Innocent Railway Tunnel

Useful Information

Location: Innocent Railway, Edinburgh EH16 5BQ.
(55.941436, -3.172151)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaTunnel
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Innocent Railway Tunnel, Innocent Railway, Edinburgh EH16 5BQ.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1825-1826 line surveyed.
1827-1831 railway line constructed.
1845 taken over by the North British Railway.
1923 taken over by the L.N.E.R..
1948 taken over by the British Railway.
AUG-1968 line closed.
1980s part of the Innocent Railway from St. Leonards to Brunstane re-opened as a cyclepath, part of the National Cycle Network Route 1.


The Innocent line was a horse-drawn railway connecting St Leonards and Dalkeith, a part of the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway. Completed in 1831, it was Edinburghs debut railway, and its tunnel is one of the oldest in the United Kingdom. Edinburgh's first railway was built to convey coal from pits in the vicinity of Dalkeith into the capital. Between 1800 and 1830 consumption of coal in the city increased from 200,000 t to 350,000 t per year. But the roads of the time were inadequate and transport by horse-drawn cart quite expensive. The railway was financed by a group of colliery owners for the transport of the coal, and not planned for passengers. The track gauge of 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m) was commonly used for mining railways in Scotland.

The main terminus at St Leonards on the south side of Arthur's Seat involved a passage through a tunnel on a rope-worked incline. This branch was called Innocent Railway, a rather strange name, which caused several legends how it was named. The most popular was, that the line never suffered a fatal accident in its construction or operation. This was actually untrue, and several authors mentioned accidents, like a driver being killed in 1840 and two children who died in accidents in 1843 and 1844. Another theory is that it was a deliberate marketing ploy to counter the public mistrust of railways at the time of operation. Most likely the name referred to its unsophisticated horse traction and leisurely ways, more in the sense of being unprofessional.

Its not clear if the name was involved, but the railway became very popular for passenger services. Only a few years after its opening a trader operated passenger services, and after the great success, the railway company soon operated them itself. It is the first railway tunnel in Scotland, and the St Leonards station was the first railway station in Edinburgh. And it was operated as a railroad until 1968, long after the transport of coal was stopped. After more than a decade of abandonment it was finally restored as a bicycle path, which is rather common for former railroad tracks, as they normally have no inclines.

In the early days the Edinburgh residents used the Innocent Railway tunnel to head southeast from St. Leonards towards Duddingston. After some time with steam powered trains this was not possible anymore. Today it's again a bicycle and pedestrian tunnel and frequented by the locals. It even has electric light and a paved track.

The coal pits of Midlothian, around Dalkeith, were mined since the 13th century by the Cistercian monks of Newbattle Abbey.