1883, Great excitement. At long last the villages and towns of the north east were to have a coastal railway built by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company and it was going to pass through Garmouth. Can you imagine – no more long waits for the irregular, three-times weekly omnibus. Heavy goods delivered almost to the door. Summer visits from family and friends with few transport problems to overcome and the joy of young and old on hearing and seeing the chugging steam engines stopping at their very own station.
However, the GNSR engineers faced a problem before building could commence in 1883. They needed a bridge to span the Spey. With no rock banks north of the Fochabers road bridge, how were they to contain the mighty Spey within the bridge’s span or ensure the security of middle supports to cope with frequent spring spates and constant changes of the river’s channel. As Dick-Lauder quotes in his book on the Muckle Spate, ‘The Spey’s a wanton wuman, who’ll nae stay in her ain bed.’ And how true that has proved to be over the past centuries.
Finally a decision was reached. To sink paired, cast iron cylinders, 14 feet in diameter, filled with concrete and sunk to a depth of 52 feet below the level of the river bed. Metal blocks with a total weight of 150 tons were placed round the inside of the cylinders. With pumps working continually to keep the insides free of water men descended inside and undermined the base of each cylinder, allowing it to sink further into the bed.
At the time it was built and for many years to follow the 350 ft. central span remained the longest on any single line bridge in Scotland and second largest in the UK exceeded only by the Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits. The three spans on either side are each 100ft long, giving a total length of 947 ft. The outer spans have level girders 10ft high and the centre has a bowstring 40ft 8 inches in height.
Mr Fyfe, civil engineer, Aberdeen was the contractor with the difficult task of forming the foundations, erecting the piers, and diverting the river’s flow while work progressed, while Messrs. Blaikie of Aberdeen constructed the metal bridgework.
The Elgin Courant, always up-to-date with current news describes the completed work as ‘if not the prettiest, one of the most durable and substantial in the kingdom.’
Although completion took only three years, work did not always run smoothly.
At one time the line was double tracked, but soon was singled as a later plan shows. The station had a wooden building similar to others on the coastal route and two platforms. A signal box and two sidings lay at the eastern end.
Apart from a short closure for renovation work in 1928, the line to Garmouth remained in use until the Beeching cuts in 1963 when the coastal rail route was closed bringing yet another village era to an end. For a short while in 1972 there were talks of turning it into a road bridge to ease traffic on the A96, giving a more direct route to Buckie. Cost at that time being estimated at £100,000 with British Rail offering to sell at £5000. However, it was decided the idea was too costly and impractical. So, it planned to leave it as a public walkway with maintenance by Moray Council at that time being £700 p.a.
Today all we have left are names, e.g. ‘Station Road,’ the small housing estate appropriately called ‘The Sidings’ and the ‘Whistlestop Pond’ on the south side of the old line. Memorials to what must have been a grand sight, steam engines and carriages puffing through Garmouth
Published in the Garmouth & Kingston Newsletter Dec 2004