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May 28th 1878

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The Alyth-Braemar railway

The thirty years from 1850 to 1880 were the boom period for the railways. New railways were planned, new railways were built and most railways made money. Nowhere was too small or too remote for at least an investigation to be made of the possibilities of constructing a new stretch of railway.

In 1878 a project was put forward to build a railway between Alyth and Braemar. It was proposed that the line should run from Alyth to Kirkton of Glenisla, then across to Cray and on to the Spittal of Glenshee. From there it was to climb to the Cairnwell and finish up at Braemar. It seems, to modern eyes, to have been a scheme of monumental folly but it was taken quite seriously at the time. The route was surveyed by engineers and a deputation visited the Festiniog Railway in Wales where it was felt that conditions would be somewhat similar. Because of this visit it was proposed that the line should be of narrow three foot gauge which would cut costs of construction to an estimated £3,750 per mile or approximately £150,000 for the forty mile stretch. It was hoped to raise this sum of money by floating shares, offering the prospect of a return of 6½%.

Much play was made of the success of the Alyth line which had increased its passenger traffic from 28,700 in 1862 to 80,000 in 1878 with a corresponding increase in revenue. It was suggested that as Alyth only served a population of 4,000 and the Braemar line a population of 10,000 the prospects for the new railway were even more attractive. What was not mentioned was the fact that the Alyth railway was only five miles long whereas the Braemar railway would be forty miles passing through difficult and undulating country. There was even the suggestion that there should be another line from Pitlochry to Kirkmichael linking up with the Braemar line at Cray.

Public meetings were held and great enthusiasm was shown but there was a marked reluctance to invest the money needed. As time passed the initial euphoria evaporated and hard headed realism prevailed. As one critic put it, “If the Alyth and Braemar railway can be constructed to pay 6½% on the ordinary stock, it will be a matter of indifference where railways can be made.” 

By 1880 the bubble had burst and the scheme was to all intents and purposes dead.

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