Scotland

Unearthing Scotland's first railway track at Tranent

Cobbled horse track Image copyright 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group
Image caption A cobbled track for ponies to pull waggons along the railway track was found this year

An extensive archaeological excavation of Scotland's first railway track is planned for next year.

Wooden rails from the 297-year-old Tranent-Cockenzie Waggonway were uncovered in a dig in June this year.

Part of a cobbled horse track for the ponies which pulled the wagons up to coal pits at Tranent in East Lothian was also discovered.

A community project hopes next year excavation might unearth some of the timbers used to lay the railway.

The finds made this year by the 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group have been listed among Scotland's top five archaeological discoveries of 2019.

Compiled by Scotland's archaeology hub, Dig It!, other discoveries on the list include a Pictish skeleton found on the Black Isle in the Highlands and what is believed to be a Viking drinking hall in Orkney.

Image copyright 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group
Image caption This June's dig is set to be followed up by a more extensive excavation in 2020

The waggonway involved wooden rails, wagons and wheels. Constructed in 1722, it was upgraded to an iron railway in 1815.

The community-run waggonway project is guided by a professional archaeologist. Dates have still be confirmed for next year's more extensive excavation.

A spokesman said: "The hope is that we can excavate a longer stretch of the track, and we are working with East Lothian Council Archaeology Service to plan this for spring 2020.

"Given the level of preservation on the small section we uncovered in June, we are confident that the central cobbled horse-track survives in good condition, and we remain hopeful that some rail timbers will be intact enough to remove, although this is dependent on soil conditions."

He added: "Archaeological investigations in to early waggonways are relatively rare, and the information that this site can give us is incredibly valuable, with the potential to establish links in technology used for early railways around the country in the 18th Century."

The other two top discoveries on the Dig It! list were one of a set of lost gravestones from the Middle Ages at Glasgow's Govan Old Parish Church, and a previously unrecorded Pictish stone near Dingwall.

Image copyright 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group
Image caption Archaeologists hope to discover more about 18th Century waggonways

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