Station Name: GLENCORSE


Date opened: 7.7.1877
Location:

A footpath from Hawkins Terrace to Edinburgh Road (A701) passes through the station site.

Company on opening:

Edinburgh, Loanhead & Roslin Railway

Date closed to passengers:

1.5.1933

Date closed completely:

1.7.1959

Company on closing: London & North Eastern Railway
Present state:

The north end of the platform survives in a shallow cutting on the north side of an MOD vehicle park. The cutting is heavily overgrown. The south end of the platform and the goods yard have been buried in a landscaping scheme. The pivot post for the goods yard crane has been retained as a feature alongside a tarmac path across the site from Hawkins Road to Edinburgh Road.

County:

Midlothian (Edinburghshire until 1918)

OS Grid Ref: NT246620
Date of visit: 5.7.2011

Notes: Roslin ceased to be the terminus of the line when the Glencorse extension opened on 2 July 1877. The NBR wanted to call the new terminus Glencross, and this name was initially used. Shortly after opening, John Inglis of Glencorse, Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session (who lived nearby), decided that the station should be called Glencorse, and the name was officially changed in December 1877. There had also been a suggestion that the station should be called Greenlaw (after local cottages and a colliery), but this would have led to confusion with Greenlaw in Berwickshire, which had opened as part of the Berwickshire Railway in November 1863.

Although the line continued south to Penicuik gas works this was only for freight traffic, and there were regular suggestions that the line should be extended south to Penicuik. In the early days a horse-drawn carriage ran between Penicuik post office and Glencorse station to connect with all the departures.

When the Edinburgh, Loanhead & Roslin Railway was proposed the promoters were confident that their venture would help to develop the Lothian coalfield, and when the extension opened Greenlaw Colliery, a short distance to the north-west of the station, was already in production. There was a connection running due south from the colliery to a siding on the down side opposite the station. By the 1894 OS map (see below) the colliery is shown as ‘disused’ with the coal seam being
Fire at Mauricewood Colliery in 1886. Click to enlarge.
worked from nearby Mauricewood Colliery, where a self-acting incline was constructed down to sidings south of Glencorse station.

Mauricewood Colliery suffered a bad fire on 17 December 1886 when wood lining in part of the mine ignited and flames spread to a nearby coal seam; it was eventually extinguished by closing that section and dampening it down for four days. At that time 77 men and boys were working underground, and 63 of them died. The mine had been owned by the Shotts Iron Company since 1875.

Mauricewood Colliery suffered a bad fire on 17 December 1886 when wood lining in part of the mine ignited and flames spread to a nearby coal seam; it was eventually extinguished by closing that section and dampening it down for four days. At that time 77 men and boys were working underground, and 63 of them died. The mine had been owned by the Shotts Iron Company since 1875.

Glencorse had a single platform and run-round loop on the up side of the line opposite Glencorse Barracks. On the platform the station building consisted of two brick-built wings containing the booking office, toilets and a gents’ urinal, either side of a timber waiting room with a sloping roof. The stationmaster’s house was at right angles and behind the station building; its design was the same as those at Loanhead and Roslin. The tall, ridged roof had a prominent centrally placed cross-gable on the south-west (down) side, serving as the entrance vestibule. On the north-east elevation two wider cross-gables each had a pair of windows; the window and door openings had segmental arches.

A 17-lever signal box opposite the south end of the platform controlled access to the small goods yard which required a reversal by trains travelling from the north. The yard comprised two sidings, one serving a loading dock. A 3-ton crane stood on the dock.

Glencorse handled a moderate quantity of coal traffic, ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 tons per annum throughout its life. Other minerals peaked at 8,626 tons in 1903 but had dropped to 874 tons by 1930. Although the goods yard at Glencorse was equipped for handling livestock very little was ever dispatched.

Passenger receipts increased gradually from 20,104 in 1890 to 38,700 in 1905. These numbers dropped slowly after that date and in 1932, the last full year before closure, there were only 1,184 tickets issued. There was also regular military traffic generated by the adjacent Glencorse Barracks, especially during WW1, and to a lesser extent WW2; this continued until final closure of the line.

