Following my early summer visit to Blair Atholl (blog: 6 June), the current bargain price £10.00 flat fare offer for Scotrail’s Club 50 members tempts me to pay a return visit from Edinburgh on 26/7 October 2021 to another delightful spot on the Highland Main Line and its most northerly outpost of semaphore signalling.
Kingussie is an attractive small town that stands 11¾ miles south-west of Aviemore and boasts both a listed station building and a listed signal box with the latter, dating from 1922, controlling a passing loop and a total of six semaphore signals from its 17-lever frame, all of which can be seen from the station and from a nearby footbridge.
Standing on the station footbridge and looking south-west you will see a pair of up starting signals, with KG13 controlling exit from the normally little-used platform 2 and KG4 from the bi-directionally signalled platform 1, with a tall down home signal (KG2) visible some way beyond and a spectacular mountainous backdrop in the distance.
From another footbridge just east of the signal box and level crossing there is a good vantage point to watch Inverness-bound trains departing from platform 1 and passing down starter KG3, almost opposite the signal box, while looking east to the end of the passing loop you will see up home signals KG14 for platform 2 and alongside it, on a shorter post, KG10 for access to platform 1.
Passenger services calling at Kingussie comprise the overnight Inverness-Euston Caledonian Sleeper, the day-time Inverness-King’s Cross Highland Chieftain and services between Inverness and Glasgow Queen Street or Edinburgh Waverley, many formed of the Scotrail Inter7City 2+4 HST sets.
While there has recently been talk of a new flow of timber traffic from Altnabreac on the Far North Line to Thurso and Wick, freight traffic on the Highland Main Line is currently very sparse, with the only regular service being the train of Tesco containers from Mossend to Inverness, which is scheduled to reach Kingussie on its outward journey at 08.44, and pass again at 14.43 on its southbound return.
Weather in the Scottish Highlands can be decidedly mixed, so after a very gloomy afternoon at the station on Tuesday (26 October 2021) it was a great relief to have clear and partially sunny weather on the following morning.
Making an early start on 27 October, I was able to not only photograph the heavily-delayed (78 minutes) arrival of the Caledonian Sleeper service, but also see it pass the up LNER Highland Chieftain service, meaning a further delay to the sleeper, which left 90 minutes behind schedule at 08.47.
Another service to have been delayed by speed restrictions further south was the Tesco intermodal freight to Inverness. This is scheduled to pass the Highland Chieftain at Kingussie, but passed 44 minutes late at 09.28 and was hauled by DRS 66301, the loco I had seen on the southbound service the previous day.
One interesting short term change to operations at Kingussie was use of the normally little-used platform 2 for all up services, as a problem with the points north of the station meant up (southbound) trains could not use the bi-directionally signalled platform 1.