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In 1846 the Great North of Scotland Railway Act was passed for making a railway from Aberdeen to Inverness. The list of subscribers named in the Act is almost the same as in that of the Aberdeen Railway. Both railways were promoted by the same parties, and from the first a union between the two companies had been intended. In 1847 an Act was passed providing for their amalgamation, which was not to take effect till half of the share capital of each of the two companies had been called up and paid. The Great North of Scotland Railway Company could not dispose of half of its shares, and the amalgamating Act was repealed in 1850.

A straight line between Laurencekirk and Forfar passes through Brechin, but the Aberdeen Railway goes five miles off the straight line to approach Montrose. This induced the Scottish Midland Junction Company to try to get an Act for a direct line from Forfar to Laurencekirk. A bill for this railway passed through the House of Commons, but it was rejected by the Lords, who, though approving of the route, thought that the district could not support two competing railways.

In September, 1847, the railway had been made from Friockheim to Dubton, and branches to Brechin and Montrose had also been made. On October 19, trains began to run, drawn by an engine made in Aberdeen by Blaikie Brothers, which had been conveyed from Aberdeen to Dubton by road. On February 1, 1848, the Aberdeen Company got possession of the Arbroath and Forfar Railway, 15 miles long, valued at £211,848. More money was required to complete the railway, and an Act was got authorising £276,666 to be raised by preference shares at 6 per cent., and a third more by mortgage, but the money could not be obtained, and the works had to be partially suspended. Then the Edinburgh and Northern Company — now incorporated with the North British — undertook to advance the money, and the offer was gladly accepted at first ; but it was rejected when it was seen that the Edinburgh Company wanted to be registered as holding ordinary shares with a guaranteed dividend of 6 per cent. After some delay the share-holders in London took up the preference shares, and work was resumed in April, 1849.

On November 1 the railway was opened for passengers to Limpet Mill, 3 miles from Stonehaven and 12 from Aberdeen. In December it was opened to Portlethen for goods, and in February, 1850, for passengers also. In April it was opened to Ferryhill, where a complete suite of station buildings was erected, and all thought of carrying the railway farther seemed to have been abandoned. On 72 miles — including the Arbroath and Forfar Railway — more than £l, 500,000 had been spent, and nearly £200,000 more would have been required for rolling stock and a station in the city. It was seen that the original site was unsuitable, being too small, and 20 feet higher on the north side at Hadden Street than on the south at Guild Street. The site north of Guild Street had cost £40,000, and if abandoned it would not have sold for more than £20,000. The railway company wished to make the station in Guild Street on a site belonging to the Harbour Commissioners, who were willing to sell the ground, but they wanted to retain for themselves the best part adjoining South Market Street, and insisted on the railway company making a public road from Poynernook to the south side of Provost Jamieson's Quay. They stipulated that the station should be on the south side of this road, though they agreed to allow workshops and other buildings to be erected between it and Guild Street. They also refused to let the railway obtain any part of the Inches. Finding themselves thus hampered the company became unwilling to do anything and preferred to remain at Ferryhill. However, they applied for an Act to enable them to abandon the Market Street site, and to give them power to make a station on the south side of Guild Street. The Market Company opposed, because they wanted a large sum for their building ; and the Harbour Trust opposed, because they wanted to give very little ground and to get much money, but the Act passed. It did not contain any section requiring a money deposit. If a public body pass a resolution to execute a piece of work any person interested can compel them to carry it out. The railway company did not pass a resolution to make a new station, and as there was no penal section in the Act they were unassailable and did nothing. This freedom of action enabled them after a time to come to terms with the Harbour Trust. In 1853 they obtained a new Act, and the station was made in Guild Street and opened in 1854.

In 1856 the Aberdeen Railway was amalgamated with the Scottish Midland under the name of the Scottish North-Eastern Railway. In 1866 this railway was acquired by the Caledonian Railway Company on a perpetual lease at 3 per cent., rising to 4 per cent, for the ordinary shares.

