Edinburgh St Leonards John Speller's Web Pages North British Railway Edinburgh St Leonards

John Speller's Web Pages - North British Railway
Edinburgh St Leonards
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The completion of the Union Canal seems to have made it imperative on the proprietors of the Midlothian coalfield to take measures that their interests should not suffer from the competition by the cheaper coal furnished from the coalfields in the line of the canal. In 1825, application was made to Parliament for its sanction of the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway, but the bill was rejected. In the next session, however, the projectors were more fortunate and the Act received the Royal Assent on 26 May 1826; the work was commenced in 1827, and the railway was opened on 4 July 1831.

The line line was built to the 4 ft. 6 in. "Scotch Gauge" and commenced at St Leonards, on the south side of Edinburgh, and terminated on the north bank of the south Esk at Dalhousie, the whole length being 8 miles and 300 yards. From the depot at St Leonards the line descended 116 feet by an inclined plane, 1160 yards (2/3 mile) in length, in a uniform inclination of 1 in 30. To avoid an expensive cutting, a tunnel was carried through the King's Park, 570 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 15 feet high. This was originally lit by gas. A stationary engine of 25 horse power at the top of the inclined plane easily drew up loads of from 13 to 15 tons, exclusive of wagons. The rest of the line was originally worked by horses. From the foot of the inclined plane to near the fifth milepost, the road was perfectly level, elevated 130 feet above the sea. From that part to the termination of the railway, there was an ascent of 1 foot in 234. From Edinburgh to the crossing of the north Esk, a distance of six-and-a-half miles, a double line of rails was laid. A branch left the main line about three-and-a-quarter miles from Edinburgh, and terminated at Fisherrow Harbour.

St Leonards station, built on the site of a Civil War Battle, was Edinburgh's first railway station. The Edinburgh & Dalkeith was known as the "Innocent Railway" owing to the fact that no fatalities ever occurred on it. In October 1845 the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway was purchased by the North British Railway, who converted it to 4 ft. 8 in. gauge and reopened it in 1847. Meanwhile the North British Railway had opened a new station at North Bridge, later renamed Waverley Station, and from 1846 passenger traffic was routed to the new station via Portobello Junction. St Leonards was used for goods only until closure by British Railways in 1951. The Engine House that housed the steam engine that formerly drew drew the wagons up the inclined plane is now a restaurant and is all that remains of the original station. The tunnel is now electrically lit and has become part of a cycle route.
1905 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram showing the position of Edinburgh St Leonards station. Click here to enlarge
The 1830 Engine House which housed the original winding engine is all that remains of Edinburgh St Leonards Station. Image copyright Kim Traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Map showing the layout of St Leonards station in 1915. Note also the Parkside Printing Works of Thomas Nelson & Sons, and St. Lawrence House, built 1856, the home of Thomas Nelson. Note also how the station adjoins Arthur's Seat, the principal hill in the Queen's (Holyrood) Park. Click here to enlarge
Postcard view of Edinburgh St Leonards station in about 1905.
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