Station Name: LEADBURN

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 4.7.1855

South side of the A6094 east of its junction with A701 and A703

Company on opening:

Peebles Railway

Date closed to passengers: 7.3.1955
Date closed completely: 5.2.1962
Company on closing: British Railways (Scottish Region)
Present state:

The station site is now a car park and picnic area. Both platforms are partially intact and have been repaired. The south end of the down platform has been buried, and the trackbed into the bay has been infilled and landscaped with the platform edge. Only the north end of the up platform survived, the south end having been demolished to create more car parking space. An interpretation board stands on the truncated end of the platform. Access to the site is from the former level crossing 200 yd north of the station. The stationmaster’s house alongside the A6094 appears little altered and is now a private residence.


Midlothian (Edinburghshire until 1918)

OS Grid Ref: NT235555
Date of visit: 5.5.2011

Notes: Leadburn station opened with the line on 4 July 1855. The station did not serve any sizable community, little more than an inn at the intersection of two major roads. A coach was available from the station to take passengers to West Linton, Romanno Bridge and Broughton.

Leadburn became a junction on 4 July 1864 with the opening of the Leadburn, Linton & Dolphinton Railway, the Act establishing the line having received Royal Assent two years earlier. It was a branch line running off the Peebles railway at Leadburn, with stations at Lamancha, Macbie Hill (originally called Coalyburn) and Broomlee (for West Linton). The line
ran into a new bay platform created on the north face of the existing down platform. Although the station was officially called Leadburn it was shown as Leadburn Junction on some Ordnance Survey maps after the Dolphinton line opened.

The Peebles line had two platforms that were partly staggered. The main station building was on the down platform. It was a rectangular brick structure with a hipped slate roof overhanging the building and included waiting rooms and toilets. Opposite this, on the down platform, there was a timber waiting room with a narrow canopy and a hipped slate roof. The two platforms were spanned by a wooden footbridge close to the two buildings. The bay platform had a passing loop and a turntable at the end of the line which was a turning place for locomotives running from the NB shed at Dolphinton.

There was a siding running behind the up platform, but the goods yard was on the down side at the north end of the down platform comprising two sidings, both serving a small goods dock. There was also a 1 ton 10 cwt crane. A water tank stood on the east side of the up siding, and a water column at the north end of the down platform.

The signal box was beyond the south end of the down platform. This was replaced with a new box close to the footbridge on the down platform in the early years of the 20th century.

After the Dolphinton line closed in April 1933, the lines into the bay platform were used as two additional goods sidings. In 1939, the track from Leadburn to Macbie Hill (near West Linton) was brought back into use for mineral traffic, but this ceased on 1 November

1950 although the track remained in place until 1961. The bottom of the signal box was surrounded by brick walls in 1953, and the box was demolished leaving a small brick building in its place.

Leadburn station had never been busy due to its remote location. It always relied on its position at the crossroads of two major roads across the moors to generate traffic. With the increased popularity of the car after WW2 its existence could not be sustained. It closed to passengers on 7 March 1955, remaining open for goods traffic until closure of the line in 1962. Before the station finally closed, the up platform building and the footbridge had been demolished.

Initially a market town, Peebles played a role in the woollen industry of the Scottish Borders until the 1960s. Today only one woollen mill remains operational in the town. In the mid-to-late 19th century the town became a popular tourist destination centred on hydropathic establishments as Peebles developed into a popular spa resort. Peebles lies at the confluence of the River Tweed and Eddleston Water. The Tweed flows eastwards, and the Eddleston flows from the north, turning to flow south-west 300 yd before the confluence.

The first proposal for a railway at Peebles came as early as 1810 when Thomas Telford proposed a horse-drawn tramway between Glasgow and Berwick, passing through Peebles; nothing came of this or a similar scheme proposed by Robert Stevenson in 1821. Further abortive schemes were to follow before the town finally acquired its railway connection. The most notable of these came in 1841, when the promoters of the Peebles-based National Railway of Scotland hatched a grand plan for a line from Lancaster to Peebles where it would split, with one line continuing to Glasgow while the other served Edinburgh. A Royal Commission was appointed, and it concluded that only one Anglo-Scottish route was required which should be the Caledonian Railway's proposal for a line between Carlisle and Glasgow, with a branch from Carstairs to Edinburgh.

