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Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders

Date 2007

Event ID 589755

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


St Leonards Tunnel is believed to be Scotland’s earliest tunnel on a public railway. It was excavated in volcanic rock from headings set out by transit instrument from an observatory at the edge of Holyrood Park above the tunnel. It is lined with Craigleith sandstone, with a semicircular cross-sectional top 20 ft wide, 15 ft high at its crown, and 566 yards long, on a 1 in 30 inclined plane. Trains were hauled up the incline, using a 5 in. circumference rope, by stationary steam engine or a combination of the weight of descending wagons and the engine. Construction took place from 1827–30 and cost about £12 000. Jardine was the engineer and the contractor, Adam Begg. Originally the tunnel was lit by gas and it is now permanently lit by electricity as part of its conservation as a cycle path project planned and executed by Lothian Regional Council in the 1980s and now in constant use.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission of Thomas Telford Publishers.

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