VOLUNTEERS leading an ambitious restoration project at an abandoned Lochaber railway station have received the backing of Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.
Invergarry Station Preservation Society members welcomed the Liberal Democrat MP to the station at South Laggan last week where he viewed progress on the scheme to transform the site into a visitor destination.
The society, formed in 2011, has set out to restore the last remaining station of the ill-fated Spean Bridge-Invergarry-Fort Augustus Railway, which operated between 1903 and 1947, that is relatively intact.
Restoration has been under way since April 2012. Although much work is still to be done to bring the station back to life, society members hope that they will be able to establish a museum dedicated to the railway by 2015, if fundraising permits.
Invergarry Station was abandoned by British Rail in the mid-1950s and subsequently became heavily overgrown and a hotspot for fly-tipping.
The site, which is on the Great Glen Way walking route and just off the A82, comprises an island platform and underpass with adjacent track beds.
The society is negotiating with Forestry Commission Scotland for a community purchase of the station site.
Work so far has seen 80 per cent of vegetation cleared, the trackbed adjacent to platform one completely cleared and half that next to platform two.
The next stage involves repairs and renovation to the platform and underpass and ultimately the construction of a museum.
The society is hopeful that, given the station’s location, the museum will attract interest from the general public as well as rail enthusiasts, bringing economic spin-offs to the Glengarry area.
Mr Alexander, who hails from Invergarry, said: “The station project is precisely the type of community-led initiative that makes the Highlands such a wonderful place to live.
“There is still some work to be done here, but I’ve no doubt that before long it will bring a boost to tourism and be a great asset for the community.
“I very much encourage the society to keep up the good work.”
Christopher Ellice, chairman of the Station Preservation Society, said: “We have been working on the site for over a year now, and we’ve made good progress. We have received support from agencies such as Highland Council, Sustrans and the Forestry Commission, and with the support of our local representatives like Mr Alexander I’m optimistic that the project will continue to gather momentum.”
Mr Ellice added: “The plan is to ultimately create a static museum, a station frozen in time with the track within the station limits relaid as a demonstration line, some signals, the station signs, oil lamps and water columns replaced – the latter two items with dummies – and two or three freight wagons at platform two.
“We are currently trying to source track, freight wagons and other artefacts.
“A decision has yet to be taken in regard to the station building and will probably be funding related.
“Outline plans have been made to include an artefacts room, office, toilets and refreshment room but these may change.”