Suffering the same fate as many small and rural railways, the historic branch line between Aberdeen and Ballater in Scotland was axed in February 1966 by recommendation of the infamous Beeching Report, which sought to nationalise Britain's rail network.
Running alongside the River Dee, the original standard gauge Aberdeen-Ballater Line opened in stages between 1859 and 1866 and was used frequently by Queen Victoria when travelling to Balmoral Castle.
The Aberdeen-Ballater railway enjoyed royal patronage right up until its closure in 1966, and was used by King George VI, the Queen Mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Other notable passengers include the Shah of Persia (now Iran) who visited in 1889 and Czar Nicholas II of Russia who visited Balmoral in 1896.
In 1996, three decades after the line's closure, the Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society was formed with the aim of reinstating the line as a heritage railway. Restoration work began in 2003, and today guests of Rail Discoveries can journey along the first completed mile of the new Royal Deeside Railway and admire the beauty of the surrounding Aberdeenshire countryside.
The Royal Deeside Railway's Route
At present, the newly-restored line recreates just over a mile of the original route and extends west from the station at The Milton of Crathes to Birkenbaud Crossing. From here, the Preservation Society hopes to extend the Royal Deeside by a further mile toward the pretty town of Banchory and eventually to the town's station.
The station building at Milton of Crathes is an original and listed Victorian structure which was originally situated at the now disused railway station in the nearby village of Oldmeldrum. This beautiful wooden station house has been painstakingly transported, section-by-section, reassembled and lovingly restored to its former glory. The Milton of Crathes complex around the station also features a tea-room housed in a converted train carriage, a brasserie restaurant, craft shops and galleries.