Scottish author wins national ‘Railway Book of the Year’ award

Author David Spaven. Picture: Contributed
Author David Spaven. Picture: Contributed
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AUTHOR David Spaven has won a prestigious Britain-wide transport award.

Spaven won the title for his political, social and business history of the Far North Line from Inverness to Wick and Thurso.

Highland Survivor wins top award. Picture: Contributed

Highland Survivor wins top award. Picture: Contributed

He is calling for the Far North Line to be marketed like the North Coast 500.

READ MORE: David Spaven: We need to save one of Scotland’s heritage routes

David Spaven’s Highland Survivor: the story of the Far North Line – published by Kessock Books – was announced as the category winner at a ceremony held by the Railway & Canal Historical Society in Exeter.

The Society – which encourages the writing of ‘well-researched, interesting and readable books in the field of transport history’ – has been making annual awards since 2004 and this is the second occasion on which Spaven has been an award winner.

His first book, Mapping the Railways – which has sold 70,000 copies – was awarded ‘Popular Transport Book of the Year’ in 2013.

The Society’s citation for Highland Survivor states: “The focus of this book is the story of the line’s survival since the 1950s told by someone who, for much of that time, has been closely associated with it in a professional capacity as a railway manager and consultant.

“The meat of the book is the detailed and informed account of the struggles against closure proposals and changing traffic, drawing extensively on records from the Highland Archive at Inverness.

“The author writes with enthusiasm and authority, advocating local management to enable the line’s continued survival, and emphasising the importance of developing local traffic south of Tain and promoting tourism on the northern section.

“It is important reading for those interested in railway history.”

The author said: “I’m delighted that this award will bring additional focus to a much-neglected railway, which deserves the same kind of attention as the better-known classic Highland tourist lines to Kyle, Fort William, Mallaig and Oban.

“ScotRail and tourist bodies should be applying to the Far North Line the same kind of transformative marketing as the highly successful North Coast 500 road campaign.

“The railway penetrates territory where no road goes, and over its half a dozen distinct geographical sections it skirts estuaries, climbs between mountain ranges and runs along a dramatic, unspoilt coastline.

READ MORE: Jobs boost on North Coast 500 - Scotland’s Route 66

“This is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

“It has been a real pleasure to produce the first detailed account of its remarkable escape from the Beeching axe in 1964 and its subsequent chequered history.”