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The 15-mile (24 km) line was opened on 6 November 1855, and Inverness & Elgin Junction Railway was formed to extend this line to Elgin.

Branch lines to Banff, Portsoy, Garmouth and Burghead would total miles (49.1 km).

The railway opened short of rolling stock as only half of the twelve locomotives and twenty-four of forty passenger carriages ordered had arrived.

The carriage builders, Brown, Marshall & Co of Birmingham, stated that based on their experience they had expected the line to open at least two months late.

The Great North of Scotland Railway Act received Royal Assent on 26 June 1846.

In the aftermath of the railway mania railway companies became an unpopular investment and the necessary finance could not be raised.

The Royal Family used the Deeside Line for travel to and from Balmoral Castle and when they were in residence a daily special 'Messenger Train' ran from Aberdeen; for most of the railway's life this was its only Sunday service.

The company ran three hotels, and a network of feeder bus services was developed in the early 20th century.

In 1923, it became part of the London and North Eastern Railway as its Northern Scottish area, passing on miles (536.7 km) of line and 122 steam locomotives, most of them 4-4-0 tender locomotives.