The station closed to passengers on 1 May 1933 but remained open for goods traffic. The signal box closed on 25 March 1934 and was replaced with a 5-lever ground frame. By the early 1950s the timber waiting room had been demolished but all other buildings remained. Penicuik gas works closed in 1956, and shortly afterward the line was cut back to a point just south of Glencorse station to provide a headshunt for troop trains.

Glencorse closed to goods traffic on 1 July 1959. The last passenger train to call at the station was after final closure on 29 August 1959 when the Stephenson Locomotive Society (Scottish Area) ‘Festival Special’ visited the line. After that date the line was closed south of Roslin Colliery, and the track was lifted.

In 1969 the station was still largely intact but by 1973 the platform buildings had been demolished, and the stationmaster's house was derelict and beyond repair. Eventually the northern half of the station site was bought by the Ministry of Defence and used as a vehicle park close to the platform edge. The southern half of the site, including most of the goods yard, has now been landscaped, with a footpath running through it from a new housing estate to the west of the line.

BRIEF HISORY OF THE GLENCORSE BRANCH
There were a number of early schemes to bring a railway through the North Esk valley. One of the more ambitious projects was proposed by the Peebles Railway in November 1845 whose plan was to build a railway to Peebles from a junction with the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway south of Newcaighall. The route would have taken the line through Loanhead, Glencorse and Penicuik, with a branch to Lasswade and Roslin. For much of its route it would follow the course which would later be used by the Edinburgh Loanhead & Roslin Railway. The scheme failed to achieve any momentum, perhaps because of the steep gradients either side of the summit at Leadburn and the lack of potential goods traffic revenue, and it was abandoned before going before Parliament. A further ten years passed before Peebles received its railway which ran to the south of the earlier route, passing to the south of Penicuik, although an inconveniently sited station serving the town was opened on 4 July 1855.

In 1865 the North British Railway (Lasswade, &c. Branches) Act 1865 gave the company authority to build six lines (and two roads) between Edinburgh and the Peebles Railway which would have undoubtedly put some towns including Loanhead and Roslin on the railway map.  The Act stipulated that all work must be completed within five years but construction never started, and the Act was allowed to lapse. Instead the NBR then encouraged local companies to put forward proposals which, if built, the NBR would offer to work for a proportion of the receipts.  

One such company, the Edinburgh Loanhead & Roslin Railway, promoted a line from the North British Railway at Millerhill through Roslin to a terminus at Penicuik. After parliamentary notice had been given, another company, the Penicuik Railway, promoted a line from a junction with the Peebles Railway at Hawthornden, also terminating at Penicuik. Beyond Dalmore Mill at Auchendinny the two lines would follow the same route to Penicuik. The ELR offered a joint venture but this was declined, so the ELR cut their route back to Roslin with powers for a later extension. The Bill was unopposed and passed through Parliament on 20 June 1870. The NBR agreed to work the line for 30 years from the date of opening in return for 45 per cent of the gross revenue. They were also given powers to buy the line within five years of opening.
  
Although the ELR originally hoped to attract considerable revenue from the Shotts Iron Company’s recently opened ironstone mine at Mauricewood, the Penicuik Railway would be better placed geographically to handle this traffic. The ELR was confident that its venture would help open up the Lothian coalfield as mines were already under construction at Gilmerton, Loanhead and Dryden, and by means of short branches to mines at Straiton and Burdiehouse which promised to bring additional traffic to the line. The branch was also expected to generate a high volume of passenger traffic as the towns along the route developed as residential centres for professional people working in Edinburgh who needed to reach their workplaces in the city.  

