7th August 1894

Trains start running to Fort William

Fort William was first connected to the growing railway network by the West Highland Railway, which ran services between Craigendoran and Mallaig. Its station at Fort William was at one end of its first stretch of track – to Craigendoran – which was extended to Mallaig in 1901.

Fort William station opening

The official opening caused some excitement with the Edinburgh Evening News of 7 August 1894 reporting that “to-day the West Highland Railway was opened for traffic, and a considerable number of passengers left the Waverley Station, Edinburgh, by the first train for Fort-William and intermediate stations. There will be three trains each day from and to Edinburgh and Fort-William”.

The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, south of the border, on the same day highlighted the fact that the new station would open up Scotland to visitors from England, explaining “this line is an extension of the North British Railway Company’s system and will open out an entirely new route through magnificent mountain, lake, and river scenery… tourists will now be able to leave by the Great Northern Railway from King’s Cross Station, London, and travel in through carriages to Fort William… ordinary and tourist tickets will be issued from London (King’s Cross Station) and other principal stations on the Great Northern Railway”.

Extra carriages required

The day after the opening, the Glasgow Herald carried a full report for its readers. The railway company had assembled a train of a first class and two third class coaches, an engine and a brake van. However, so many locals had turned up for the event, and wanted a ride, that an extra carriage had to be found. “Many dwellers in Fort-William availed themselves of the opportunity of travelling a short distance on the line, and waiting the arrival of the first train from Glasgow to convey them back.”

However, the ‘Fort William’ station opened by the West Highland Railway was not the one in use today. The original station closed in June 1975 and the site where it sat is now beneath the A82 bypass.

New station planned

The Aberdeen Press and Journal of 9 June 1975 wrote that “the last train out of Fort-William’s railway station… was given a rousing send-off on Saturday amid fog signal blasts and a march played by Lochaber Senior Pipe Band. The present station and railway, along the town’s front, will be demolished immediately as part of the plan for a relief road being built.”

The plan had been to immediately open the new station that still serves the town, but this was delayed by four days because not all of the necessary equipment had been installed in time.

Fort William station today

Fort William remains an important station on the British railway network and supports the local tourism and leisure industry, being the most appropriate station for anyone visiting Ben Nevis.

It is also one of the three Scottish termini of the Caledonian Sleeper overnight service connecting Scotland and London, and terminus for The Jacobite steam train, which runs to Glenfinnan and Mallaig. This train is well known to cinema buffs, as the route and one of the locomotives featured in the Harry Potter film series in scenes involving the Hogwarts Express.



Other events that occured in August

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.