The 168-mile Far North Line, from Inverness to Wick and Thurso, is one of Britain’s most remarkable rail survivors.
Completed in 1874, it played a major strategic role in Britain’s World War 1 effort, but faced extinction in 1963 when Dr Richard Beeching published his infamous report: 'The Reshaping of British Railways'.
Over forty years ago, David Spaven began on the Far North Line what would become a working life spent in and around the rail industry. In 'Highland Survivor' he relates the fascinating story of Britain’s longest rural railway: its origins, early years, Edwardian heyday, momentous escape from the Beeching Axe, and subsequent chequered history.
Using a range of newly-unearthed public and private archive sources, eyewitness accounts and anecdotes from railway staff – and a unique selection of more than 80 previously unpublished photographs and maps – he reveals the inside story of the successful 1963-64 campaign against closure, by far the biggest rail reprieve of the Beeching era. He then explores the ups and downs of recent decades – including the controversial Dornoch Bridge saga and the collapse of the Ness Viaduct – and considers what the future may hold for this heavily subsidised railway.
'Highland Survivor' will be indispensable reading for historians, railway enthusiasts, tourists and the region’s inhabitants.
by David Spaven
'A fascinating read... I thoroughly enjoyed the account of its (Far North Line) history and recommend this book to rail enthusiasts and also those interested in the life and times of this part of Scotland.' Railscot
'hard to imagine that any of our readers wouldn't want to get their hands on a copy straight away.' Friends of the Far North Line
'a "must" for anyone interested in the UK's most northerly railway, and the author is to be congratulated on putting together such well researched chapters describing the railway's chequered history.' West Highland News
Highland Survivor was awarded ‘2017 Railway Book of the Year’ by the Railway & Canal Historical Society (RCHS).
The book was one of three category winners selected from an original long list of 89 books, and is David Spaven’s second award from the RCHS, having won ‘2013 Popular Transport Book of the Year’ for his best-selling Mapping the Railways.
Mike Constable, a member of the awards panel, commented at the awards event: ‘I couldn’t put it down.’