The Whisky Line

Some months ago, the Oldest Dominie posed a question regarding the existence of a distillery (now closed) near to Kinross. In fact, it wasn’t so much the distillery that was of importance, but the existence of a railway line by which it was served. In fact, no information was forthcoming, at least until now.

If readers can picture coming from the Forth Road Bridge to Perth via the M90, they will be able to picture heading past Kinross, with Loch Leven to their right. Just past the road for the services at Kinross the eastern end of the Ochil Hills comes into view. And it was here, in one of the small valleys snaking out of the hills, that the distillery and its associated line was built.

The Stronachie distillery was opened in 1890, and at first, its produce was moved out by road. However, this was easier said than done. A large steam tractor was employed, pulling a large bogie trailer fitted with disc wheels and solid tyres. This contraption did the minor road along the valley no good at all, and so something better was required. Around the time of the First War, a narrow gauge railway was built, much of it on embankment, and running just to the east of the road. I haven’t been able to find out the gauge of the line unfortunately, but it could only have been about two feet.

What was unusual about this particular line was the motive power. To pull the train of wagons, a Guy tractor was purchased. A paved roadway was built on either side of the tracks for the tractor, or more correctly, for the rear wheels, to run. The front of the tractor was jacked up and bolted to a four-wheel carriage that ran on the track. This carriage lifted the front, and provided a form of guidance for the vehicle. Traction, of course, was provided by the rear wheels. It must have made a strange sight going up and down the line!.

The line ended at Meikle Seggie Farm, a couple of miles short of the NB/LNER line at Milnathort. From the farm, the whisky was transshippedto the station. It seems that the tractor was parted from its front bogie to do much of this work, along the normal road. Sadly, the distillery was closed in 1930, and the site was razed twenty years later. Now, there is hardly a trace of the narrow gauge line, and indeed, much of the valley is given over to forestation.

What the Younger Dominie hadn’t noted when he studied (sic) his OS map was that Stronachie lies to the north of the watershed, and actually faces towards Strathearn. Last October break offered the chance to have a brief look at the area, and so the long-suffering wife was packed into the car and promised an interesting run. Interesting wasn’t the half of it. The run up from the Devon Valley was steep, and the road narrow, but nothing untoward. The remnants of some of the distillery walls remain, and the cottages for the workers are still inhabited. However, despite several recces, nothing of the track bed could be seen. It was rather obvious too why the whisky hadn’tt been carted north to the Caley line from Stirling to Perth. If the gradients to the south were steep, those to the north were nearly perpendicular. Someone somewhere must have photos – it would certainly have been different!

By Ken McKee

Posted in Ian Lamb and tagged .