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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.The Great North objected again, this time citing the expense of crossing the Spey, but withdrew after it was suggested that the cost of a bridge would be shared.The Great North of Scotland Railway Act received Royal Assent on 26 June 1846.

The company suggested at a meeting in November 1849 that whereas £650,000 was needed for a double-track railway from Aberdeen to Inverness, only £375,000 would be needed for a single-track railway from Kittybrewster, with William Cubitt as engineer. Between Inverurie and Aberdeen the line took over the Aberdeenshire Canal, the purchase of which delayed construction as it was necessary to settle the claims of each shareholder individually.After an inspection by the Board of Trade, the railway opened to goods on 12 September 1854 and approval for the carriage of passengers was given two days later.-mile (174.2 km) route, which needed few major engineering works, followed the River Don to Inverurie, via Huntly and Keith to a crossing of the River Spey, and then to Elgin and along the coast via Nairn to Inverness.Branch lines to Banff, Portsoy, Garmouth and Burghead would total miles (49.1 km).Its eventual area encompassed the three Scottish counties of Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Moray, with short lengths of line in Inverness-shire and Kincardineshire.

Fish from the North Sea ports and whisky from the distilleries of Speyside became important goods traffic.

By 1867 it owned route miles (364.1 km) of line and operated over a further 61 miles (98 km).

The early expansion was followed by a period of forced economy, but in the 1880s the railway was refurbished, express services began to run and by the end of that decade there was a suburban service in Aberdeen.

The Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR/GNo SR) was one of the two smallest of the five major Scottish railway companies prior to the 1923 Grouping, operating in the north-east of the country.

Formed in 1845, it carried its first passengers the 39 miles (63 km) from Kittybrewster, in Aberdeen, to Huntly on 20 September 1854.

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.