The Far North – Let it Snow!
With portions of the country suffering from a bit too much of the white stuff of late and with some trains embedded in both snow and mud blockages, I thought it might be fun to look back at the problems that snow caused one part of the Highland Railway’s system in the past.
Even though it was not as high as many other parts of the Highland’s system, its northerly position and exposure to winds makes the Far North line prone to drifting snow; especially where the line rises across the flow country between Forsinard and Scotscalder. This has long been a sore to the Highland Railway and there are a number of fine photographs of snow ploughs in action. Here are a few of them.
Believed to be near Scotscalder Station; what looks like a Barney in the rear and a Medium Goods to the middle – there is a further loco lost behind the plume of snow! Photo courtesy of the GNSRA.
Potentially the same train with a pair of Medium Goods and a Barney look to have a lot of trouble with a significant drift at the County March Summit (a bit to the south of Altnabreac). You can see plenty of evidence that the ploughs could not clear the line on their own in the top photograph – note the sides to the “cutting” have lots of shovel sized depressions.
And proof that a lot of digging was required! Both photographs are the NRM’s.
Snow is still a big problem in these lines; in the mid 1970’s a full train was stuck for a couple of days and needed to be supplied from the air (if anyone has any pictures of this I could use, could you let me know?).
The picture below was taken in 2010 where some DRS class 37’s had obviously been hard at work. Photo from Outpost North RSPB.
And after the exertions of clearing the line, this Barney looks as if it needs some attention if only to remove the snow. Remember, this will have been in steam yet is still has snow on its boiler! Photo of a Barney at Helmsdale from the HRS.
All of the ploughs shown in the HR era are of the medium size. There was a bigger one which begs the question of what size drifts were these used on?!?!?