As with both the Peebles and the Penicuik railways, eminent local railway engineer Thomas Bouch was employed to build the line. Bouch was at the zenith of his career, and with so many projects underway at the same time, one of his assistants, George Trimble was appointed to deal with the day to day work on the ELR. Construction started at Gilmerton in November
1871, but progress was very slow due to heavy rain over a prolonged period. In August 1872 the NBR asked the board to proceed with the extension to Glencorse for which powers already existed. The North British Railway was keen that the extension should be built quickly to attract traffic from Mauricewood pit which was travelling by road.

The line should have been ready for mineral traffic during 1872 but bad weather continued to delay the work. A new estimate for opening the line in June 1873 was made, but only if weather remained favourable through the winter. The NBR continued to put pressure on the board over the Glencorse extension and threatened to take over the extension powers if the board continued to drag their feet. On 5 February the board finally agreed to put a Bill before Parliament for the extension; it received Royal Assent on 5 August 1872. The new Act authorised two lines: the first was an extension of the existing line to Glencorse for passenger and goods traffic (a distance of just under 2½ miles) and the second was from Glencorse to Penicuik only for goods traffic (a distance of just over 5 furlongs).

After protracted and difficult negotiations with the NBR over the junction at Millerhill, mineral traffic to Loanhead commenced on 6 November 1873 while work on passenger facilities continued. Due to pressure of work the Board of Trade was unable to carry out an inspection of the junction at Millerhill until 1 December 1873. The line was finally ready for a full inspection on 7 July 1874, and the Board of Trade inspection by Colonel Rich was arranged for 22 July. After some modifications to point-work the line opened to Roslin in early August 1874 (the exact date is not recorded) with intermediate stations at Gilmerton and Loanhead. The major engineering feature on the line was at Bilston Glen where the line crossed the deep, narrow, heavily wooded gorge of Bilston Burn by a slender lattice girder bridge designed by Thomas Bouch. It rested on five masonry piers, the tallest 134ft high.

Passenger and goods revenue rose steadily during the first year with 21,049 tickets sold at the three stations between February and July 1875. There were four daily trains in each direction. The first was the 8.35 am from Roslin (with a journey time to Edinburgh of 38 minutes) and the last returned to Roslin at 8.58 pm. This frequency was maintained until the opening of the Glencorse extension when one additional return trip was added.

It was hoped to have the extension to Glencorse open by April 1876, but this proved over-optimistic as work progressed very slowly, hampered once again by bad weather.

Before the extension was completed an agreement was made between the ELR board and the NBR for amalgamation. This was approved by Parliament, taking effect from 28 June 1877. By the second week in May the extension was ready for inspection. Major-General Hutchinson inspected the line for the Board of Trade on 16 May. Again the track-work came in for criticism but once modifications can been completed the ELR was authorised to open the extension on 2 July 1877, with the goods-only extension to Penicuik gas works opening later that year. 

Additional passenger traffic came from the military base opposite Glencorse station. This was originally built to house prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars but, by the 1870s, it was disused. The coming of the railway brought a change of emphasis, with the establishment of a base for the Edinburgh County Militia, a form of Territorial Regiment.

The movement of the permanent staff from Dalkeith, where they had been based, to Glencorse on 19 March 1878 was the forerunner of many troop trains which would use the branch over the following 81 years.

By the late 1880s subsidence in the area of Bilston Glen was causing concern to local landowners, and the viaduct appeared to be settling slightly. Following concerns about the standard of work by Thomas Bouch following the collapse of Tay Bridge in 1879, with the loss of 75 lives, an investigation was authorised and carried out in 1890.

Although the nearest mine workings were 350yd away, an underground roadway had been driven to within 50yd of the viaduct. The engineer's report showed that the abutments had settled only slightly (the stonework could be retained with metal straps) and the brick piers had not moved at all, but the NBR still decided to replace the whole structure after only 18 years. They
hoped to replace it with an embankment but this proposal was rejected, and instead they chose to construct a new viaduct consisting of a 300ft-long single span, 40ft deep with 55ft long lattice girders at each end. Two new piers were required, each consisting of a concrete base reinforced by old rails. The piers rested on firm sandstone, 20ft below ground level on the north side, 25ft on the south, while the outer ends of the side spans were to be supported by granite abutments.

