Safeway supermarket's containers being unloaded at Georgemas Junction from an English Welsh & Scottish Railway (EWS) Enterprise train, photographed in January 2001. Safeways, in conjunction with EWS, used rail transport to move goods from their distribution depots in the south to their stores in Inverness, Wick, Thurso and Orkney. The full containers for Orkney were unloaded from rail to road transport at Georgemas Junction to continue their journey to Scrabster. Here they were transferred onto the ferry for Stromness, Orkney. The empty containers made the return journey and were loaded onto the EWS enterprise train at Georgemas Junction for return to the supermarket's distribution depots in the south. Safeway were bought by Wm Morrison in March 2004 and the brand disappeared from the UK on 24 November 2005.
Georgemas Junction is where the branch line to Thurso splits from the Far North line, which continues on to Wick. The junction has the distinction of being the most northerly on the UK Rail Network. The name Georgemas comes from the local fair or market that took place at Sordale Hill on St George's Day and was taken in 1874 for the junction. The station opened on 28 July 1874. It has two main platforms, a station building, a footbridge, a passing loop and sidings that are parallel to the Inverness to Wick platform. The station is crossed by a road bridge at the east end and there is a shed at the south end of the station. There was a bay platform for the Thurso branch (track now lifted) and the Thurso branch had a loop track (now lifted). 'Georgemas Junction' signal box was a tall signal box and lasted a few years after it fell out of use, but has now been demolished. 'Georgemas North' signal box was demolished many years before.
The points to direct traffic to Wick or Thurso were operated by a line side lever frame. This was replaced in 1999 by a plunger system. This is a device located on the station platform that allows the driver to operate the points by depressing a button manually on a panel; in this case they are marked Wick or Thurso.
Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.
'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.
We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:
Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.
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