This thread was originally written and published in March 2019. It has been lightly edited and corrected as applicable for this post.
I found something very interesting hidden away in a corner of Leith Library.
In the early 1970s, the Corporation (later the District Council) had the opportunity to buy the trackbed of the abandoned Caledonian Railway “Leith New Lines” running from Pilrig Park to Seafield via Restalrig, with the intention of making it into a landscaped walkway. What nowadays we might term a “linear park”.
They proposed replacing the large steel girder bridges over Leith Walk and Easter Road (which had to be removed to increase clearance height) with footbridges.
They also assumed retention of the bridge over Halmyre Street (and one assumes, the viaduct running parallel to Gordon St). Replaced structures in yellow, retained structures that have since been demolished are in red.
Most of the tenements in this neighbourhood were earmarked for demolition as part of a CDA (Comprehensive Development Area) and everything in orange on the picture below ended up getting demolished instead.
Sadly, by the 1980 version of this report, the aspiration for that link from Pilrig to Seafield had been quietly shelved, with the bridges being removed the same year. It was downgraded from a Pilrig to Leith Walk link, which is still missing 40 years later. The railway embankment did end up being incorporated into the park, and items 27 and 28 were largely completed – although things like proper path surfacing and lighting did not happen for the next 30-odd years in places.
The Easter Road to Seafield Section for instance was really just a strip of dirt covered in dog mess and rubbish, with obstructive barriers to try and stop you cycling it without getting off and pushing, until about 2010-ish.
In more recent times (although 10 years ago now!) there has been a relatively serious attempt to drum up some interest in connecting Pilrig Park to Halmyre Street along the old railway viaduct at the east end of the park by building a showpiece bridge across Leith Walk and then along the top of the “arches” on Gordon Street.
Renderings by Biomorphis of their engineered timber and cable bridge structure they proposed over Leith Walk. If you’re walking along past the garages of Gordon Street arches, it’s easy to forget a railway station was built up there 110 years ago (but never opened)
Easter Road was crossed by a quite monumental steel lattice skew bridge with massive ornamental red standstone pillars. The below #NowAndThen image shows the 1974 street scene imposed on the modern one. now and then (1974). The railway here ran left towards Restalrig and right towards Leith Walk.
You get a better feel for how substantial it was by looking the other way, compare it with the 4-track bridge for Leith Central in the distance. Note those huge red sandstone pillars, and the Drambuie blending and bottling plant behind the bridge.
Fun Easter Road fact, it was re-laid with granite setts in 1954, after a spell of being tarmac, making it the last major thoroughfare to be laid with “cobbles” in Scotland. It was re-tarmacced in the 1980s.
The Caledonian’s “Leith New Lines” were the last major railway built through Edinburgh and Leith, and as such found themselves taking a rather long and circuitous route, requiring all those big skew bridges, embankments and viaducts. It also had to cross over two different North British Railway lines as well as the Water of Leith.
I made a “flyover” video of this railway using Google Earth modelling to give you a better idea of where it ran, and the significant structures it had to pass over on its short route over Leith. It was my first attempt at this kind of thing, so it’s not perfect, but it gives you a good idea.
And finally, here’s a rare image by @talloplanic of the Hawkhill Avenue bridge from which the previous photograph was taken, looking up from the mostly infilled trackbed of the Leith Central branch railway. You would neve even know there had been not one but two bridges here anymore.