Horse in the Viaduct
- a tale of Victorian engineering
- West Word, Mallaig - August 2008.
Plaques commemorating an accident which happened to a horse over a hundred
years ago were erected at the Loch nan Uamh Viaduct and Glenfinnan Station
in July 2008.
Around 1898/9, whilst 'Concrete Bob' McAlpine was constructing the West
Highland Railway Line and the viaducts which carry it, one of his horses
tumbled down inside a concrete pier, dragging its cart with it.
Local legend always held that the accident happened at Glenfinnan, but
in 1987 Professor Roland Paxton MBE, having defined only two piers as
being large enough, ascertained, by use of a fish-eye lens camera inserted
through specially bored holes, that there was no evidence of a horse or
Then Professor Paxton heard that local landowner Mr E.D. MacMillan remembered
from local hearsay in his father's time that the accident had in fact
occurred at the Loch nan Uamh Viaduct.
An inspection hole made in 1997 revealed the pier was full of rubble and
the story may have ended there, but science moves on and in 2001 a state-of-the-art
scanning exercise was carried out. Many hours of work was involved, transmitting
radio waves through walls up to 9 feet thick, and monitoring and interpreting
the results. Incredibly, clearly seen were the remains of a horse, standing
vertically against the east wall above the wreck of a cart. This would
imply that the loaded cart fell into the cavity, dragging the horse with
Thanks to the dedication and determination of Professor Paxton, the legend
has proved true and the event marked in proper style with the unveiling
of the plaques by Sir William MacAlpine.
West Word, Mallaig, August 2008.