New exhibition revisits Edinburgh's lost railway station

FOR nearly 100 years, Princes Street station was a gateway to and from the Capital, a place where generations waved farewell or gave a welcoming hug and where celebrities and royalty alike caught their first glimpse of everyday life in the city.

Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 12:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 12:22 pm
Princes Street Station
Princes Street Station

Now a new exhibition at the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel, built on the site of the station, is set to rekindle those memories.

Uncovering Edinburgh’s Lost Station captures life at the historic station, fondly known to locals as The Caley.

Ten images have been curated for the display by David McLean, Evening News journalist and creator of local history website Lost Edinburgh.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their first state visit to Edinburgh, departing from the Caledonian Railway Station at the West End of Princes Street. (old pic)

Recalling the origins of the exhibition, he says: “Sian MacKenzie of the Waldorf Astoria approached me, having seen images on Lost Edinburgh.

“She loved the thought of unseen shots of the station being displayed in the hotel. The hotel’s lounge is actually the concourse where my granddad once stood.”

It was a photo of his granddad, Andrew Boyd, that sparked David’s interest in history.

“In 1999, the Evening News ran a series of supplements celebrating Edinburgh through the ages,” he says.

Caledonian Station aka Caley Station Princes Street Edinburgh in 1965.

“In the 1960 edition there was a picture of my grandad in the station. That’s when I discovered he’d been a wheel tapper. You can see the long hammer in the picture.”

That picture is now a centrepiece of the exhibition, taking pride of place alongside images of the Royal Scots returning from Germany in 1960, of the original wooden station and of the Queen arriving on a state visit.

There is also an aerial shot of the station after the terrible fire of 1890 that reduced the original to ash, as well as one of a crowd gathered around the station’s Christmas tree and model railway in 1964.

Unaware of the family connection until he spotted his granddad in the picture, David was aware there had been a station, though too young to remember it himself.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (Laurel and Hardy) at the Caledonian railway station in Edinburgh 13/4/1954. The actors were on their way to stay at the Caledonian hotel whilst they were appearing at the Empire Theatre

“My grandparents lived at Rutland Square,” he says. “As a wee lad I’d take a shortcut across the wasteland that was the car park behind the Caledonian Hotel, walking through the iron gates that are now one of the few parts of the station that still exists.”

He continues: “Years later, when my grandad was 81 and suffering from dementia, I wanted to create something to help stir his memories. That’s how Lost Edinburgh was born.

“Gathering together photos of the station and areas where he’d lived, we sat going through them.

“He kept going back to that one image, the one of him in his days as a wheel tapper. That was the last meaningful afternoon I ever spent with him.”

Hibs fans queue at Edinburgh's Princes Street station (aka Caley station/Caledonian station) for the special train to Glasgow in March 1959. It was to end in disappointment though as the Scottish cup tie ended in a 2-1 win for Third Lanark.

David is dedicating Uncovering Edinburgh’s Lost Station to his granddad’s memory. He says: “We wanted to use images with a story behind them, ones that had a human touch.”

Uncovering Edinburgh’s Lost Station, The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, Princes Street, from Friday, July 27, free, 0131-222 8888

THE TRAIN NOW ARRIVING: A timeline of Princes Street Station

April 1847

Although the foundation stone for the Caledonian Railway company’s Edinburgh station was laid in 1847, the station’s design proved too expensive and was never built.

February 1848

A view of the Caledonian Train Station in Edinburgh being demolished

Early services operated from a temporary station – Lothian Road Station – just up from the Lothian Road extremes of what is now the Waldorf Astoria.

May 1870

The new Princes Street Station opens.


A major blaze destroys much of the timber building.


A new ‘grand station’ boasting seven platforms is built. Parcels and goods services operate from the nearby Lothian Road Station.


Construction of the Princes Street Station Hotel, above the main three archway entrance of the station, starts.


A typical weekday in 1901 would see five trains head to London, 20 to Carlisle, 16 to Glasgow, ten to Aberdeen as well as the local trains.

Mainline services were London, via Carstairs. Suburban services stopped at Merchiston, Slateford

and Kingsknowe, Colinton, Balerno, Barnton, Davidson’s Mains, Granton and



The Princes Street Station Hotel, designed by local architects Peddie and Washington Browne, opens.

September 1965

Princes Street Station closes. It was demolished between 1969-70.

Princes Street Station - Christmas Tree lights switched on by Baillie Hedderwick- Children watch model railway. Left to right Martin Butler, Marion Laing and Brian Laneghan.