Despite this ruling, the North British Railway opened their east coast Anglo-Scottish route between Edinburgh and Berwick in 1846, two years before the Caledonian opened their line. In the 1840s, in order to tap into the important borders woollen industry based round the River Tweed, the NBR made an approach to buy the existing 4 ft 6 in horse-drawn Edinburgh &
Dalkeith Railway, which would be incorporated into a proposed new route between Edinburgh and Hawick; this received parliamentary authorisation in 1845 and the sale was completed later that year. The line was subsequently converted to standard gauge and doubled, reopening to Dalhousie in July 1847. Construction of the extension to Hawick was rapid, opening in stages as the line forged its way south. Gorebridge opened on 14 July 1847, and by 20 February 1849 it had reached Galashiels (12 miles west of Peebles), finally arriving at Hawick, where a terminus was opened on 1 November 1849.

There was a proposal to include a branch from the Hawick line to Peebles but it was deleted from the Bill. A branch from the Caledonian's Glasgow route to Peebles was also dropped, but it marked the start of fierce competition between the Caledonian and the NBR to bring the first railway to the town. In the meantime an independent group was formed to promote a double-track line from Edinburgh to Peebles via Penicuik. Sufficient capital was raised and a Bill was put before Parliament in 1846, but it fell by the wayside as ‘Railway Mania’ enveloped the country.   

There were no further schemes until 1851 when a group of influential Peebles residents and businessmen once again put forward a proposition to put Peebles on the railway map. The suggested route would run from a junction with the Edinburgh and Hawick line at Eskbank via Bonnyrigg and Hawthornden to a summit at Leadburn, from where it would descend the Eddleston valley into Peebles, a distance of 18¾ miles. Edinburgh-based engineer Thomas Bouch was employed to survey the proposed route. Bouch was well known for building inexpensive railways, and he priced the construction of the Peebles line at £49,065 with a further £10,000 required to cover parliamentary and other costs.

A locally based company was formed, and a Bill was put before Parliament. The Peebles Railway Act received Royal Assent on 8 July 1853 with an authorised capital of £70,000 in £10 shares, and additional borrowing powers up to £23,000.  The Bill stipulated that the line should to be completed within five years. The first sod was cut at Peebles at a well attended public ceremony on 9 August 1853, with work also beginning at Eskbank. The board decided to work the line themselves rather than hand it over to the NBR as this would bring additional revenue for the shareholders. Staff were recruited to run the line, and suitable locomotives and rolling stock were ordered.    

In March 1855 the contractors, Bray and Dyson, announced that the line could be opened in May, and in April the company’s loco Soho completed the inaugural trip into Peebles from Eskbank.  The first passenger train pulled into Peebles on 29 May 1855 carrying invited guests. 

The Board of Trade inspection followed on 28 June, and it was reported that Captain Price was ‘highly pleased with the works’.  He did, however, place a restriction, with only one train in steam being allowed on the line.  Considering the length of the line the company objected, and the inspector relented on the condition that the line was divided into two sections:  Eskbank to Penicuik (Pomathorn) and Penicuik to Peebles.  This was agreed, and the line opened to passenger and goods traffic, without ceremony, on 4 July 1855, with three daily passenger trains to Edinburgh.  Intermediate stations were provided at Eddleston, Leadburn, Penicuik (later renamed Pomathorn), Rosslynlee, Hawthornden and Bonnyrigg. An additional short-lived station at Earlyvale Gate had opened by June 1855. 

The line was immediately popular as it offered a large reduction in the cost of transporting goods to market. The transport of livestock quickly increased, and a weekly grain market was established. The company promoted the building of housing in Peebles, with free tickets being offered for a number of years to anyone who built a new house in the area. With the immediate success of the line, and the prosperity it brought to Peebles, it came as no surprise when an extension to Galashiels on the Edinburgh and Hawick line was proposed.

On 21 May 1858 the Symington, Biggar & Broughton Railway was formed to bring a second line into Peebles, from the west.  Initially this local company did not give the Peebles Railway board any cause for concern; but when the Caledonian Railway decided to back the new venture it was soon clear that if this line was built it would present serious competition. In November 1859 the SB&B put a Bill before Parliament to extend their partially constructed line into Peebles. To counter this, the NBR persuaded the Peebles Railway to promote a Bill for a line from Peebles to Galashiels via Innerleithen. The NBR were determined to block any attempt by the Caledonian to extend beyond Peebles, but the Bill failed owing to pressure from the Caledonian and their supporters.

The NBR were determined not to be beaten, and they formed the Galashiels & Peebles Railway with a new Bill being put before Parliament the following year. In an attempt to stop the rivalry between the two railway giants the NBR and the Caledonian came to an agreement which included a link with the Caledonian at Peebles in the NBR scheme, allowing through running for the Caledonian over NBR metals both to the PR's Peebles station and to Galashiels. The Caledonian was also given powers to build mineral depots at Innerleithen and Galashiels.

