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UK's most northerly public miniature railway run by Highland Hospice set to get new ticket office

By Val Sweeney

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The miniature railway at Whin Park, which has been operated by Highland Hospice since April 2019, takes passengers on a half-mile circular route.
The miniature railway at Whin Park, which has been operated by Highland Hospice since April 2019, takes passengers on a half-mile circular route.

It's full steam ahead for a new ticket office for the UK’s most northerly public miniature railway.

Highland Hospice, which operates Ness Islands Railway in Inverness, has been given permission to replace the existing kiosk which is no longer fit for purpose.

The charity took over the railway, which takes passengers on a half-mile circular route, in April 2019 following the death of the previous operator Ian Young.

Highland Council planning officers have approved proposals to replace the kiosk, subject to conditions including a tree protection plan.

They considered the proposed replacement building an improvement in terms of design and appearance.

It comes as the railway is enjoying a bumper season, bringing in much-needed funding for the hospice whose income has been hit as a result of the pandemic.

Andrew Leaver, the hospice’s head of fundraising and development, hopes work on the new kiosk will start by the end of the year.

"We expect the railway will close at the end of the season in October," he said.

"Then in November, before get into the depths of winter, hopefully we can to work on it.

"We have an outline design. We are trying to give it a style which looks a bit like an old-fashioned Highland station with wood cladding and finials around the side.

"We want to give it an ‘olde worlde’ feel and to give it some character."

Mr Leaver said this summer was shaping up to be a busy season on the railway.

Since reopening in April, it has already generated £30,000 for the charity while last year it brought in £40,000.

"We still have August, September and October to go," Mr Leaver said.

"We have benefited from the good weather and staycations – a lot of people are looking for things to do."

The railway has also undergone landscaping work along the route thanks to a grant from the Co-op Community Fund.

It included clearing out overgrown areas and some new surprise features for passengers to look out for.

The hospice is also keen to recruit new volunteers to help run the railway.

"Occasionally we are not able to open because we don’t have volunteers available," Mr Leaver said.

Roles could include collecting tickets, or guard duties – or ultimately even the chance to learn to drive the train.

The railway will be open daily until at least August 16 and then weekends for the rest of August, September and early October.

It opens daily during the October school holiday, weather permitting, and closes for the winter at the end of that period.

Related story: Mini railway in line for new ticket office

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