Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Scottish - Oban review 1

Oban railway station

29/7/14 Crianlarich to Oban.
Dept Crianlarich: 10.18
Arrive Oban: 11.33
Weather: cloudy and raining
Single track with passing loops

The train to Oban has left Glasgow Queen Street at 08.21 and is made up of six carriages. It divides at Crianlarich where the front two go to Oban and the back four go onto Fort William and Mallaig. It is a few minutes late and we leave for Oban at 10.18, three minutes late. The station at Crianlarich is an island one with two platforms. It contains a waiting room and toilet as well as a station cafe called The Tea Bar. Having come on the 07.40 from Fort William I have a cooked breakfast here before getting the train to Oban.
The train goes left immediately after leaving the station with the Fort William line going to the right. It travels parallel to us on the other side of the valley for the next few miles as far as Tyndrum, where there is an upper and a lower station for each line. We cling to the right hand side of a hill as we move westwards, on unwelded rail. There are quite a few pine trees around here and they dominate the scenery for the first part of the journey. We seem to be going downhill and pass under the A82 which runs alongside us on the right.
You can see Fiarrach mountain on the left, the first of several high mountains on this line. There are even higher ones on the right with pointed peaks. There is a mixture of low clouds covering the mountain tops with the odd bit of sunshine. There are more pine forests to be seen and a great view of the valley we come down on the right.
The track curves to the left and then we slow and come to a halt at Tyndrum Lower station. It is just a single platform station with a yellow framed shelter. We leave three minutes down and pass a few houses and a supermarket on the right. You can't see Upper Tyndrum station however as it's hidden by trees.
The trees clear for a little here as you have the A85 on the right and a small loch on the left. It's quite small by Scottish loch standards and soon passes. There's still lots of pine trees, so the view is not that great, though I do see a buzzard fly out of a tree. There is another tall mountain on our left and an even taller one on the right, whilst the A85 runs right next to us on our right.
There is the river Lochy now on our right, but it is quite dry. We go over Succoth viaduct and over the river with a new view of the valley ahead to our right. We slow down and start to descend and come to a stop at Dalmally Station, which has two platforms. On the left there is a large colourful statute of a heron, plus lots of flowers. On the right is the main station building which has been restored. There's all sorts of paraphernalia on the platform such as a pair of old industrial size bellows and various woollen things. There's even a woman spinning wool at a spinning wheel. It turns out that Heartfelt Textiles is based on the station. There's even a pet rabbit in a run on the platform!
We move out into open country with sheep grazing on the left and more trees on the right. You then see Loch Awe come into view on the left complete with a ruined Scottish castle on its banks. We cross the River Orchy on a viaduct and then go through a rock cutting and then travel by the side of the loch. We then stop at Loch Awe station. It is now a single platform on the right with a shelter. Though the remains of the original second platform on the left can be seen, as well as the original cast iron footbridge, painted in the turquoise blue of the Scottish Region. It is now pouring down as we cling to the slope of a mountain on our right and the loch on our left.
The A85 is on our left now and we climb again. The main part of Loch Awe moves away from us to the south west on the left, whilst we follow an inlet of it going north west. I notice the red semaphore signals at regular intervals on the left, which also have a second signal attached to the same tower facing the other way. So you get the unusual sight of a double signal, which I have never seen before in all my travels over the British railway network.
I notice a salmon farm out on the loch as we still continue to climb. Then we stop at the Falls of Cruachan station which is a request stop. It has a single platform on the left with unusually a large open shelter in a dias form with no sides. I can't see any sign of the falls, but there is a sheer rock face on our right, and the loch and road far below us on the left.
Eventually we come to end of the inlet, though we are still climbing on unwelded track. There is a dam on the left controlling the River Awe that runs into the loch, presumably for Hydro Electric Power purposes. We lose sight of the river though the road is still with us. The line veers to the right, still climbing, and we are surrounded by trees again. We cross the river Awe on a short viaduct and then suddenly start descending, reaching 50 mph.
The land opens up now, with a flatter landscape, with sheep grazing on the left. Houses appear on the right and then we stop at Taynuilt station. It is has two platforms, though we stop on the right side. There is a signal box on the left side, presumably controlling those semaphore signals we have just passed. I notice a train made up of old whiskey barrels, filled with flowers - a common sight on stations in the Scottish Highlands. There are also two sidings on the left.
As we leave there are trees on both sides now and we curve sharply to the right. There is a small stream on our left and then we see Loch Etive on the right as we continue to descend. The track curves to the left now and we pass the site of Ach-Na-Cloich station on the right, before we speed up to 50 mph.
We pass through another rock cutting and go over the A85. Houses appear on both sides and on the right is an oil distribution depot for the right. Then we arrive at Connel Ferry station. There is a single platform on our right side with a yellow aluminum shelter. We are timed to leave at 11.14 but leave at 11.20. Soon after we leave, you can glimpse a mini version of the Forth rail bridge, though this one is a grey colour. It carries the A828 road north across the loch entrance. We climb once more and move in a south western direction away from the loch, but the open sea in the form of the Firth of Lorn is now on the right.
We move inland again and there are more fields in the scenery. We start to descend quite sharply and the train speeds up to around 60mph as the driver tries to make up time. Houses appear in larger numbers now, though there are still plenty of trees around the track. You can also see house on the hill opposite us and then the sea appears in the distance as we approach Oban. You can see the mountains of the island of Mull as the gap opens up. Then we enter a cutting and slow as two, then three tracks appear on the left. You see a ferry on the left and we slow as we come into Oban station. It is quite curved with just two platforms now with one siding next to it. There is a newish station building as well. The scheduled arrival time is 11.27, but we are still four minutes late. MC