East Lothian, Scotland

The "North British Railway" (NBR) was incorporated on 19th July 1844 to build a line from Edinburgh to Berwick; at the latter, form a junction with the York, Newcastle, and Berwick Railway; and finally, create a branch line to Haddington (ref: The Official Illustrated Guide to the Great Northern, Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire, and Midland Railways, George Measom, 1861). Opening on 22nd June 1846 (ref: The Railway Magazine, January 1925), the NBR comprised a network of fifty-eight route miles, upon which were thirteen stations: Portobello, Musselburgh, Tranent, Longniddry (the junction station for the branch to Haddington), Haddington (terminus of the branch from Longniddry), Drem, Linton, Dunbar, Cockburnspath, Grant’s House, Reston, Ayton, and Berwick-Upon-Tweed (ref: An Account of the North British Railway from Edinburgh To Berwick, John Thomson & Co., 1846).

The village of Drem was situated 17½-miles from Edinburgh, 40½-miles from Berwick, and was the station at which coaches from North Berwick and Dirleton met with trains. The village of Dirleton was regarded by far as the finest in Scotland and one that few in England could surpass the picturesque beauty of (ref: An Account of the North British Railway from Edinburgh To Berwick, John Thomson & Co., 1846).

The NBR had obtained powers in 1846 for a line from Drem to North Berwick via Dirleton, in addition to branches to Selkirk, Jedburgh, Kelso, Tranent, Cockenzie, and Dunse (ref: Bradshaw’s Railway Manual, Shareholders’ Guide, and Official Directory for 1879). The first 3½-mile section of the North Berwick branch from Drem to a temporary terminus opened to traffic on 13th August 1849 (ref: Railway Traffic Tables 1849 to 1852, M. Slaughter, Railways Department — Stock Exchange, 1851). The date the remaining mile came into use varies depending on the source of information: 4th June 1850 (ref: The Railway Magazine, January 1925); July 1850 (ref: Railway Traffic Tables 1849 to 1852, M. Slaughter, Railways Department — Stock Exchange, 1851); Clinker’s Register (1980) indicates closure of the temporary branch terminus at Williamstone being effective as of 14th June 1850. Whether a station at Dirleton came into use when the first section of the branch opened in 1849, or when the line was completed through to North Berwick in the following year, is unclear.

Dirleton station is marked on the 1853 Ordnance Survey edition in-between mileposts 20¼ and 20½ from Edinburgh. The branch line, 4-miles 60-chains in length (ref: The Railway Magazine, January 1925), was single-track. At Dirleton, one platform face — fronted with timber — was provided on the eastern side of the rails. A single-storey pitched-roof booking office was situated upon the platform and, as the below photograph attests, this comprised brick-built ends and sides that were mostly of timber and glazed composition. What the photograph omits (since it was taken post-closure) is a flat-roofed canopy with decorative timber valance and partial glazed windbreaks at each end. A bungalow of masonry construction was provided for the Station Master, east of the main building.

Goods facilities were in the form of two Edinburgh-facing sidings, these of which sprouted from the branch south of the platform and terminated on the eastern side of the line. The sidings are illustrated in the accompanying diagram — the track layout at Dirleton remained virtually unchanged for the little over one hundred years of the station’s existence.

The village of Dirleton was situated one mile northwest of the NBR’s station and the 1851 census shows the Parish to have had a population of 1,634 people. In 1921, two years before the NBR became part of the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), the population stood at 2,623. By comparison, the 1921 population figure for North Berwick stood at 5,217 individuals.

In the 19th January 1954 edition of the Edinburgh Evening News, it was reported that Dirleton station was to be closed to passenger traffic by British Railways’ (BR) Scottish Region, effective from 1st of the following month. However, the same publication reported that traffic such as full wagonloads of livestock would continue to be handled at Dirleton — any parcels and freight train traffic amounting to less than full truckloads would be collected and delivered in the Dirleton area by road from North Berwick. Clinker’s Register (1980) shows complete cessation of goods traffic to have occurred on and from 10th August 1964. The March 1954 edition of The Railway Magazine confirms the closure of Dirleton to passengers as of 1st February of that year.

By 1962, the main station building was still standing, albeit shorn of its canopy. The earth mound of the platform was still in evidence, as was the former Station Master’s bungalow. The latter was advertised for sale in summer 1965 by BR under the name of "Station House", comprising four apartments, a box room, and a scullery (ref: The Scotsman, 5th July 1965). Today, "Station House" (as it was once called) remains in existence as a private dwelling, but other traces of the station have been swept away.

August 1962

The platform edging and canopy had been removed by the time of this photograph, but the former main station building remained in fine fettle. This North Berwick-bound view also includes the Station Master’s bungalow in the right background, which has today been absorbed into a much larger dwelling. © David Glasspool Collection