The railway line that runs west from Fort William to the port of Mallaig is often included on lists of the world's greatest railway journeys, and very few who have travelled the route would disagree. It was one of the last great projects of the railway age, taking four years to build and opening in 1901. En route it passes along the north shore of Loch Eil before almost touching the north end of Loch Sheil and heading across country to meet the sea at Loch Ailort and Loch nam Uamh. It turns north at Arisaig before coming to its conclusion, alongside "The Road to the Isles", in Mallaig, a stepping stone to and ferry port for the Small Isles and the Isle of Skye.
In more recent times the existence of the line has reached a much wider audience thanks to the inclusion of the Glenfinnan Viaduct in scenes from one of the Harry Potter movies. This has done nothing to diminish the popularity of "The Jacobite", a preserved steam train that runs along the line during the summer half of the year, and which graces a number of the more modern photographs in this wonderful book.
"West Highland Extension: Great Railway Journeys Through Time" by John McGregor is written as a companion to the same author's "West Highland Line", which focuses on the line from Glasgow to Fort William. Both are superb books that should be read and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in the areas the lines traverse, or simply in trains travelling through stunning scenery.
The book begins with a six page history of the West Highland Extension. The bulk of the book forms a photographic journey from Fort William to Mallaig, using great photographs from different periods throughout the life of the line to illustrate points of interest along the route. This is, of course, a book about a railway line, and most of the images feature trains. But in many ways the trains take second billing to the scenery. Steam trains may well be among the most beautiful objects ever created by the hand of man, and there are plenty of them between the covers of this book: but here they complement the stunning landscapes they are passing through rather than dominating them.