South Leith

Location type


Names and dates

[South] Leith (1838-1856)
[South] Leith (1859-1868)
South Leith (1868-1904)

Opened on the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway.

Note: text in square brackets is added for clarity and was not part of the location's name.


This was a terminus of a branch from Niddrie [1st] opened on the shoreline at Leith, just east of the Water of Leith in 1835 (the land on the east bank is South Leith). Passenger coaches ran here from 1838. This largely forgotten station is important in the history of the expansion and development of Leith and its docks. Known as simply 'Leith' until 1868 when it first appeared as 'South' in Bradshaw's timetable.

The station was described by Francis Whishaw thus

At Leith there is merely a shed-building. contiguous to this station, the coalowners have large enclosed yards, connected by sidings or small branches with the main line.

The station appears to have had two sheds - the northern one probably largely a goods shed and the southern the tacked on passenger shed - and the line ran through this west by Tower Street to reach the Water of Leith. A small goods yard was to the east of the station, on the north side of the line, and approached from the east. The station was open for goods and minerals only from 1835-1838.

When opened the station was at the north end of Constitution Street and the line was bounded by the seashore on the north side. Leith was already a town and this station was on the north edge of it. Dock development was on the west bank of the Water of Leith, in North Leith, with the exception of a small timber basin.

Leith East Old Dock opened 1806
Leith West Old Dock opened 1817

The line was built to the 4"6' gauge (converted to standard after 1845) and was a single track. A horse drawn dandy was used for the line which had a halt at Portobello [1st] and began at Niddrie [1st] junction, an interchange station.

The Edinburgh, Leith and Newhaven Railway opened to North Leith, on the west bank of the Water of Leith, in 1846 and the Leith Victoria Dock opened 1851.

The line was improved again around 1856 and when the station re-opened in 1859 the branch was no longer served from Niddrie but from a connection to the North British Railway main line at Portobello.

After removal of the trainshed the station consisted of a booking office building at the west end of the station site and a platform with a rudimentary shelter built to the south of the line. The line continued to run west on the north side of Tower Street. The building and platform were added to the rear (north) of the Edinburgh and Leith Gas Works. The platform was narrow and on its south side a series of turnplates served the gas works.

North of this station was a new goods shed and north of that a coal depot.

Further docks now developed on the east bank, associated with goods, and increasingly, coal export. By 1877 a large part of the foreshore had been reclaimed, ready for further developments.

Leith Albert Dock opened 1869
Leith Edinburgh Dock opened 1881
Leith Imperial Dock opened 1898

South Leith Goods was added to the east of the station, at Bath Road. A marshalling yard Leith South Yard was laid out to the east of the docks which expanded as further docks were added. The line was doubled around 1900.

The station was always awkwardly served as a reversal was needed when approaching from Edinburgh, unless by a long route round by the Edinburgh, Suburban and Southside Junction Railway. Increasing coal traffic on the branch probably put paid to the passenger service in addition to the opening of the better sited Leith Central in 1903. North Leith remained open nearby. Alterations to Portobello West Junction in 1915 changed access to the branch to via Portobello Yard.

An extension east of Tower Street now covers the site of the later station building, platform and shelter. On the south side is a very poor condition wall sometimes said to be the station, but this is the north wall of the Edinburgh and Leith Gas Works. The Tower Street Industrial Estate occupies the site of the station and coal yard.


Station terminus

External links

Canmore site record
NLS Collection OS map of 1892-1914
NLS Collection OS map of 1944-67