IN its heyday it carried 30,000 passengers a year, many of them tourists making the trip from the ferry port on Mull to a baronial mansion on the island.

But the Mull and West Highland Narrow Gauge Railway stopped running last year when its ground lease at Torosay Castle was terminated, leaving steam and diesel engines, 13 coaches and one-and-a-half miles of track waiting for a new owner.

Now the Isle of Mull Railway could be resurrected in a new home across the sea in Oban after a wealthy Middle East oil industry worker bought the assets.

Simon Clarke, a chemical ­engineer, is in talks with councillors in Oban in his search for somewhere to rebuild the railway. Two possible sites are understood to be the route from Ganavan Sands beach to Dunbeg village and the isle of Kerrera.

Mr Clarke, 43, a native of Nottingham, has been a regular visitor to Oban since his parents retired to a nearby village and he thinks the tourist town is the perfect place for the railway.

He said: "I knew this was ­something I wanted to do at some point. My intention would have been to find a site to build a railway, but when Mull came up for sale it was too good an opportunity to turn down, so I jumped at the it and have been looking for a site pretty much since then."

The railway opened in 1981, taking tourists from the Mull ferry port of Craignure to nearby Torosay Castle, which was then open to the public. But its time in the Hebrides reached the end of the line last year when the ­railway's ground lease at Torosay was terminated with the sale of the castle to a Swiss buyer.

Mr Clarke said he was bound by a confidentiality clause in the sale contract which prevented him from disclosing the price he paid. The only indication of the price tag came when the steam engine Victoria was advertised for sale separately to the rest of the stock, at £30,000 plus VAT.

Louise Glen-Lee, the tourism spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council, said local councillors supported Mr Clarke's idea for moving the railway.

She said: "He is not asking for money - all he is asking for is for the community to get behind him to support him. It would be really good to have a new attraction in Oban and Mr Clarke has said it's not just kids who want to go on this railway, it's adults too."

She added: "There are a number of opportunities in and around the town. He would have to come up with sites and it would then have to go through the normal planning process."

Tourists using the old route had to travel to Oban to catch the ferry to Craignure before using the railway, and Mr Clark said it would be "fantastic" if people coming to the area were still able to enjoy the attraction.

Mr Clarke said: "From a visitor point of view it would be slightly more convenient in Oban and would take in some fantastic scenery."

Journalist and railway writer Gordon Casely said he would welcome the creation of a railway in Oban, which could add to the attraction for tourism in the town.

"Many English resorts have a miniature railway or heritage railway close to them or within the resorts," he said. "Oban should take the tourist lead."