The Railway at Juniper Green
by Douglas Buchanan

The Edinburgh to Balerno train as it passed Inglis Mill in the 1940s

The railway serving Juniper Green was a loop made off the Caledonian Railway line that ran from Edinburgh Caledonian Station to Carstairs where it linked with the Glasgow to Carlisle line. The main line had stations at Kingsknowe, Wester Hailes, Curriehill and Ravelrig, while the Balerno Loop, as it was called, had stations at Hailes Platform, Colinton, Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno before joining the main line again at Ravelrig. The purpose of the Loop was to serve the Mills that were located beside the Water of Leith and it was on Saturday, 1st August 1874, that the Balerno branch railway was eventually opened to all traffic. Almost 10 years had passed since the Caledonian Railway Company or 'Caley' had first discussed the application from the local mill owners and landowners for help with their plans for a railway line. It had cost in the region of £134,000 (at least 50% over budget), and over these ten years created many disputes, complaints and objections. Where have we heard it all before!? The trains ran alongside the Water of Leith for 65 years, the line finally being closed to passengers on Saturday, 30th October 1943. Goods trains continued to run until the line was officially closed, aided by the closure of the Kinleith Mill in 1966, to all traffic on 4th December 1967.

The railway was instrumental in the creation of house building from Colinton to Balerno as it was possible to travel easily into town by train. Indeed, Juniper Green expanded very rapidly in the late 19th Century, due in large part to the railway. The population of Juniper Green increased from 700 in 1874 to 1,600 in 1901. The railway line was also used by golfers who wished to play at Baberton Golf Club, which opened in 1893 and at Torphin Golf Club which opened in April 1903. In those days the clubhouse was situated further west than at present and almost directly above the railway station. In the early days, there were eight trains per day and first class return to Edinburgh cost 1s.5d. (7p). In 1883 the number of passengers that travelled from Juniper Green station was 38,280, bringing in revenue of £872. To that should be added a further £1,285 for goods receipts. The Juniper Green traffic accounted for about 37% of passenger use.

A steep and winding station brae led up from Juniper Green Station to the village main street. The station master's house, formerly the north lodge of Woodhall Estate, was at the top. The station had a single platform on the north side of the line. It had a goods yard that was accessed from the east end of the station and was located to the north of the line. At the east end of the station there was once a signalbox on the north side of the line. In 1901, Juniper Green station was equipped, at a cost of £300, with tablet instruments that were installed in the station booking office. These instruments worked the signal and points, allowing branch passenger trains to pass a goods train which was diverted to stand at the station sidings. At the same time, the station signal box, a little to the east of the station, was closed. This system operated until 20th March 1939.

By 1914, the traffic on the Balerno branch had developed to the extent that there were three engines regularly working the passenger services. Trains usually comprised eight carriages; four third class, two brake thirds and two first class. Each of the three sets was increased to thirteen carriages on Saturdays. However, after the war, price inflation led to operational problems, and although the Government paid out compensation, the Caley was in trouble. Indeed, landslips at the Colinton tunnel also caused operational difficulties and, added to that, in 1920, buses had reached Juniper Green. On 1st July 1923, the LMS took over the Caley network. Unfortunately, the General Strike of 1926 was to cause more problems as coal shortages affected the railways more than road transport. The number of trains running on a daily basis fell from 20 to 13 by 1939 and the war had other effects, such as black outs and coal shortages. In 1943, the LMS decided that, in consequence of adequate bus transport, the passenger service would cease.

In 1956, a new siding was provided for the benefit of Woodhall paper mill at Juniper Green station, followed by its enlargement of the mill by its new owners, Inveresk Paper Company. However, in 1958, reports provided by British Railways management, recommended that Juniper Green station should be closed as revenue was in the region of £1,750 per annum and it was not cost effective. By that time there was only one goods train running on the line per day.