In March, 1845, there was issued the prospectus of a great scheme for a railway from Aberdeen to Inverness to be called the Great North of Scotland Railway. It was to begin at the terminus of the Aberdeen Railway in Market Street, and leave Aberdeen by the Shiprow and Virginia Street; and after crossing the Canal it was to keep between it and the Don. There was to be a short branch from the main line to Banff and Portsoy, and short branches to Garmouth and Burghead. A later prospectus announced that the new company would buy up the Aberdeen Railway ; but this part of the scheme was omitted from the bill brought into Parliament.  It was resolved to carry the railway by Inverurie, and it was announced in October that an arrangement had been made for the purchase of the Canal and that the railway would be made in its bed. The plans of the railway showed that it commenced at a junction with the Aberdeen Railway at the end of Marywell Street, and it crossed Union Street in a deep cutting at the west end of Union Bridge. It followed the west side of the Denburn, which it crossed at the end of Spa Street. To avoid interference with the Infirmary and Broadford Works it passed along the back of the houses on the west side of Spa Street, the west side of Farmer's Hall Lane, and the west end of Rosemount Place, which had not many neighbours in 1845. It crossed Rosemount Terrace, and passed over the sites of Rosemount Church and the Co-operative Bakery in Berryden Road, and then it followed the den to Kittybrewster. There it entered upon the track of the canal which it followed to Inverurie. It thereafter held its way by Insch, Huntly, and Keith to Inverness. To this scheme there was afterwards added a branch from Inverurie to Banff, passing Fyvie, Towie, Hatton Castle, crossing Main Street in Turriff, passing King-Edward Church, and entering Macduff from the east. It then crossed the Deveron and at Banff Harbour joined the short branch to Banff from the main line. Other railways promoted by the same company as feeders to its line were the Deeside Railway from Ferryhill to Aboyne, the Alford Valley Railway from Kintore to Alford, and the Great North of Scotland Eastern Extension Railway from Dyce to Peterhead.

The Great North of Scotland Railway had three rivals to contend with in Parliament before getting its Act. These were the Aberdeen, Banff, and Elgin Railway; the Inverness and Nairn Railway; and the Perth and Inverness Railway, which at Nairn sent off a branch to Elgin. The first of these was to begin at the Market Street terminus of the Aberdeen Railway. It was to pass through the east of the city by the Shiprow, Virginia Street, Hanover Street (where a branch was to go off to the harbour), and Albion Street. Crossing the Canal its route skirted the Links and crossed the Don below the New Bridge. It kept along the coast a few miles, and then turned north and followed the valley of the Ythan, passing Fyvie, Towie  Castle, Hatton Castle, Turriff, and Dunlugas. It crossed the Deveron at Scatterty, and held to the west of Banff to keep clear of the grounds of Duff House. It skirted the many fishing villages on the coast of Banff, and ended at Elgin. This railway was highly thought of by many, and if it had been made there would have been fewer bits of railway in Aberdeen and Banff' than there are now. The Inverness and Nairn Railway would have been easily and cheaply made ; but its bill did not pass, because it was not desirable to let separate companies pick and choose easy parts of a long main line, or to have short sections under separate management.  The Perth and Inverness Bill was rejected because the Committee of the House of Commons thought one railway between Inverness and the south was all that the traffic of the district could support ; and the summit level of the Perth and Inverness Railway was 1450 feet above the sea, which the Committee feared would prove almost insurmountable. The contest then was between the two lines from Aberdeen ; and the Aberdeen, Banff', and Elgin lost because it did not go to Inverness. The victory gained by the Great North of Scotland was dearly bought. The company had spent £80,000 in the contest, and there was nothing to show for it. There were 115 Scottish Railway Bills before Parliament in 1846, far more than there was money in Scotland to make. This caused a distrust of railways as a safe and remunerative investment. Though the Act for the construction of the railway was passed on June 26, 1846, the first turf was not cut till November 25, 1852. The Acts for the subsidiary railways were all passed in July 1846, but they, too, had to lie dormant for a while.

Apparently with the view of reviving interest in their schemes, and getting the benefit of the Acts which had been obtained, the directors of the Great North of Scotland Railway brought into Parliament in 1847 a bill for consolidating the Aberdeen Railway with theirs, under the same name — The Great North of Scotland Railway. The bill passed on July 9; but the Act never came into operation, because the union was conditional on the share capital of both railways being called up to half its amount and expended on the railways, and it was found impossible to dispose of half of the shares of the northern company. In 1850 the Aberdeen Railway, wishing to be free from the incubus of an impecunious partner, obtained an Act of Parliament repealing the union.

