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Lochearnhead History

Melville Balsillie, Assistant County Commissioner for Hertfordshire Scouts, found the completely derelict station in early 1961. He was a firm believer in the introduction of young people to the wonders of the hills and mountains, so he had been looking for a location to establish a base in the area.


The railway at Lochearnhead opened in 1904 as part of the Caledonian Railway which was expanding all around the area to both make life easier for locals and to bring tourists to the area. Bringing the line from St.Fillans to Lochearnhead proved to be expensive, involving the cutting through solid rock and the construction of two large viaducts. With all this hard work the line had a short life closing on 1st October 1951. The track was removed and the Station became holiday accommodation for a short time, after which the buildings and land were allowed to slip into disrepair.


Talks and negotiations began with British Rail, and for a modest ground rent a 21 year lease was signed on 1st April 1962. From April through to August people worked very hard to get the Station ready for its grand opening, this was no mean feat as it was 400 miles from Hertfordshire and a one way journey could take up to 20 hours.


It was on the 4th August 1962 that the then Chief Scout, Sir Charles MacLean officially opened Lochearnhead Scout Station.


In 1977 as the lease was nearing its end negotiations began with British Rail to secure the future of the Station for the next generations of young people. The only way to secure the station was to buy the freehold from BR. In October 1977 they offered to sell for £13,000 providing the deal was concluded by Christmas Day just 3 months later. An appeal was launched and many people worked very hard to raise money, by the deadline the grand amount of £26,000 had been collected. This allowed for the station to be bought.

In 1990 the Lochearnhead Scout Station Management Committee decided that the facilities at the Station needed bringing up to date. There had been no real development since 1977 and some of the facilities were becoming substandard. At that time plans were produced for rebuilding the Signal Box which had been taken down by the railway more 50 years ago. The new "box" would include new toilets and showers on the ground floor and some leader accommodation above. The estimated cost was £70,000. Plans were drawn up by Gordon Marshall and planning approval obtained.

In 1991 Joy and David Cox took over the responsibility for raising the necessary funds. They drew up a 41 page business plan and a list of names of people and organisations which might be of financial assistance. By then the committee had recognised the need for other improvements and the total estimate was now £150,000.

The Appeal was launched in January 1992. Joy and David wrote to 750 companies and organisations within Hertfordshire seeking financial or practical assistance. 270 replied and 25 contributed. 100 Trusts and Institutions were approached for donations. They wrote to 500 people who had been connected with the Station in the past and reformed "Friends of Lochearnhead. The response was slow but nevertheless encouraging. Individuals, Groups and organisations gave us what they could. The letters from people who had used the Station were very encouraging. By October 1992 just over £10,000 had been raised with the possibility of a further £10,000 in the form of a loan from Hertfordshire County Scouts. It was then suggested that we approach The Foundation for Sport and the Arts and an application was made for a donation of £95,000. Meanwhile quarterly newsletters to the 500 potential "friends" produced second and third donations from some individuals.

In March 1993 The Foundation for Sport and the Arts agreed to assist us and offered a donation of £61,750, providing that we could match this sum, and by June 1993 with monies accumulated over the years, donations and loans, a total of £109,500 was available to put towards the developments. Norman Hyde. who was the Honorary Architect for the original development of the Station was asked to join the committee and he arranged for Campbell Roxby, an architect from Glasgow to act for us. (Scottish Law being different from English means that a Scottish architect is essential.)

By November 1993 through the continued efforts of Joy and David Cox we had a total of over £130,000 available and so now could use the full amount offered by the Foundation.

By now there was an obvious need for changed priorities at the Station. The accomodation for young people which was around 30 years old was in need of replacement. The Signal Box was "putt on hold" and two new semi-detached accommodation chalets and a chalet housing new toilet and shower facilities (including for the physically handicapped) were designed. These were supplied and erected by Finwood UK starting in February 1994. Planning permission for the new toilets preferred us to be connected to the main sewer and by agreement with Ewen Cameron a connection was made with the sewer in the main road.

By April 1994 after more letters to friends a total of £135,000 had been raised and in August we became aware that the donation from The Foundation had been covenanted to us and a further £33,250 was claimed from the Inland Revenue. This enabled us to resite and rebuild the old cabins as leader accommodation, to purchase and fit out 2 new cabins for leader accomnodatlon and to carry out major work on the drive and car park.