Work started on 15 May 1892 with train services terminating at Loanhead. Services resumed over the new viaduct on 26 May. In the early part of 1897 the employees of the Shotts Iron Co. at Straiton petitioned for a platform for their use at the junction, to avoid the walk from Loanhead and Gilmerton. In their estimate dated 10 September the NBR stated that a wooden platform 6ft wide could be provided at a cost of £140, which appears to have been beyond the SIC’s budget, as there is no record of the platform being built. In July 1914 a bus service was started between Roslin and Edinburgh. Although the service was short-lived following the outbreak of war, it was clear that the convenience of buses could in time pose a threat to the railway. WW1 brought an increase in military traffic to the barracks at Glencorse, but wartime economy measures also saw the temporary closure of Gilmerton station which was the quietest on the line.

During the First World War the railways of Britain came under control of the government's Railways Operating Department, who had the power to order wartime economy measures. Owing to a shortage of manpower, one of these measures was the closure of many smaller stations. Gilmerton was one of these, losing its passenger service from 1 January 1917. Unlike some stations the closure was only temporary. There was an increase in military traffic to and from Glencorse Barracks. As the war progressed, more and more men were called to arms bringing increased revenue to the railway.

Whilst the 130 UK railway companies coped well during the war, there were calls for more consolidation and even for nationalisation. The government reached a compromise, and from 1 January 1923 all the companies were grouped into just four large companies, the ‘Big Four’. Under the ‘grouping’, the North British Railway became part of the London & North Eastern Railway.

Initially under the new ownership little changed, but by this time motor transport was making heavy inroads into railway traffic.  Passenger numbers never recovered after the war and through the 1920s they were about half of the pre-1914 numbers, although Roslin still carried a large amount of summer excursion traffic.

The Big Four railway companies were quick to jump on the road transport bandwagon, and in time the LNER and the LMS owned a 50% share in the Scottish Motor Traction Co., although they were not permitted to run bus services themselves.  Rather than integrate road and rail transport the LNER took the decision to close some loss-making lines including the Glencorse branch. With numerous bus routes radiating out of Edinburgh the railways stood no chance of competing. Gilmerton was served by 66 daily buses in
each direction and Loanhead by 43.

Passenger receipts for 1932 were just £256 while the cost of running the service was £1,612. Closure was announced from 1 May 1933, and it passed almost un-noticed. Hardly any objections were lodged, and there was very little discussion about the closure. Very few people travelled on the final train. Special excursions continued to run from Loanhead after the withdrawal of regular passenger services from the branch.

All four stations continued to handle goods traffic, with the four remaining collieries (Roslin, Burghlee, Ramsey and Gilmerton) providing a good income for the northern end of line. In the 1930s additional traffic was generated at Loanhead when a new siding was provided into Mactaggart Scots factory for the shipment of seaplane catapults for the Royal Navy.   

The railways came under minimal government control again during the Second World War, and there were renewed calls for nationalisation. The war once again brought an increase in troop trains to the barracks at Glencorse, and this traffic continued after the war as the base was used as a military hospital and rehabilitation centre for a number of years.

Nationalisation was one of the pledges of the Labour Party, who were swept to power in 1945. The coal industry came first on 1 January 1947 when the National Coal Board was formed, with the remaining four collieries coming under Scottish Division, Area No. 2. From 1 January 1948 almost all of the railways in the UK came under full government control as British Railways. Lines north of the border came under the auspices of British Railways, Scottish Region (ScR).

Coal remained the main source of fuel in the country, and branches such as Glencorse were still vital in transporting the output from collieries. The sinking of a mineshaft at a site in Bilston Glen to the south-west of Burghlee Colliery, which began in 1952, gave the line a new lease of life when full production started a decade later.

