I imagine that you, like me, every so often when talking to visitors about places that we see or pass through every day, you get caught on the end of a question you really should be able to answer but can’t! Two recent examples come to mind – one easy to explain, the other a bit less obvious.
The Innocent Railway ath forms part of the National Cycle Network and runs from St Leonards towards Duddingston along the course of the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway. The path’s signature feature is the magnificent tunnel that runs for over 500 metres under Holyrood Park at the northern end of the path.
Opened in the 1830s this was Edinburgh’s first railway, built to carry coal from pits in the vicinity of Dalkeith into the capital. Edinburgh had an increasing appetite for coal and although the coal pits were only a few miles away, the roads of the time were inadequate and geography worked against building a canal, like the Union Canal which carried coal from West Lothian, and so the Dalkeith pit owners area formed a railway to carry their coal to the capital.
It was designed for horse-drawn operation, with a terminal at St Leonards where at the time land was relatively cheep and the coal could quite easily be distributed to the city from there.
Reaching the location through the steep gradient of the tunnel meant that wagons at that point were hauled up and let down by rope operation controlled by a steam engine.
Getting back to the question – why the ‘Innocent’ Railway? Some literature talks about an unblemished safety record. However this appear to be an unlikely scenario in Victorian times. perhaps a more likely rationale is that provided on the public information plaque at the entrance to the path that states that, ‘You are standing on one of Scotland’s pioneering Railways. The Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway was nicknamed “The Innocent Railway” because it was originally horse-drawn in an age which thought steam engines dangerous.’
Perhaps easier to explain is the origins of the use of the term ‘Happy Valley’. Around 1875 city folks were also using the train to alight at the now defunct Craiglockhart Station on their way to the nearby leisure area created by the industrialist and philanthropist John Cox of Gorgie Mills and Cox’s Gelatin fame. Cox had already funded the fabulous Royal Patent Gymnasium in Canonmills that featured a health park with giant exercise machines such as a100 foot long seesaw!
At what is now Craiglockhart Pond Cox created facilities for skating, curling and boating. Although he died before embarking on a grand scheme such as that at Canonmills he established the area as a place of entertainment for the people. In the 1920s the theme was developed further by the Happy Valley Company (Craiglockhart) Limited with additions such as tennis courts, amusements and even a dance hall.
Sadly few pictures of the park appear to have survived. We would be very grateful if any of our older readers were able to share any handed-down stories of the Happy Valley Amusement Park in its pomp?
If visiting please seek out the very interesting information plaque that the Friends of Craiglockhart Woods and Nature Trail have placed near the north end of the pond.