The Kennedy Highland Railway Model Collection

Over a period of thirty years, Inverness craftsman the late James Kennedy of Midmills Road created a unique collection of exact scale models of Highland Railway rolling stock. These working models, build to a scale of 10mm/ft (gauge 1) were displayed in an extensive garden layout at the James Kennedy’s home. The layout has been featured in the model railway press and in Set 59 of the Gauge Guild slide/cassette collection. It was considered to be a first class historical representation of Highland Railway operations in the late Victorian and Edwardian ears. Sadly, after the death of James Kennedy in 1984, the collection was offered for sale to the general modelling public and thus was in imminent danger of dispersal and loss to Inverness, the home of the Highland Railway.

In an effort to ensure the survival of as much as possible of the Kennedy Collection, Mr F. D. L. Spaven of Inverness and Dr T. L. Coombs of Nairn started a fund in July 1985 for the purchase of selected items from the collection. Complete funding was beyond their personal resources, but contributions from other local enthusiasts plus an interest free loan provided enough money to be able to save the two locomotives, seven coaches and ten freight wagons, which are now held in trust together with some 500 ft. of track and several controllers and buildings. These were dismantled and uplifted from the late Mr Kennedy’s garden with the kind permission of his son and widow. Together with the offer of a loan of a further twelve items, acquired privately by Mr George Davidson of Renfrewshire, and five items donated to the Inverness Museum by Mr Kennedy, there is now the possibility of exhibiting and running a total of six locomotives, eleven coaches and nineteen freight wagons. It is of interest and significance that a large part of the remaining items of the collection was deemed worthy of purchase by the London Toy and Model Museum.

It is the ultimate aim of the group to form a permanent display, at a site in or near Inverness, which would illustrate, perhaps with the help of additional local artefacts, the railway heritage of the Highlands. Thus we are in close sympathy with the aims and objectives of the Highland Railway. Ideally, space to allow a run of 100-200 ft. would be required to display the models to their best advantage, but as a compromise smaller premises could house a hidden run-round section leading to a terminal scene (Inverness station with the triangle and the Lochgorm roundhouse?). Assistance towards these objectives has been sought from Inverness District Council and its Museum Director, Highland Regional Council, HICB and Scotrail, so far without much success.

In the interim, we have constructed a 30 ft. portable end-to-end layout which incorporates a three-road storage siding merging into a short single track section which leads in turn to a typical H-plan station with a run-round loop. This layout has been exhibited locally at the Nairn Station centenary celebrations in 1985, Scotrail’s Inverness Open Day in 1986, and at model railway clubs’ exhibitions in Elgin in 1986 and Nairn in 1987. A further exhibition was head at Inverness Museum in 1998 to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the Inverness & Nairn Railway in 1855, and was opened on Saturday 9th July by the Countess of Seafield, following the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Nairn Station. The exhibition gives the background history of the Highland Railway and its relationship to the development of Nairn.

The Trust has become a Recognised Scottish Charity (No SCO 35966) and named the Kennedy Railway Models Trust. Whilst we have been able to repay our loan and build up a small reserve in order to conserve the models, we welcome contributions from the public and funding bodies in order to safeguard the future of the collection. Further information may be obtained by contacting the Hon. Secretary, Dr T. L. Coombs, at Tyninghame, Albert Street, Nairn, Nairnshire, IV12 4HQ. Telephone no. 01667 454731.

Notes by Dr T. L. Coombs

Posted in Dr T. L. Coombs.