In 1955, British Railways published its Modernisation Plan. All areas of railway operation had been reviewed and decisions were made on the way forward, within the perceived wisdom of the time. Ever since the railways had started to carry freight, wagons had been collected and sorted in marshalling yards, which had originally been built to suit each railway company’s needs. This had resulted in a large number of small- and medium-sized yards scattered throughout the country, Edinburgh being no exception. Part of the plan called for new ‘hump’ marshalling yards, where wagons are shunted up a short steep ramp (or hump), and sorted by gravity, running into a fan of sidings. All movements are controlled from one control room, which operates the points remotely and works to a prepared plan. The area immediately to the north of Millerhill station was chosen as the site for such a yard to be known as ‘Millerhill New Yard’ serving the Edinburgh area, with 100 sorting sidings and the capacity to deal with 5,000 wagons per day.

In common with many other lines in Britain at this time, goods traffic on the Glencorse branch was falling to unacceptable levels, with the exception of that dealt with at Loanhead. The closure of Penicuik gasworks, in 1956, when the town was connected to a new main from Edinburgh, had removed the last regular traffic from the extension. The line was soon cut back to a point south of Glencorse station, leaving a headshunt to deal with troop trains. Goods services were withdrawn from Gilmerton, Roslin and Glencorse from Monday 31 August 1959, and the branch was closed beyond Roslin Colliery. Glencorse was served by military specials until 1959, and the last passenger train to call at the station was on 29 August 1959 when the Stephenson Locomotive Society (Scottish Area) ‘Festival Special’ visited the line.

Even as late as the summer of 1960, passenger excursions operated on the former Glencorse branch: On Saturday 4 June the East Church Sunday School outing to North Berwick - 300 adults and a similar number of children filling eight coaches - left Loanhead at 10.05 am, returning after eight hours at the popular East Lothian resort. The train was subject to a 20 mph speed restriction on the branch.

Bilston Glen Colliery opened in April 1961, after many years of development, as one of the National Coal Board’s showpiece collieries. However, two sources of traffic were lost in 1961, namely Straiton Sidings and Gilmerton Colliery. Production at the once thriving workings at Straiton had been declining steadily, with the reduction in the use of limestone in general and,
being a privately owned concern, had reached the point where it had become uneconomic. Gilmerton Colliery suffered a disastrous fire which led to its premature closure, with the miners being transferred to other pits in the area.        

The new yard at Millerhill was brought into use in June 1962. With Bilston Glen colliery in full production and goods traffic still handled at Loanhead the remaining north end of the branch appeared to have a bright future. The Gilmerton colliery site had been sold to scrap merchant Bernard Hunter, with two sidings retained for handling scrap traffic. Burghlee colliery closed in October 1964 followed by Ramsay colliery in December 1965; but with the opening of Cockenzie Power Station in 1968, requiring up to 12,200 tons of coal per week from local collieries, the future of Bilston Glen and the Glencorse branch seemed secure.

Roslin colliery closed in January 1969, and with the loss of this traffic the branch was closed north of Bilston Viaduct. During the 1970s traffic on the branch remained quite stable although the scrap sidings at Gilmerton closed in 1978. However the existence of the branch was put in jeopardy by the National Union of Mineworkers’ strike, which started in February 1984 and lasted for 12 months. During this period the line lay dormant, apart from the annual visit from the weed killing train in June 1984.

A major threat to the integrity of the trackbed materialised in the shape of the Edinburgh City Bypass, which had been planned since the 1930s. Fortunately, when the plans were prepared for the section between Burdiehouse and Sherrifhall the branch was still in use, so the new road was carried over the line, thus avoiding the fate of the Waverley Route, further east, which has been severed. Ironically, the new bridge was brought into use in the latter part of 1988, when the branch had less than seven months of use left. The decline of the deep mining industry in Britain, which had been under pressure from alternative energy sources for some time, continued after the settlement of the strike, and the announcement was made by British Coal (the successor to the NCB) that Bilston Glen - which had flooded during the strike - would close in the summer of 1989.

While production had ceased, there were large reserves stockpiled on site, which had to be removed over the following two years. During this time the colliery was razed to the ground, and a new industrial park was created on the part of the site.

