East Coast Main Line: Abbeyhill Junction

Abbeyhill Junction isn't just any old junction, not that you can tell this as you whiz east so fast my camera and I can't keep up or glide west to Abbeyhill Railway Bridge. For one thing, if you look at a map of the railway network, you'll see that it isn't a junction at all: there's no track heading away, just rusty points and ivy, and an old bridge over Abbeyhill from which you can see one of the few tenements in Edinburgh which still houses a (now sadly defunct) Archimedean Screw system for transporting its resdients up and down.

Back when Otis Redding was still just sitting on the dock of the bay, long before he invented the lift as we know it, the spiral staircase was still the principal mode of vertical transport. An enterprising Edinburgh architect by the name of Albert Phasm, impressed by James Watt's recent invention of the Piston Steam Engine (by the way, the sauna in which he came up with that idea is still doing excellent business), reasoned as follows:



`The founding moment of Western Displacement Activity was when Archimedes leapt scalded from his bath, screaming "Eureka!". (This would not, of course, have happened but for Euclid's Elements.) Having figured out how to displace water onto the bathroom floor, he continued in the same vein and came up with a neat way of making it go up stairs: water being liquid is too lazy to climb stairs, but motion is relative, so Archimedes made the stairs move under the water. Could not I employ Dr Watt's marvellous mechanism to make a spiral staircase move under people?'

Phasm's idea did not, unfortunately, become particularly widespread, partly because of the inconvenient putting-on and taking-off of the skis required to overcome the angularity of the individual steps, but mostly because the wealthy ground floor residents objected to the inevitable upward transmission of oxygen entailed by the screw system.

So Abbeyhill Junction is a junction in time rather than space. Why not wander past the advertisement for Cranston's Waverley Temperance Hotels and into the past? Alternatively, it's not hard to climb down to street level.

Conor's Personal Page