Despite a last minute change of mind by the Caledonian the North British (Galashiels and Peebles) Railway Act came into force on 28 June 1861, and the Caledonian finally gave up any attempt to extend beyond Peebles.

In 1860 the NBR announced that they were intending to put a Bill before Parliament for the amalgamation of the Peebles Railway with the NBR. Satisfactory terms were eventually agreed and, having worked the Peebles Railway themselves for six years, the board finally handed over the running of the line to the NBR on 1 February 1861. From 11 July that year the line
was leased to the NBR under the North British Peebles Railway (Lease) Act 1861. On 1 August 1861 parliamentary approval was give for the amalgamation of the SB&BR with the Caledonian.

There was still one further line to complete the story: on 1 June 1862 the independent Leadburn, Linton & Dolphinton Railway received its Act of Incorporation for a line from Leadburn on the Peebles Railway to a junction with the Caledonian at Dolphinton.

Peebles station was re-sited to the south on 5 February 1852 in connection with the Galashiels extension but the old station was retained as a goods facility. As work on the Galashiels line continued, the Caledonian's extension to Peebles opened on 1 February 1864. The Dolphinton - Leadburn line opened on 4 July 1864, and the first section of the Galashiels line opened to Innerleithen with one intermediate station at Cardrona on 1 October 1864, having opened to goods traffic several weeks earlier. Initially there was a service of four weekday trains between Innerleithen and Edinburgh, with two on Sunday. The final section of the line between Innerleithen and Galashiels opened on 18 June 1866 with intermediate stations at Clovenfords and Thornielee, a third station at Walkerburn opening on 1 January 1867. This completed what became known as the Peebles loop of the Waverley route. 

There were two further branches. In January 1863 the Esk Valley Railway opened negotiations with the NBR to build a branch line to Polton in the valley of the River North Esk. These negotiations also involved the Peebles Railway as the intended route would use PR land, running alongside the Peebles line before turning north half a mile west of Hardengreen junction. The proposed line was strongly supported by the NBR who intended to lease and operate it. The EVR obtained their Act on 21 July 1863 and construction started on 5 September 1864.  Having laid the parallel track, the Esk Valley Railway came to an agreement with the Peebles Railway. Rather than operate as two single tracks the two companies would share the tracks, operating as a double track line between Esk Valley Junction and Hardengreen Junction.

On 28 June 1870 the nominally independent Penicuik Railway obtained an Act to build a 4-mile branch to Penicuik from a junction with the Peebles Railway at Hawthornden.  The branch opened on 2 September 1872.  Both the Penicuik Railway and the Esk Valley Railway were absorbed into the NBR on 1 August 1876.

In 1873 there was a proposal to double the Peebles line between Leadburn and Esk Valley Junction. Initially this was supported by the NBR, but when they withdrew their support the proposals were dropped.  The line was eventually doubled between Esk Valley Junction and Hawthornden Junction.

The Peebles Railway Company finally gave into pressure and was absorbed into the North British Railway under the North British Railway (Additional Powers) Act of 13 July 1876 with the amalgamation taking effect on 1 August 1876. At that time there were three daily trains between Edinburgh and Galashiels with a fourth terminating at Innerleithen. By 1910 there was a small improvement with five trains each way on weekdays, but on Sundays there was one train each way between Edinburgh and Innerleithen and one each way between Edinburgh and Peebles.

In the 1923 grouping the North British Railway was absorbed into the London & North Eastern Railway. By the 1930s competition from motor buses was beginning to take its toll on passenger numbers; however the LNER did little to retain their existing passengers or attract new ones.

By 1938 there was little change in the service with five weekday trains, and an additional late night service on Saturdays to bring people back from a day or evening out in Edinburgh. Unusually the outward train ran via the Peebles loop but returned to Edinburgh on the Waverley main line. By this time the Sunday service had been withdrawn altogether, and it was never reinstated.

After WW2 came nationalisation, and passenger numbers continued to fall dramatically. By 1951 the service had been reduced to three daily trains between Edinburgh and Galashiels with two additional trains on Saturdays.  The former Caledonian line between Peebles and Symington closed to passengers from 5 June 1950; three months later the former NBR station
was renamed Peebles East with the now goods-only former Caledonian station becoming Peebles West.

The centenary of the opening of the Peebles Railway in 1955 was marked by the closure of the engine shed at the old Peebles terminus and the closure of the Menzies bookstall on Peebles station! It was clear that the Peebles loop was on borrowed time.

In 1958 the steam service gave way to DMUs in the hope that this might revitalise the flagging fortunes of the line because they were cheaper to operate. The introduction of DMUs saw an immediate improvement in the service with eight weekday trains between Edinburgh and Galashiels and nine on Saturdays. The service remained the same until the line closed.