Despite the closure of Bilston Glen colliery and the loss of all traffic the rails remained in place as the cost of removal could not be justified without a new use for the track. Within a few years it was heavily overgrown and strewn with rubbish. At this time there were various proposals to reuse the route as a footpath and cycleway. In October 1998 Midlothian Council instigated a £15,000 feasibility study into the reopening of the line to Loanhead for passenger traffic, but nothing came of this.

Following privatisation the remainder of the line up to the exchange siding at Bilston Glen, including the track itself, passed to Rail Property Services, formerly the British Rail Property Board. The track between Loanhead and Bilston Glen siding was lifted c.1996. In 1998 ownership changed hands once more to Sustrans, who are responsible for many of the cycle ways in the area. Bilston Glen Viaduct was renovated in 1999 and now forms part of a short section of cycleway and footpath running south from Loanhead station. The remaining track to Loanhead goods yard was finally lifted in early 2011.

Ticket from Michael Stewart, Bradshaw from Chris Hind, route map drawn by Alan Young.

Sources:

To see other stations on the Glencorse branch click on the station name:
Millerhill, Gilmerton, Loanhead & Roslin



Prime Minister William Gladstone and his wife Catherine arriving at Glencorse station during the 1890 election campaign. They stayed at Beeslack House, Penicuik.


1894 1:2,500 OS map. The course of a tramway to the closed Greenlaw Colliery (top left) can be seen. A siding on the down side opposite the station served the colliery.

1907 1:2,500 OS map. The Greenlaw colliery siding has now been lifted.

Staff pose on Glencorse station c. early 20th century. The typical ELR station building is seen on the right. The booking office is nearest the photographer, the timber waiting room is in the middle and the ladies waiting room and gents' toilet is at the far end.
Photo from John Mann collection

Glencorse station c. 1930s. 9680, an ex-North British loco, designed by Mathew Holmes, LNER classification J36. It was renumbered by the LNER in 1946 to 5249, passing into BR stock as number 65249. The picture shows it hauling a pick-up freight, denoted by the single lamp over the buffer. The loco was withdrawn on 31.10.1960, although a few of the class lasted a few more years, the last being withdrawn in June 1967. There is one loco preserved: 9673, ‘Maude’ has been saved by the SRPS and is on display in their museum.
Copyright photo from Tony Harden collection

62471 is seen working the Stephenson Loco Society South Queensferry/Kirkliston/Edinburgh Suburban/Glencorse railtour at Glencorse on 28 April 1951. The loco, named ‘Glen Falloch’, is an ex-NBR/LNER D34, built at Cowlairs in 1913 to a Reid design. These popular and versatile 4-4-0s were given the names of Scottish Glens, therefore they became known as the Glen Class. It was withdrawn on 31.3.1960 and scrapped by Connels, Calder in July of that year. This view shows a typical ELR station building (except Roslin) which comprises a timber waiting room (demolished here) with a brick wing either side. The wing on the right was the booking office.
Photo by Rex Conway

The approach to Glencorse station from the south in April 1955. The goods yard is seen on the right with the loading dock and the 3-ton crane. Entry into the goods yard required a reversal.
Photo J L Stevenson from Bill Lynn collection

Glencorse station looking north in April 1955. Glencorse Barracks are seen in the background. With the exception of Gilmerton, all ELR stations had a similar stationmaster’s house at right angles to the station building.
Photo A G Ellis from Bill Lynn collection

Glencorse station looking north in March 1969. The loading dock is seen on the right.
Copyright photo by Nigel Mundy

Glencorse station looking north in February 1973.
Photo by John Mann

Glencorse station looking north in February 1973.
Photo by John Mann

Glencorse platform in February 2011. The land to the rear of the station, including the site of the stationmaster’s house, was eventually bought by the Ministry of Defence for use as a vehicle park.
Photo by John Furnevel from Railscot web site

Looking north along Glencorse platform in July 2011.
Photo by
Nick Catford


April 1955

July 2011

July 2011

Click on thumbnail to enlarge