The Railway from Canal Street Station to Trinity and Granton

Rodney Street Tunnel

(Actual name:  Heriothill Tunnel)

An engine emerges from the southern end of Rodney Street Tunnel - 1904

 An engine emerges from the southern end of Rodney Street Tunnel  -  1904

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to the John Alsop Collection

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   An engine emerges from the southern end of Rodney Street Tunnel  -  1904 ©



Rodney Street Tunnel

Location of the Tunnel

Here is an engine emerging from the southern end of Rodney Street tunnel into Scotland Street Goods Yard.  The photo was taken in 1904.

The tunnel passes under Rodney Street at Canonmills and emerges to the south of Broughton Road, and to the west of Tesco Supermarket (previously William Low Supermarket).

Thank you to Patrick Hutton, Edinburgh for giving me further details.

Patrick wrote:

House in the Background

"I believe that the big house in the rear left of the photo belonged to Dr Patrick Neill who objected strenuously to the building of the railway.  He was variously famous  for:

- Membership of the Caledonian Horticultural Society (and sale of some of land adjacent to the new Royal Botanical Gardens).

-  Lay-out of Princes Street Gardens/preservation of the Vennel.

-  Founder member of the zoo on East Claremont Street.

-  Spectacular private garden at Rodney Street.

-  Friend of Audubon on his visit to Edinburgh.

- Head of a printing firm which continued on the site of his Rodney Street home until the mid-20th Century.

He was an elder at Broughton St Mary’s Church and is buried in Warriston Cemetery."

Gable End in the Background

"The gable end at the right is the back of the old St Mary's School, about where the Legion Hall is now."

Patrick Hutton, Edinburgh, November 22, 2006



Rodney Street Tunnel

The Engine

Thank you to Euan Cameron who wrote:

"This is a curiosity mostly because of its number. It was the second North British Railway engine to carry the number 1. 

It was built in 1870 to the design of Thomas Wheatley, and was rebuilt in this form by Locomotive Superintendent Matthew Holmes in 1898."

Euan Cameron, New York City, New York, USA:  March 12, 2008



Railway Line

Rodney Street tunnel was on the railway line that from Princes Street (Canal Street Station) to Granton Harbour.

Canal Street Station was at the NW corner of the current Edinburgh Waverley Station,  beside Platform 19,

This line opened in stages:

-  1842:  Canonmills to Newhaven.

-  1846:  Canonmills to Granton.

-  1847:  Canal Street  to Granton (via Scotland Street Tunnel).

-  1868:  Canal Street  to Granton (via Meadowbank).

-  1925:  Closed to passenger traffic.



Goods Yard and Tunnel

Goods Yard  -  Today

The former Scotland Street Goods Yard continued to operate as a coal depot until 1967.  Today (2006), part of the former Scotland Street Goods Yard is a children's playground.

Tunnel  -  Today

Rodney Street tunnel has been closed for many years.  There were plans for it to re-open in 2000 as part of Edinburgh's network of cycle routs, but for the time being, it remains closed.


The Future


Thank you to Patrick Hutton, Edinburgh for giving me further details about the plans to re-open the tunnel

Patrick wrote:

Plans for re-opening the Tunnel

"The tunnel has been surveyed and funds have been allocated for Sustrans to reopen it.

'Sustrans' is the sustainable transport charity that has been campaigning for more cycle routes in Britain.

It is somewhat complicated as the tunnel roof was lowered quite some time ago (1920s?) to take out a hump in the road. They did this via a big iron trough (for utilities) in the ceiling, which might have compromised the loading gauge slightly. Perhaps only one track was used then, and could have been slewed to the centre?

The iron trough can be seen if you go in at the Tesco end. The tunnel is presently plugged with rubble.  The roadway is very close (ie the tunnel is shallow) and there are concerns about the structural integrity if the plug is removed. A concrete lining is a possibility, but would make the tunnel narrower and less inviting."

Patrick Hutton, Edinburgh, November 22, 2006

Update  -  December 2006

Re-opening Soon?

Less than a month after I wrote that no decision had yet been made about the re-opening of the tunnel (above) an article appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News, reporting that:

-  the tunnel will be re-opened to cyclists and walkers, probably in summer 2007.

-  work will commence in April 2007 at a cost of £350,000.  This will include constructing a reinforced concrete arch within the tunnel at its northern end, and creating a path with lighting within the tunnel.

The funding needed to re-open the tunnel has finally been provided 20 years after the original proposals to re-open the tunnel were made.

Re-opening of the tunnel will provide a continuous route for cyclists on the routes of former railway lines from the King George's Park (at the foot of Scotland Street, about half a mile north of Princes Street) to the Firth of Forth at Trinity and Granton and via Craigleith to Roseburn.

Edinburgh Evening New:  December 13, 2006, p.11

Update  -  July 2007

Not yet !

Work on re-opening the tunnel was scheduled to be completed by late summer 2007.  However, it has now been halted as part of a spending review across all all departments after the City of Edinbrugh Council found a £10m deficit in its budget.

The Council says it is looking at ways to complete the work without any further council funding.

Edinburgh Evening New:  July 14, 2007, p.6

Update  -  April 2009

It's Open!

At last, over a year after the strengthening of the tunnel was completed,  the Rodney Street tunnel is open to pedestrians and cyclists.  It now has a new path and new lighting, and to complete the route, a new surface has been added to the ramp up to Scotland Street. web site:  April 7, 2009



Thank you to Nick Catford, Kent, England, for showing me this photograph of the engine above.  It comes from the John Alsop collection.  Nick is researching the old railway from Canal Street Station through Scotland Street Tunnel and Rodney Street Tunnel.  He is looking for old photographs of this line.  If you know of any, please e-mail me and I will pass on your message to Nick.

Thank you.  - Peter Stubbs




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