In 1850 Balerno, Currie, and Juniper Green were small rural settlements whose total population was around
2,750. A large percentage laboured on the land while most others worked in the mills along the Water of Leith or
in local shops and workshops. Today our population is about 13,500 and contains few landworkers and no
heavy industry, with most workers commuting out of our dormitory towns.
For businesses like the riverside papermills, the Union Canal, opened in 1822, conveyed bulky raw materials
and took away finished goods. But you needed reasonable roads and heavy horse-drawn carts to make
connection. In 1848, the Caledonian Railway opened its line from London to Edinburgh with a Currie station and
goods yard north of the village. But while this offered quicker deliveries and dispatches, it was still far from Kates
Mill, West Mill and Mossy Mill (Colinton), Woodhall Mill (Juniper Green), Kinleith Mill (Currie) and the Balerno
mills (at Kinauld and Bavelaw Burn). At that time Kinleith Mill produced about 300 tons of paper a year, but by
1865 it was the 5th largest mill in the country: producing 1,300 tons of paper per annum. It needed a more
efficient way to transport goods in and out.
In 1864, negotiations began between the mill owners and the Caley. The following year an Act was passed to
permit construction of the Balerno Branch line, commencing at Slateford Station (at ‘Balerno junction’) and
terminating at ‘Balerno Bridge’, though the line was extended to rejoin the Caley’s main line at ‘Ravelrig
junction’. Various difficulties delayed completion until August 1874 but, once opened, the factories prospered,
passenger traffic developed, and townsfolk took the train to enjoy a walk in the Pentlands.
However, traffic dwindled as roads and public transport improved; people acquired cars, and businesses
became more road-dependent. In 1943 passenger traffic ceased on the line, and goods transport ended in
1967. The track was then lifted and the route became a popular Walkway into the centre of Edinburgh.
Much information on this particular railway can be found in the book by Donald Shaw, “The Balerno Branch and
the Caley in Edinburgh”, published by Oakwood.
Reference copies will be available at the exhibition in Currie Library.