Has Anyone done the Far North Line ?

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fhs man 2

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I was just wondering has anyone done this because I am thinking about doing it, the thing I am afraid of is missing a train and getting stuck up there. So I was just wondering what is it like ?
 
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MidnightFlyer

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It's a very nice line, like the Highland Mainline it is quite a bleak run in places, but nonetheless definitely worth the trip out overall. As for features, from what I can remember it was mainly empty moors and even emptier fields, scattered with the odd village / station.
 

tsr

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I've never been on the Far North line - it's one of those things which I haven't really been, er, far enough North to do! Some time, I'd like to combine it with a sleeper trip, and bash the whole line during a day.

As far as I can see, this line takes in a bit of the "Flow Country", which is a bleak landscape (from the photos!) dotted with the odd tiny village, a number of nature reserves and SSSIs, and one or two nuclear installations. The rest of the scenery includes some hills and medium-sized mountains, mostly rocky or covered with bogs and evergreen trees.

There are several small stations on the line, including what would probably be my personal favourite of all the stations in Great Britain with low passenger numbers: Altnabreac. This station has no current realistic purpose, although I have noted that it possibly did have some sort of operational use involving water and emergency stabling for steam locomotives. It also has the station code "ABC", which I presume is some sort of private joke at ticket offices, because if a drunk or insane rail enthusiast ever tries to be clever and buy (and use) a ticket to "station code ABC", they'd probably end up stranded.

If you get off a train, you might want to use Forestry Commission paths for mountain biking or hiking.
 

glenbogle

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I was just wondering has anyone done this because I am thinking about doing it, the thing I am afraid of is missing a train and getting stuck up there. So I was just wondering what is it like ?
Scenery and journey great, 158's make it enduring . Sad day when the 156's went.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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I was just wondering has anyone done this because I am thinking about doing it, the thing I am afraid of is missing a train and getting stuck up there. So I was just wondering what is it like ?
I went last year with fairly low expectations and loved it.
Magnificant wildlife around Helmsdale, both on the 10-mile shore section from Brora, and the Helmsdale Glen inland.
I've attached a photo of 10 stags taken from the train.
Vast open views most of the way.
I went up in the afternoon and back next morning.
Don't expect much to do in Thurso/Wick, but they are very nice little port towns.
 

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fhs man 2

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I noticed that Altnabreac is a request only station, I was just wondering how does that work how do you tell the driver you want off. I am not planning on getting off there but I was just wondering how would it work ?
 

Liam

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Make yourself clear on the platform as the train is pulling in. In darkness I think trains stop regardless.
Not sure, but I've always taken a torch when boarding at request stops at night. Flash it a couple of times either on the track or on a building/tree, but never at the driver.

The trains usually slow right down and give a couple of blasts on the horn anyway.
 

zoro

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I've never been on the Far North line - it's one of those things which I haven't really been, er, far enough North to do! Some time, I'd like to combine it with a sleeper trip, and bash the whole line during a day.

As far as I can see, this line takes in a bit of the "Flow Country", which is a bleak landscape (from the photos!) dotted with the odd tiny village, a number of nature reserves and SSSIs, and one or two nuclear installations. The rest of the scenery includes some hills and medium-sized mountains, mostly rocky or covered with bogs and evergreen trees.

There are several small stations on the line, including what would probably be my personal favourite of all the stations in Great Britain with low passenger numbers: Altnabreac. This station has no current realistic purpose, although I have noted that it possibly did have some sort of operational use involving water and emergency stabling for steam locomotives. It also has the station code "ABC", which I presume is some sort of private joke at ticket offices, because if a drunk or insane rail enthusiast ever tries to be clever and buy (and use) a ticket to "station code ABC", they'd probably end up stranded.

If you get off a train, you might want to use Forestry Commission paths for mountain biking or hiking.
Picture of Altnabreac, taken on a polaroid :(
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40011/6126853065/in/set-72157629229336713
I stayed on a family holiday here, back in the 70's. I believe the sation was built to serve a nearby hotel, that in turn served deer hunters.
 

dangie

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If there's one thing the journey up to Wick/Thurso makes you realise, it's what a bl**dy long way it is from civilisation..!! Inverness is pretty far north but it's still another four hour journey to Thurso. Sutherland and Caithness really are wilderness. Absolutly wonderful.
 

tsr

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Picture of Altnabreac, taken on a polaroid :(
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40011/6126853065/in/set-72157629229336713
I stayed on a family holiday here, back in the 70's. I believe the sation was built to serve a nearby hotel, that in turn served deer hunters.
Thanks for the photo. It's a pretty good indication of how the station probably was for a good few decades.

I am reliably informed that the station was built a few years before the hotel, and indeed the school. This is why there have been questions regarding the purpose of the station, but some remains of water provision for steam trains do remain, hence the ideas in my earlier post.

I think the hotel was originally the house of some member of the aristocracy, but that it had to be turned into a hotel to raise funds - however, I may be wrong!

Make yourself clear on the platform as the train is pulling in. In darkness I think trains stop regardless.
I have been told that the trains only stop in daylight hours (i.e. there are fewer trains calling in the winter). This is largely because the station is not visible from a long distance, especially in the dark, and neither are passengers on the platform. I understand there is some sort of hill or other obstruction that prevents drivers from seeing the platform until the last minute.

I agree that a bright torch waved at a nearby obstacle (in this case, the platform shelter would probably suffice) should give an indication of your presence, if the trains do stop in the dark.

Platforms have lights, it's not that bad!!!!
Not this one!

