"The Callander & Oban Railway Through Time" by Ewan Crawford is a wonderfully evocative book that takes you on a journey, as the title implies, through time, as well as through some of the most beautiful areas of Scotland. For modern motorists, a popular route from central Scotland to the Highlands and Argyll follows the A84 and A85 north west from Stirling through Callander and Crianlarich. The sharp eyed traveller will see some evidence on the way that a railway once shared this route, and once west of Crianlarich the still operational railway to Oban becomes a feature in many views from the road.
The Callander & Oban Railway was an ambitious project. Work began in October 1866 and it took 14 years, until 1880, to carve a route through the landscape to Oban. A branch opened to Killin and Loch Tay in 1866, and the last part of the line to be completed, a 27 mile branch along the coast to Ballachulish, only opened in 1903. In 1965 large parts of the line and its branches were closed, leaving only the stretch from Oban to Crianlarich in use as part of the West Highland Line. What this means in practice is that "The Callander & Oban Railway" comprises a number of very distinct elements, and Ewan Crawford is to be congratulated on rolling back the ravages of time, of closure and (especially) of rampant tree growth to knit all the bits back together in a way that makes sense to the modern reader.
The format of the "through time" series is to take old images of the subject and compare and contrast them with modern images of the same subject. It is truly fascinating to see the changes that have taken place on the parts of the line that are still operational, and to wonder who decided in the 1980s to replace the lovely Oban station building shown towards the end of the book with the sad excuse for a station that serves the town today. What is in some ways even more interesting is to see what has become of the now disused stretches of track and the old stations along it. A book like this will always be viewed with a tinge of sadness for what has been lost: but at least the images survive to allow us an insight into just what that was. This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the towns and villages along the route, and, of course, for fans of Scottish railways.