History Index : The Railway

GNSR : Alford Valley Railway : Monymusk Station : Monymusk Saw Mill : Tombeg Cottages : Closure of the British Railway Network
1878 -1927 GNS Class C Railway Engine
1878 -1927 GNS Class C, LNER
Class D39, Designer W Cowan

In 1845/46 the Great North of Scotland Railway Company (GNSR) was set up to build a railway line from Aberdeen to Inverness. GNSR's original plan was to build a double line track at a cost of GBP 1.5 Million, but this was found to be too ambitious as the capital costs of the project had to be raised by local businesses and entrepreneurs. In the end they only built the line as far as Keith, and another firm eventually completed the track to Inverness.

The mid 1800s was a period of rapid growth for the railway industry and transformed Aberdeenshire farmers' livelihoods, as they were able to transport their cattle and crops the long distances to market so much more easily. As well as the main Aberdeen to Inverness line, branch lines were built by other companies to bring the advantages of train travel to the most remote areas of the North East, including the Alford Valley and Monymusk.

Alford Valley Railway

The railway ran from Alford to Kintore, where it connected with the main GNSR Aberdeen - Inverness line. This branch line opened in 1859 and ran via the saw mill at Monymusk and the quarries at Tillyfourie and Kemnay, providing both a passenger and a goods service. The goods trains carrying granite and timber were numerous, the passenger trains less frequent.

The Alford Branch Line took the following route:-

Alford - Whitehouse - Tillyfourie - Monymusk - Kemnay - Kintore

In 1866 the Alford Valley Railway Company amalgamated with GNSR. At this time many branch lines were bought out by the larger rail companies, which eventually led to the formation of one network - British Rail, and ultimately led to the decline of the railway with the closure of smaller stations and branch lines in the 1960s.

The Alford line closed in 1966, so the nearest station to Monymusk today is at Inverurie. The route of the railway is now a long distance footpath, but in some places farmers have purchased the land to extend their fields. Most of the old railway bridges have been demolished or fallen into ruin, but many are still visible on the main Kemnay to Alford Road.

After closure and demolition the station at Alford was rebuilt to provide a station for the light railway at Houghton Country Park, which today carries tourists around the park and to the Transport Museum.

Monymusk Station
Monymusk Railway Station
Monymusk Railway Station, 1930s

Monymusk Station was about a mile to the South of the village along Station Road. The photo shows the platform and a train at Monymusk Station in the 1930s. From left to right are Christian, Evelyn Grant and Captain and Josephine Holt. The old Station House was demolished when the railway closed, but the old platform is still intact at the back of the garden of the new house, which was was converted from two of the station cottages, each of which apparently housed 11 or so inhabitants.

Monymusk Saw Mill

Along the lane from the station used to be the site of the Monymusk Saw Mill. There were also several workers cottages some of which have now gone, but one of them, St Fergus Cottage, was converted in the 1970s.

The railway siding and yard was opposite St Fergus Cottage and the wood from the saw mill was loaded onto the freight trains there. Closer inspection of the area reveals the remains of a platform and a sawmill chimney hidden in the undergrowth.

Tombeg Cottages

Tombeg was was one of the larger farms in the parish and is mentioned in records from 1710 as a fermtoun, so we can assume that there were already a collection of houses here before the arrival of the railway, which ran behind the garden. The six granite cottages were rebuilt at the end of the 19th Century by Arthur Grant. They were also known to locals as 'White Lums'.

In 1917 Cottages No. 2 & 3 burnt down. The story goes that the fire was started when a spark flew out of the fire and set a bit of broom alight. The tenant in No. 1, a shoemaker named Louis Young, managed to save his house by taking off some of the corrugated iron from the roof and using it to put out the flames, but the other two cottages in that row were completely destroyed. It was just as well that the roofs were not the original thatch anymore, which was removed in 1898, or else they all would have burnt to a cinder.*


Tombeg Cottages
Tombeg Cottages

Today the roofs are still made of corrugated iron and have recently been painted blue, instead of the original red. Each cottage has two rooms; one large room with an open fireplace for cooking, a smaller room on the other side, and built in cupboards in between.

In 1982 No. 4 & 5 were joined into one cottage, and a bathroom with running water was installed between them. Prior to this, all the water had to be carried over from Tombeg Farmhouse in 2 pails, using a wooden frame to balance them, so as not to spill too much.

Until recently, the cottages were occupied by brothers Sandy and Angus. They were born in No. 4 and lived at Tombeg all their lives. Angus was a keen gardener and beekeeper and the flower beds and rows of vegetables were always immaculate. Sandy was a Forester and spent much of his time outdoors chopping wood, or pottering in one of their many sheds. They always had a visitor or two dropping by to see them.

View from Tombeg Cottages

Closure of the British Railway Network

The decline of the British Railway Network occurred as a result of the report by Dr Beeching, then chairman of the British Transport Commission. His report concluded that the railway was unprofitable, particularly the smaller stations and lines, and he recommended closure of most of them, against much opposition and with great detriment to large areas of rural populations.

The first closures were made in 1963, with over 2000 rural stations and 250 lines closed down, as well as extra stations in major cities.

"Far from gearing the railways to the needs of the 1960s, it will in some areas reduce public transport to a lower level than in the horse age."

Lord Stonham, Chairman of the National Council on Inland Transport, condemns the Beeching Report.