Thanks for the tips, I do not plan on using this station I was just wondering.
I suppose you may well travel through the station quite quickly, and therefore you may not even see much or anything of it!
 

fairysdad

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If there's one thing the journey up to Wick/Thurso makes you realise, it's what a bl**dy long way it is from civilisation..!! Inverness is pretty far north but it's still another four hour journey to Thurso. Sutherland and Caithness really are wilderness. Absolutly wonderful.
What do people actually do in these communities? Like jobs and stuff? Or are they just places where most houses are holiday homes and empty most of the time?
 

the sniper

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I agree that a bright torch waved at a nearby obstacle (in this case, the platform shelter would probably suffice) should give an indication of your presence, if the trains do stop in the dark.
It's rather too close to the emergency stop signal in darkness for my liking... The train will stop, but it'll probably do so short of the platform and subsequently contain a large number of shaken up, bemused passengers!
 

Liam

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What do people actually do in these communities? Like jobs and stuff? Or are they just places where most houses are holiday homes and empty most of the time?
Same as any other place, just on a smaller scale really. I've never noticed a huge amount of holiday homes. Wick and Thurso are bustling wee towns.

There is a lot of fishing and related industries, some rig support stuff, mostly around Scrabster, although a few heli's also fly from Wick Airport. Timber and farming too.

Of course Thurso used to have many workers at Dounreay, but this is lessening as the decommissioning takes place.

Tourism plays a large part, but is not the be all and end all.
 

tsr

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It's rather too close to the emergency stop signal in darkness for my liking... The train will stop, but it'll probably do so short of the platform and subsequently contain a large number of shaken up, bemused passengers!
It would be considerably less disturbing than a red light, though! I said "wave", too, which would probably be more relaxed than the "violent" movement which I believe the Rule Book prescribes.

Mind you, I would use a very forceful signal if it was my only chance of a train before about 9am the next day. Remember that we are talking about one of the most remote and desolate stations in Britain, where the only alternative to a train is to hope that you can call a taxi company's number using the payphone, and this, naturally, probably doesn't work.
 

DJ737

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If there's one thing the journey up to Wick/Thurso makes you realise, it's what a bl**dy long way it is from civilisation..!! Inverness is pretty far north but it's still another four hour journey to Thurso. Sutherland and Caithness really are wilderness. Absolutly wonderful.
G'day

You probably haven't been on the Indian Pacific or The Ghan, if you think Thurso is the back blocks. ;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cook,_South_Australia

I went to Thurso in the mid 1980's, still not sure why, just to say I've been there I suppose, but the fish & chips were good :lol:

I met a London tube driver (who was a train nut) up at Thurso, in full uniform :roll:

Cheers
DJ737
Melbourne, Australia
 

fhs man 2

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It would be considerably less disturbing than a red light, though! I said "wave", too, which would probably be more relaxed than the "violent" movement which I believe the Rule Book prescribes.

Mind you, I would use a very forceful signal if it was my only chance of a train before about 9am the next day. Remember that we are talking about one of the most remote and desolate stations in Britain, where the only alternative to a train is to hope that you can call a taxi company's number using the payphone, and this, naturally, probably doesn't work.
Yeah that is what I was afraid of being out there and being stranded.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
G'day

You probably haven't been on the Indian Pacific or The Ghan, if you think Thurso is the back blocks. ;)

I went to Thurso in the mid 1980's, still not sure why, just to say I've been there I suppose, but the fish & chips were good :lol:

I met a London tube driver (who was a train nut) up at Thurso, in full uniform :roll:

Cheers
DJ737
Melbourne, Australia
Why was there a tube driver in Thurso.
 

wintonian

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It's rather too close to the emergency stop signal in darkness for my liking... The train will stop, but it'll probably do so short of the platform and subsequently contain a large number of shaken up, bemused passengers!
I was going to suggest standing on the track waving a red light and red flag might work. ;) (seriously don't try this)

If there's one thing the journey up to Wick/Thurso makes you realise, it's what a bl**dy long way it is from civilisation..!! Inverness is pretty far north but it's still another four hour journey to Thurso. Sutherland and Caithness really are wilderness. Absolutly wonderful.
I agree,

If you can do this trip then you know you can do anything even spending a whole day bashing pacers sound possible afterwards.;)

It's a very good, one which I enjoyed and hope to do again, just not to often though.
 

Xenophon PCDGS

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Inverness is pretty far north but it's still another four hour journey to Thurso. Sutherland and Caithness really are wilderness. Absolutely wonderful.
Very true indeed. In August 1964, a group of six of us (all railway enthusiasts) from Manchester University toured the Far North Line and actually did the "station to station" walk from Forsinard to Altnabreac, which is well over 10 miles in length. The weather fortunately was very good on that day, but anyone considering making such a journey in that region should carry waterproof clothing and wear stout walking boots. We were in the Far North for a two week period and also managed to reach Cape Wrath on the extreme north-west headland with another group from Edinburgh University and to see as much as we could of the Orkney Isles, including a visit to the prehistoric standing stones site at Stenness.

I think the building in the Altnabreac region referred to in a posting was the Lochdhu Hunting Lodge when in its prime, but I understand it is now a private residence. I have made five further rail-inspired visits to that region since then, the last one being in 1979, as my wife in not enamoured of the "wilderness" to the same extent that I was.
 

Butts

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What do people actually do in these communities? Like jobs and stuff? Or are they just places where most houses are holiday homes and empty most of the time?
Don't forget Thurso and Wick are quite southerly compared to Orkney and Shetland :p

If you go to the North West of Scotland rather than the East, Thurso and Wick look like great metropolises in comparison.
 
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