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Royal Deeside : The old Royal Station at Ballater

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At the centre of Ballater is a beautiful wooden building that was formerly the royal railway station. Recently restored, it now houses an exhibition, the Tourist Information Centre, a restaurant and shops.

The railway was vital to the development of Ballater. It was much used by royalty and visitors to Balmoral Castle. Therefore it brought Ballater to the attention of many people who had never even been to Scotland. Possibly more importantly - at least until about 1950 - the railway gave many 'ordinary' people the opportunity to visit Royal Deeside for long or short holidays. During World War II many soldiers used the station when travelling to Royal Deeside for training.

Given below is a short history of the Deeside railway and the station.

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Royal Station, Ballater Scotland
The former Royal Station at Ballater has been turned into a visitor centre


The railway through Deeside began on 7th September 1853 when the line opened between Aberdeen and Banchory. On 2nd December 1859 the line was extended to Aboyne and on 17th October 1866 to Ballater which became the terminus. A track was laid to the Bridge of Gairn but was not used and its alignment is today the walk-way known as the Old Line. Originally the whole line was a single track with passing loops but between 1884 and 1899 a double track was laid to Park (by Drumoak) enabling a frequent suburban service between Aberdeen and Culter. This popular service was nick-named 'The Subbies'.

Over the years Ballater saw a great variety of steam locomotives. The best remembered is the 'Great North' 4-4-0 class of which 'Gordon Highlander', the sole survivor, is now in the Glasgow Transport Museum. From 1958 an electric battery railcar, affectionately christened 'The Sputnik' was used experimentally for some years.

Initially the railway as far as Aboyne was operated by the Deeside Railway Company and to Ballater by the Aboyne and Braemar Railway Company. The companies joined to form the Great North of Scotland Railway in 1876. The 'Great North' itself was amalgamated in 1923 with other east coast railways to form L.N.E.R. Finally, in 1948 British Railways assumed responsibility for the Deeside line until the controversial Beeching Report of 1963 resulted in closure of the line despite vigourous local opposition. Passenger services from Ballater ceased on 28th February 1966 and freight service later that year.

Ballater Station was at first a simple booking office on a single platform but in 1886 the Royal Waiting Room was built to a design approved by Queen Victoria. Having fallen into disuse after the closure of the railway the station was refurbished for use as an area office by the local District Council. The Royal Waiting Room was visited by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on its centenary in 1986. Afterwards Her Majesty inspected the Royal Guard in front of the station as had been the tradition after the arrival of the Royal Train. Her last journey from the station had begun at 7.15pm on 15th October, 1965.

The Deeside line to Ballater was in the forefront of rural railway lines: scenically because of the beautiful views from the train and socially because of the exceptional array of passengers. From all over the world, they ranged from British and Foreign Royalty and Heads of Governments to youngsters with rucksacks and bicycles. The exhibition in the station illustrates some of this activity. Soon a group of enthusiasts will operate a train over a short stretch of the line between Crathes Castle and Banchory.

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Introduction Balmoral Castle Crathie Kirk Castles 1 Castles 2
Braemar Castle Nature Reserves 1 Nature Reserves 2 Ballater Station  




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