In October 1961 British Railways announced its intention to close the line between Rosewell & Hawthornden and Galashiels. Peebles Town and Peeblesshire County Council vigorously opposed the closure. In response BR stated, ‘We haven't decided on closure; we have just asked for opinions to the proposal’. They followed this with the statement, ‘the traffic on the line is just not sufficient to justify its existence’.

Despite the improved service after the introduction of DMUs passenger numbers had not improved sufficiently; and despite the campaign to keep the line open closure was announced for Saturday 3 February 1962. During that day a last-day steam railtour with 150 enthusiasts on board called at Peebles, and the last train into Peebles was the Saturdays-only service from Edinburgh which was met by a piper and almost 200 people. Detonators that had been placed on the line were set off as the last train pulled out of the station.

Official closure was from Monday 5 February, with the line closing to all traffic between Hawthornden Junction (Rosewell) and Kilnknowe Junction (Galashiels). Peeblesshire became the first county on the Scottish mainland without passenger trains. There was one final service along the line on 14 March, a month after closure, hauled by B1 class 61029 'Chamois'. This was not a public train and was only for BR officials. Following this, track-lifting started almost immediately between Kilknowe (Galashiels) and Hawthornden Junction and was completed by June 1963.

Although a local service from Edinburgh Waverley to Rosewell & Hawthornden was maintained, it was short-lived, passenger trains being withdrawn from 10 September 1962. Rosewell & Hawthornden closed completely but Bonnyrigg yard remained open until 25 January 1965. The track was singled on 29 November 1962 but remained in use to serve the goods-only Penicuik branch until 27 March 1967 when the final section of the Peebles Railway closed.

BR Scottish Region fitted totems (probably after 1957) at the following Peebles Loop stations: Bonnyrigg, Rosewell & Hawthornden, Rosslynlee, Pomathorn, Eddleston, Peebles, Innerleithen, Walkerburn and Clovenfords.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, route map drawn by Alan Young.


To see other stations on the Peebles loop click on the station name
Bonnyrigg, Rosewell & Hawthornden, Rosslynlee, Rosslynlee Hospital Halt, Pomathorn, Earlyvale Gate, Eddleston, Peebles 1st, Peebles 2nd, Cardrona, Innerleithen, Walkerburn, Thornilee, Angling Club Cottage Platform
& Clovenfords

No. 107 stands in the bay platform at Leadburn station with a mixed train for Dolphinton in 1878. The driver is James Scott and the fireman William Davidson. 107 was one of a batch of 15 locos built between 1857 and 1867. These 0-4-2 well tanks, built by the North British at their St Margarets and Burntisland works, were NBR classified Z113 and intended for branch line service.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

1893 1:2,500 OS map.

1908 1:2,500 OS map. Note the signal box has been resited onto the down platform by the footbridge.

Leadburn station looking north c. early 20th century.
Photo from Bill Lynn collection

Leadburn station looking south c.1930s.
Photo from Bill Lynn collection

Leadburn station looking north at the down platform from a passing southbound train. The bay platform on the left was used by trains from Dolphinton until closure of the line in 1933. There was a turntable at the end of the line here providing a turning place for services running from the NB shed at Dolphinton. There was also a passing loop  so the branch engines could run round. A brick wall appears to be under construction around the base of the signalbox.
Copyright photo by H C Casserley

Leadburn station looking south from the up platform in May 1953. A small goods shed stands on the loading dock on the right.
Photo by A G Ellis from Bill Lynn collection

Leadburn station looking north in May 1954.The signal box which stood on the down platform was demolished c.1953 leaving only the new brick building standing. A siding passes behind the up platform on the right.
Photo by A G Ellis from Bill Lynn collection

Leadburn station looking north in 1962. The footbridge and up platform waiting room have been demolished. The stationmaster's house is seen in the distance beyond the signal.
Photo by G N Turnbull from Bill Lynn collection

'Farewell to Peebles' railtour at Leadburn station on 3 February 1962. This was the last passenger train to stop at Leadburn. 64587 was a J37 built by the NBR in 1918. Its original number was 467; it was renumbered 9467 by the LNER, changing again to 4587 in 1946. BR added the 6 in 1948, and it was withdrawn after over 45 years service in June 1964.
Photo by W A C Smith from Bill Lynn collection

Leadburn station looking south from the up platform in December 1962, shortly
after the track had been lifted.
Photo by N. Caplan

Leadburn station looking north in January 1976.
hoto by Alan Young

Leadburn station looking south in May 2011.
hoto by Nick Catford

Click here for more pictures of Leadburn station