The GNSR hoped that the capital needed to build these lines would be raised in the areas to be served, but it undertook to operate them on favourable terms. By 1866, branches had been built to Fraserburgh and Peterhead, Alford, Macduff, Banff and Portsoy and Dufftown. From Dufftown, a line had also been built down Speyside linking with the Morayshire Railway at Craigellachie and eventually with the Highland Railway at Boat of Garten. 
Morayshire Railway

The Morayshire Railway was the first line in the north east, originally running just the short distance from Elgin to Lossiemouth. It later extended south to serve the Rothes area. When the Speyside line was opened in 1863, the Great North took over the working of this line. 
Deeside Railway

Another early company operating in the area was the Deeside Railway, which opened to Banchory in 1853 and was later extended on to Aboyne and then Ballater. It had originally been intended to go all the way to Braemar, but the development of Balmoral as the summer home of Queen Victoria kept the terminus at Ballater.

GNSR Amalgamation

In 1866, a major amalgamation scheme was effected, whereby all the branch line companies, with the exception of the Morayshire and Deeside Railways, disappeared. Many of these branch line companies were financially in difficulty. The amalgamation coincided with a major financial crisis in the banking industry, the resulting high interest rates almost bankrupted the GNS itself, but it survived. Creditors were gradually paid off, but the railway had no money for new investment for several years.

GNSR Growth

Prosperity gradually returned. The arrival of a new Chairman, William Ferguson, and a new Manager, William Moffatt, brought renewed vigour to the company in the 1880s. Sections of the main line were doubled, new locomotives and rolling stock were built and the Coast line from Portsoy to Elgin was built. This gave the company a second route to Elgin, in addition to the one via Craigellachie. Trains from Aberdeen often carried three separate portions for Elgin, via Craigellachie, the Coast line and the Highland line from Keith.

Further developments in the 1890s finally saw train speeds on the main line increase, with the introduction of express trains for the through traffic to Inverness. The Westinghouse brake and interlocked signalling were gradually introduced after much pressure from the Board of Trade. Apparatus for automatically changing single line tablets was introduced by James Manson, then the locomotive engineer. Bogie coaches were introduced, although 4 and 6 wheeled stock remained in general use until the 1920s.


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