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Steam in the Highlands


The Jacobite Steam Train is one of the most scenic rail rides anywhere, combining beautiful Scottish Highlands scenery, a classic steam locomotive, an audacious curved viaduct and a whiff of Harry Potter.

Jacobite_on_Glenfinnan_Viaduct_1_20211024 Daniel KraftDaniel Kraft/Wikimedia Commons

The Harry Potter bit comes from the train's movie career, serving as the Hogwarts Express in several of the Harry Potter movies. The Glenfinnan Viaduct plays a supporting role in the movies as well.


Our journey on the line last summer was part of an all-day tour of the Highlands. We met the train in Mallaig, a small fishing port at one end of the 41-mile long remnant of the West Highlands Railway. The other end of the line is Fort William, at the foot of Loch Ness.

It's easy to think of steam trains as belonging to the 19th century, but the equipment used here is all 20th century. The locomotives are a design built between 1934 and 1951, and the coaches are from the 1950s.


Although the West Highlands Railway was built mainly as a two-track line, only one track is maintained today, and the 'up' and 'down' trains need to do a little dance with a siding to pass each other. That gave us an excellent chance to lean out our windows and watch the other locomotive in action as it came up and then passed us.



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  • Jacobite_on_Glenfinnan_Viaduct_1_20211024 Daniel Kraft
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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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