Saturday 13 October to 30 November 2019
9th to 23rd November
“The Balerno Branch Line”
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).
Kinleith Mill then produced about 300 tons of specialist esparto paper a year but by 1865, Kinleith was the 5th largest mill in the
country producing 1,300 tons of paper per annum.
It needed a more efficient way to ship 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 to August 1874, but once opened, the factories prospered, passenger traffic
developed and townsfolk took the train to enjoy a walk in the Pentlands.
But 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 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, published by
Oakwood. Reference copies of the book will be available at the exhibition in Currie Library.