27 March 2015

Where’s the working railway on the Isle of Skye? The railway doesn’t go to the Isle of Skye, right? It ends at the pier at Kyle of Lochalsh, or else at the harbour at Mallaig, where boats take you over the sea to Skye.

But there is a railway on Skye. It’s below the spectacular stacks and landslips of The Storr on the Trotternish Peninsula, a few kilometres north of Portree.

Ride down the little lane beside the Storr Lochs and the power lines and penstock pipes might give you a clue.

It’s a funicular* railway, a 1 in 2 gradient down the cliff to a secluded beach, where the mist rolls in off the sea and is funnelled into racing clouds.

*ok, technically, an "Inclined elevator", as strictly a funicular must have two cars attached and counterbalancing each-other at opposite ends of the cable.

A freight funicular, the only way to get engineering supplies down to the Storr Lochs Power Station, the 1952 hydro scheme that once powered the island, until its 2.4MW capacity proved inadequate and Skye was connected to the mainland national grid.

The Old Man of Storr

Today, like much of our hydro infrastructure, it sits idle three quarters of the time; the instant on/off nature of hydro generation making it the preferred choice for handling peaks and spikes in power demand.

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