Scotland’s first railway: The story of the Tranent to Cockenzie waggonway, 22 August

15 May 2023
An exploration of the trail-blazing track that changed Scotland's industrial landscape forever.

22 August 2023, 6.30pm UK time


This History Scotland Zoom lecture by Ed Bethune, FSA Scot and Dr Aaron Allen, FSA Scot, stems from the researches of the 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group into the archaeology and history of Scotland’s very first railway – an 18th-century wooden waggonway that ran from the coal mines of Tranent to the harbour and salt pans of Cockenzie and Port Seton. 

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The story of Scotland's first railway

Based on award-winning excavations and a recently-published critical edition of the work journals of the wright who built it, Ed Bethune and Aaron Allen bring to life the history of this trail-blazing track, unpacking the socio-economic and political events that both shaped and foreshadowed the industrialisation of Scotland.

From medieval packhorse to Cadell’s iron rails, the evolution of what would become a standard mode of transport can all be seen in Scotland’s longest-serving railway.

For further information on the 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group, visit their website.

Event details

Join us for a live c.45-minute illustrated online talk on 22 August, followed by approximately 30 minutes of questions from the audience. The registration fee includes access to the event recording (released the following day) for 7 days after the broadcast.

The event will be chaired by Dr Allan Kennedy, Lecturer in History at the University of Dundee and consultant editor of History Scotland magazine.

Registration fee: £10 - includes 7-day access to the event recording. Starts 6.30pm UK time. To find the start time in your time zone, visit TimeAndDate. Got a question about booking? E-mail Rachel Bellerby. 

Speaker details

Ed Bethune FSA Scot is an early railway historian and heritage consultant. In 2017 he founded the 1722 Waggonway Project and has led this community-run venture through 6 years of archaeological digs and heritage events celebrating Scotland’s earliest railway. He has published several local history books and has written for Discover, History Scotland, East Lothian Life, and in 2022 appeared on BBC Digging for Britain

Dr Aaron Allen FSA Scot  held several teaching and research fellowships in economic and social history at the University of Edinburgh, and is a committee member for the 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group. He is the author of several books, including Building Early Modern Edinburgh: A Social History of Craftwork and Incorporation (2018) and is a co-contributor to the 1722 WHG’s forthcoming chapter in Salt: Scotland’s Newest Oldest Industry (Forthcoming, 2023). 


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