IT received worldwide fame for taking Harry Potter from Platform 9 and ¾ all the way to Hogwarts.

Now the good old fashioned Jacobite steam train journey between Fort William and Mallaig which forms part of the 164-mile-long scenic West Highland Line has been named the best in Britain.

Steam trains disappeared in the early ‘60s, but since 1996, the West Coast Railway Company has been keeping the tradition alive.

It was named the best of a “magnificent seven” steam railway journeys put together by Boundless, the events and experiences club for public sector workers, which also named Britain’s 50 Greatest Drives earlier this year.

Railways expert and author Anthony Lambert, who has contributed to 20 books on the subject and travelled by rail in 55 countries, was brought in to help judge the winners.


The Jacobite service from Fort William to Mallaig is described as ‘the greatest railway journey in the world’ by operators West Coast Railways – and it took first place in the UK thanks to “dramatic Highland scenery and wonderful service”, according to Boundless.

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The Bluebell Railway in Sussex, famous for its springtime views and dining experiences, came out top in England - and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, renowned for stunning Snowdonia landscapes, was number one in Wales.

Describing the Jacobite experience, Mr Lambert said: “Rated top in the UK, the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig in Scotland is one of the world’s great railway journeys, and steam power has been a feature of the line since 1984.

“Dramatic landscapes fill the window for every minute of the journey (tunnels apart), running beside freshwater and sea lochs with the islands of Muck, Eigg and Rum in the distance. In sunshine, the shallow waters can be a translucent emerald green.

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“The graceful curve of the pioneering concrete viaduct at Glenfinnan featured in Harry Potter films, and the House of Stuart’s last throw of the dice is recalled by the Jacobite monument at the head of Loch Shiel.”

Coming second was the Bluebell Railway, Britain’s oldest preserved standard-guage railway. “It is deservedly well known for its historic carriage and enchanting stations, redolent of another age,” said Mr Lambert.

The Dartmouth Steam Railway came third, with Mr Lambert declaring: “Few of the many West Country branch lines offered such glorious views over the sea as the line taken by the once all-Pullman Torbay Express to Torquay, Paignton and Kingswear.”

The Jacobite service has been operating under various names and with different operators every summer since 1984.

HeraldScotland: Camley's cartoon: steam train route voted best in BritainCamley's cartoon: steam train route voted best in Britain

In 1995 following the privatisation of British Rail, the operating licence for the West Highlander trains was granted to the West Coast Railway Company, and they began operating the service that summer under the new name of The Jacobite.

The Jacobite runs a distance of 41 miles, passing through an area of great scenic beauty including alongside Loch Eil and Arisaig.

The highlight is said by many to be the northbound climb to Glenfinnan station across the famous viaduct, set in an amphitheatre of mountains and overlooking the Glenfinnan Monument, erected in 1815 to mark the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745.

Since 2001, when Warner Bros filmed parts of the Harry Potter films at Glenfinnan, it’s been synonymous with the Hogwarts Express.

The company running the Jacobite service provided Warner Brothers with the train used as the Hogwarts Express in all of the movies and allowed them use of the Jacobite’s route for filming.

The locomotive used to pull the Hogwarts Express in the films, the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall, went on to be placed in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter.

The future of the Jacobite service was thrown into doubt in 2015 by the complete suspension of West Coast Railways’ train operating company licence. The ban was lifted on in May, 2015 allowing the Jacobite service to continue.

The award comes just five days after the Herald revealed concerns that the West Highland Line is to close for ten days with businesses concerned about the effect on trade at the tail end of the tourist season.

READ MORE: Row over ten day closure of Harry Potter-featured West Highland Line

Network Rail officials have confirmed to some that the closure will happen to carry out “critical work” in the 40-mile stretch between Spean Bridge and Crianlarich between October 5 and October 14 .

Steam train journeys on the Jacobite between Fort William and Mallaig continue to October 25, which is considered to be the end of the season.

Network Rail says it is part of a multi-million pound investment to replace the track and decking over the viaduct known as Horseshoe Curve between Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum.

The famous curve came about because railway builders did not have the money for a viaduct across the mouth of the valley. The line now enters, circles and leaves the glen at the foot of Beinn Dorain , Beinn a’ Chaiseil and Beinn Odhar.

Engineers will also be renewing eight culverts to make the line “more resilient” during severe weather.