"The Kyle of Lochalsh and Far North Lines" by David Price does a lovely job of bringing to life the trains that have used two of the most magnificent railway lines in the UK over the past few decades. The Far North Line opened in stages between 1862 and 1874 and extends for 167 miles north from Inverness to Wick and Thurso. En route it takes in some seriously remote locations in the heart of Sutherland and Caithness. The Kyle of Lochalsh Line opened in stages between 1864 and 1897 and leaves the Far North Line at Dingwall and heads generally west and south-west for 63 miles to Kyle of Lochalsh. Both were triumphs of engineering when they were built, and both were under serious threat of closure during the Beeching cuts of the 1960s (and the Kyle Line was again under threat in the early 1970s). That both survived and continue to thrive today is something to be celebrated.
David Price's book provides a brief introduction to the lines themselves before launching into an outstanding collection of colour images, presented mainly two to a page. Each image has a short caption that identifies the subject, the place and the date. The photographs were taken between the 1980s and the modern era and the collection of trains and settings is superb. It is clear that the author's interests lie more in steam and classic diesel engines rather than the modern diesel units that operate the normal services. The latter are depicted sufficiently well to ensure they are not overlooked, but they are far outnumbered by steam trains and by Class 37 diesels.
Many of the photographs are, as you would expect, of engines, whether steam or diesel. But there are also many wider shots of trains in the magnificent settings of the northern Highlands. If ever a book cried out for a map showing the courses of the lines covered and the main locations that appear in the photographs, this is it: but sadly there isn't one. I know where most of the places are that appear in the book, but knowing Scotland is what I do for a living. To many readers "The railway to the north and west of Inverness..." (as it is described in the opening of the author's introduction) could be a description of some suburban lines, rather than 230 miles of the most sublime railway on Earth. Yes, the photographs do show very clearly the beauty of the landscapes the lines pass through, but they will leave many readers wanting to place their settings, and that isn't possible from the book itself.