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Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway
Haymarket Station in Edinburgh to Queen Station in Glasgow, Scotland, UK
associated engineer
James Jardine
Thomas Grainger
John Miller
date  1838 - 1842
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway  |  reference  NS591656
ICE reference number  HEW 1675
From the beginning of the Railway Age in Scotland, a connection between Edinburgh and Glasgow was seen as both desirable and imperative for business — linking the two main cities would increase east-west trade. In the event, the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway opened in time to reap the benefits of the 'Railway Mania’ years (1844-7). Its original route is today most of the main line between Waverley and Queens Street Stations.
Eminent engineer Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) — perhaps best known for his lighthouse work — had investigated the idea of a line between Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1817, but it was James Jardine (1776-1858) who carried out the first proper survey of a possible route, in 1825-6.
In 1830, Thomas Grainger (1794-1852), who had worked under Jardine for the survey, and Grainger's partner John Miller (1805-83), reassessed the route and produced a different line. Their estimate was £410,000, whereas Jardine’s was £520,130. After much discussion, many amendments and the rejection of the proposed Parliamentary Bill by the Committee of the Commons, the railway proposal was abandoned.
By 1837 the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway Company was better prepared for producing a workable scheme. The company was led by chairman John Leadbetter (1788-1865), a linen merchant and member of Glasgow Town Council. He was to resign soon after the railway was complete, as he disagreed with the decision to run trains on Sundays.
In 1838, the company appointed Miller as its engineer and the route was altered once again. Miller used George Stephenson’s (1781-1848) principle of keeping the railway as level as possible over as much of the route as he could. The line was authorised by Act of Parliament on 4th July 1838, and was to be 72km long, with three tunnels, seven viaducts and numerous bridges.
As was common at the time, independent engineers were asked to examine the route and design, and make a report. The committee had promised to use someone who had not been involved previously with this railway, and the assessment was carried out by John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856) and Joseph Locke (1805-60).
The adopted route began at a new eastern terminus in Edinburgh — Haymarket. It then passed over the Almond Valley Viaduct (NT112722), through the Winchburgh Tunnel (NT091750) and went via Linlithgow to Falkirk, where a branch was added. From Falkirk the route bypassed Cumbernauld and traversed the Cowlairs Incline (NS595662) to its new western terminus at Queen Street High Level Station in Glasgow.
The planned maximum gradient was 1 in 880. Indeed, the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway was the most level main line in Britain. Between Haymarket and Cowlairs there was only one place where the maximum was exceeded.
The masonry viaduct crossing the Almond Valley is the longest structure on the railway, at over 1km in length. Winchburgh Tunnel is 336m long and, with Almond Valley Viaduct, formed part of an 8.2km contract awarded to John Gibb & Son in February 1839 for £147,669. This was the first contract let on the railway and included the heaviest engineering work on the line.
At Falkirk, the railway had to run inside a 774m long tunnel (NS887787) because the landowner, William Forbes (1806-55), would not allow the railway to obstruct the view of his estate from his family seat at Callendar House.
Queen Street High Level Station is reached through a 951m long tunnel on an inclined plane some 1.9km long with a gradient of 1 in 44 to Cowlairs Station. This was far too steep to be worked by 19th century locomotives — ascending trains had to be hauled up the slope by ropes attached to a steam-powered winding engine, and descending trains were controlled by brake wagons.
The railway tracks were constructed to standard gauge (1.435m), using 34kg rails to cope with the anticipated heavy usage. The total cost was £1,029,000, considerably higher than either of the original estimates. The railway was opened officially on 18th February 1842, with an inaugural journey followed by a banquet at Queen Street Station. Passenger services began on 21st February. Between the opening and the end of 1844, the railway carried 1,899,048 people.
Banking engines were used on Cowlairs Incline 1844-8. Cable haulage ceased on 26th August 1909, though the winding engine existed until 1968.
In 1846 the line was extended eastwards with the opening of a new terminus at Edinburgh General Station, later known as Waverley Station (NT258739). This station was planned by Miller and rebuilt in 1866-74 by James Bell (c1808-85) to a design by Charles Jopp (1820-95).
Also in 1846, an rail extension was completed on 1st August from Haymarket to North Bridge Station to join up with the North British Railway. On 5th July 1848, a branch was opened at the Glasgow end, north from Lenzie (Campsie Junction) to Lennoxtown.
The Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway took over various other railway companies. In 1849, it took over the Wilsontown, Morningside & Coltness Railway. On 14th August 1862, it took over the Glasgow, Dumbarton & Helensburgh Railway, and the Alva Railway in 1864. In July the next year, it took over the Monkland Railway. On 1st August that same year, it was itself taken over by the North British Railway. Miller remained in post as engineer to the North British Railway until 1847, a position he shared with Bell from 1844.
Queen Street Station was rebuilt 1877-88. It was closed to steam locomotives in 1965. Proposed electrification of the main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow was announced in August 2009.
Contractor: Forbes, Ross & Mitchell
Contractor: John Gibb & Son, Aberdeen
Contractor: Marshall & Co
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The Origins of the Scottish Railway System 1722-1844" by C.J.A. Robertson
John Donald Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh, 1983
"An Appreciation of the Professional Work of John Miller CE FRSE (1805-83): Scottish Railway Engineer Extraordinaire" by Roland Paxton, School of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 26th July 2005
www.kosmoid.net
www.nce.co.uk
www.railbrit.co.uk
reference sources   CEH SLB
Location

Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway