Video: Edinburgh local creates fascinating flyby maps of city's lost railways

Flyby footage provides a fascinating new glimpse of Edinburgh’s vanished railway lines

Monday, 22nd June 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 11:45 pm
Andy Arthur's videos overlay the city's lost railway lines on to modern maps.
Andy Arthur's videos overlay the city's lost railway lines on to modern maps.

A fascinating series of videos have appeared online offering an innovative, birds-eye glance of Edinburgh’s lost railway network.

Edinburgh local Andy Arthur has created annotated flybys showing how rival railway firms once connected the entire city with an intricate patchwork of sleepers, iron and steel.

Using Google Earth paired with historic map overlays from the National Library of Scotland, Andy uploaded the first of his efforts to YouTube more than two years ago, but has published a further two in recent days.

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The compelling footage focuses mainly on the north of the city, and, using different colours for rival lines, shows how the Caledonian Railway Company and North British Railway Company battled for supremacy in the race to connect the city centre to Leith Docks and almost everywhere in-between in the 19th century.

The first video departs from the Caledonian’s long-since demolished Princes Street Station at the West End, and swoops towards Murrayfield along what is now the West Approach Road before passing Ravelston and Craigleith on its way towards Leith North and Granton.

Virtual tour number two begins at Waverley Station and a ride along the North British firm’s abandoned Scotland Street tunnel under the New Town, also ending at Leith and Granton, albeit via different routes.

Video creator and local heritage enthusiast Andy Arthur hopes the videos can assist anyone who has ever noticed an old railway bridge or remnants of a former platform or station and wondered why it was there.

Speaking to the Evening News, financial services worker Andy, 37, says the idea came to him when cycling around the city on many of the numerous paths and walking routes created as a result of line closures following the 1963 Beeching report.

He said: “I grew up in Corstorphine and a lot of the former lines were still pretty much mud paths. Cycling around, I slowly became aware of their history and started pondering ‘why did this go there’ and ‘where did this go’.

“As more and more different resources became available, over the years I’ve built up this database using Google Earth and websites, such as the National Library of Scotland and Scran.

“The flybys are a really effective way of helping people get their heads round where the lines were, or why there were all these strange tunnels through the New Town, or why there is a tunnel under Couper Street in Leith connecting to the Citadel.

“There are so many interesting wee bits hiding in plain sight, which you wouldn’t know were there unless you looked for it, or someone showed them to you.”

Andy’s young son, an avid Thomas the Tank Engine fan, is also benefitting from his dad’s in-depth knowledge of the city’s transport history.

“My son is aged 5 and is always asking if this is a station etc,” enthused Andy.

“He’s at that age now where he’s a big Thomas the Tank fan and he’s always asking questions.”

Spurred on after the videos attracted interest on social media, Andy says he intends to create further flyby videos showing other lost railways around the city – and even Edinburgh’s unbuilt canals.

Andy added: “Three flybys have been made and there are another couple that I’ll hopefully get done this week, then I’ll probably do something that will cover the south of the city.

“I have various plans to create a flyby of the proposed canal systems. There are at least three surveys which show the plans to connect the Union Canal at Fountainbridge with Leith Docks.

“I’ve always had this amazing picture in my head of what a canal would like running down Easter Road with a series of locks.”

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