In 1851, when the company's time limit was drawing near, a new Act was obtained by which losses were written off, and only the cost of the survey and legitimate ordinary Parliamentary expenses were regarded as valid assets. It was resolved to make the railway to Keith, and to take a slightly lower route from Kittybrewster to the junction at Marywell Street.  To leave the Canal open as long as possible the work of constructing the railway was begun on the part between Inverurie and Huntly, in the end of 1851. The work went on briskly, and the contractor was ready to begin the lower section before the lawyers had completed the transference of the Canal from one company to another. Brooking no delay he ordered his navvies to cut the Canal bank at Dalweary, near Kintore, and let loose the water. This dried the whole section from Port-Elphinstone to Stoneywood, and to their amazement bargemen found their vessels aground for the want of water. This made the lawyers hurry up with their work; but before the barges could be got to their destinations the breach in the bank had to be mended and the Canal had to be refilled with water. The railway was opened from Huntly to Kittybrewster September 19, 1854 Money could not be had to carry it further to Keith or to the junction with the Aberdeen Railway.

A few days after the opening of the railway a train with passengers was standing at Kittybrewster waiting the incoming of another train, as there was at first only a single line of rails. The engine of the moving train dashed into the first carriage of the standing train, and crushed it to bits. A woman sitting beside her husband fell through the floor, and was killed. 3 persons were severely injured, and 20 were hurt. The accident cost the company £l5,000, of which £2,151 was paid by the railway as compensation for injuries to passengers.


Being in possession of the Canal Bed, the railway company got an Act of Parliament for making a branch along it to the Harbour, and a goods station at the Canal Basin near Waterloo Quay. This branch was opened on September 25, 1855; and abandoning all thought of connecting the two railways by the Denburn Valley a passenger station was made at Waterloo, which was opened April 1, 1856. The railway was opened soon after to Keith, where it was met by another originating at Inverness. This brought a great increase of traffic, and in 1859 both Kittybrewster and Waterloo Stations were enlarged.

The powers of the Act obtained in 1846 expired after six years. In 1852 a new Act was obtained for a railway to
Banchory, the part from Banchory to Aboyne being abandoned. The railway to Banchory was opened September 7, 1853. However, on June 30, 1862, an Act was got by which the Deeside Railway was extended to Aboyne, and in 1865 another Act was obtained for extending the railway to Braemar. Queen Victoria did not favour this extension, and by purchasing land through which the railway was to pass she prevented it from being made. In 1866 the Deeside Railway was made over on a perpetual lease to the Great North of Scotland Railway Company.

Cults Railway Station was the first main station on the Deeside Line between Aberdeen and Ballater. The line between Aberdeen and Banchory was opened in 1853 and extended to Aboyne and later to Ballater by 1866. The double line, as seen here, was opened in 1884 and returned to single line in 1951. The Deeside Line closed to passenger traffic on 28 February 1966. Goods traffic continued for a few more months but the final train ran on the line on 30 December 1966.

The Alford Valley Act of 1846 was never brought into operation. In 1855 it was proposed to revive the company, and this led to strenuous opposition from a party who wished to connect Alford with Aberdeen by a line passing through Cluny, Midmar, Echt, and Skene, and joining the Deeside Railway at Drum. After a keen contest in Parliament in 1856, the Kintore and Alford line was sanctioned, and the Great North of Scotland Railway was authorised to take shares in it to the value of £15,000. Parliament told the Deeside Company to finish their own line before interfering in the valley of the Don. The Alford Valley Railway is 16 miles long, and three years were allowed for making it. It was made and was worked as an independent Company for a while, but it was amalgamated with the main line on August 1, 1866. An Act of Parliament for a Railway from Inverurie to Oldmeldrum was obtained in 1855, and the railway was opened in 1856. The Great North of Scotland held shares in it to the value of £2000, and in 1858 it took a perpetual lease of the railway for an annual rental of £650.  The Banff, Macduff, and Turriff branch of the main line was sanctioned along with it in 1846; but the power to make it was allowed to expire before anything was done. In 1855 a new Act was obtained, and the junction with the main line was transferred from Inverurie to Inveramsay. The Great North of Scotland Railway took £40,000 worth of shares, and money was raised sufficient to carry the railway to Turriff in 1857. In this year another Act was obtained for extending the railway to Macduff. The main line contributed £5000, and by a great effort it was extended to the neighbourhood of Macduff. In 1866 this and other branches were amalgamated with the main line, and by another Act passed in 1867 the railway was got to Macduff in 1871, with a station at Banff Bridge.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013