The Old Station

So we parked up in Charlestown, had a wander round the harbour then walked along The Promenade into Limekilns. It was a glorious day for late September so when the ice cream van turned up we had to have a cone each! Watched some Turnstones sitting on the end of the old seawall then headed back towards, Charlestown.

The Old Station
The Old Station, from The Promenade

OK, this is where the story really starts... As you walk into Charlestown, there's a cottage on the left with a long garden that runs right along the seafront; it's called "The Old Station" which we thought was rather odd since there was no sign of any railway round about, and if there had been one in the past we couldn't see how it could have run East along the line of The Promenade, but it seemed likely that railway would have supplied coal for the lime kilns. My little guidebook for the Fife Coastal Path didn't provide much illumination, and the next day I tried to find some old maps of the area to see if I could find the path of a former railway. I just wanted to know if "The Old Station" was really an old station or just a name given by a homeowner with an affection for railways.  Google fairly quickly turned up an article on Charlestown on the website "A Vision of Britain through Time" (University of Portsmouth), which not only mentioned the railway but showed it on a map.

Charlestown Map
From "A Vision of Britain through Time"

From this I could see that the railway ran in the opposite direction from how I'd imagined, West by the harbour then looping round and up towards Dunfermline.  But the line did indeed extend as far as "The Old Station" which was the terminus.  In fact, it looks like the line ran right along what is now the lawn between the building and the coastal wall.

Elgin's Railway

With my initial curiosity satisfied, I became a little interested in the article's mention of the "Earl of Elgin's collieries", so finding that I could open the map and drag it around I traced the line back into Dunfermline where it merged with the main line towards Inverkeithing.  But this was a 20th century map and there was signs of a spur running off to the North a little before that - I needed an older map, and this was where things went off at a tangent, as they often do when you start rummaging in the Internet.

The website allowed me to select a 19th century map, precisely aligned with the newer one, so I could immediately see that the railway, designated as "Elgin's Railway" on the older map, did originally follow the branch I'd seen and run in a straight line to the North pretty much along the line of what is now Coal Road and William Street all the way up to Baldrigeburn after which it followed the line of the access road to East Baldridge Farm where it fanned out to Elgin Colliery and Wellwood Colliery, with a branch extending past the Town Loch at Townhill and eventually joining up with the "Halbeath Railway".  Then I saw something that surprised me.

19th c map from "A Vision of Britain through Time"

Now, Transylvania is not a name that I ever associated with Scotland and I couldn't really see any reason for it, especially as the map, drawn up in 1856 predates Bram Stoker's "Dracula" by some 40 years.  This is roughly in the area of Garvock Hill and I'd never seen anything that referred to Transylvania on any other map or anywhere else.  However, when I looked back at the same area on the 20th century map, the name seemed to have been shortened or corrupted to the much cuter sounding "Transy" at which point the penny dropped and I recognised that the modern day Transy Grove and Transy Place names, in roughly the same location, were derived from that.  A bit more Googling revealed that Transylvania means "beyond the wood"; it's sort of apparent when you consider the word roots, but I suppose I'd never looked at the word that way and just assumed some sort of Eastern European origin. Oh, and before anyone mentions it, I know there's a Transylvania University in Kentucky.  There's probably lots of Transylvanias, given the origins; it's obvious when you know why, but I'm just having fun with this one, because it's local.

The Great Fire

There's no wood shown on the map because after the Great Fire of Dunfermline on the 25th of May 1624, which destroyed three-quarters of the town, the woods at Garvock Hill well pretty much completely felled to rebuild the properties that were lost.

Here's another digression arising out of the foregoing: May 24th, 1624 was Wappinshaw-day in Dunfermline, that is, an annual day for the local bailies (town deputies) to drill. It appears that some burning wadding or 'tow' from a gun fired by the son of a bailie landed on the heather thatching of a roof in Rotten Row (now Queen Anne Street) from where the fire rapidly spread, consuming most of the buildings North of the High Street in the space of four hours with high winds assisting the spread.  In any case, maybe "The Count" was glad to be rid of the trees - after all, it's harder to make wooden stakes if there are no trees.

By now I was completely hooked on these little bits of history I never knew about and had to look into this and how and when Transylvania became Transy a little more, so the historical maps at the National Library of Scotland were my next stop, and a whole new set of digressions.  But before moving on to what I found from the NLS maps, there are couple more things to note on this one: There are two "Bleachfields" shown; that's quite literal as there was a significant linen industry in the area and "bleaching greens" were a key requirement of the trade.  The other thing is more of a mild amusement: "Touch Mains" (at the right side of the image) - from personal experience, it's not something I'd recommend! Actually, Touch comes from 'tuach', meaning "side of the water", just so you know.

NLS Maps

OS 1 inch 1st Edition
OS 1 inch 1st Edition, sheet 40 (NLS)

The first map I found in the National Library archives was the 1st Edition 1 inch-to-the-mile Ordnance Survey map from 1867.  This is almost identical to the previous map but is a little more legible as it doesn't use line shading to try to represent land contours.  If you're playing along, this map is Sheet 40 in the series. We still have Transylvania shown at this point but as there's only eleven between this and the previous map it likely that both were based on the same survey information.

I'd gone for the 1 inch series first because the sheet numbering was similar to the present day OS maps making it easy to locate the correct one; I'd noticed that some 6 inch-to-the-mile maps were available but the sheet numbering was different. After some unsuccessful "pot-luck fishing" I consulted the Index to the 6 inch 1st Edition and found Sheet 35 was the one I was looking for.

Map Detail
Detail on 6 inch OS map

This map is dated 1856, the same date as the one from "A Vision of Britain through Time", and has remarkable detail, showing fish ponds in gardens, weighing machines (I expect these were "Tron" provided for the benefit merchants and their customers), wells and even the location of air shafts serving coal mines, as in the example, left.  Looking over this pointed out a lot of other things of interest, but I'll come to those a little later.  For now we'll concentrate on Transylvania or Transy, and we can see from the extract below that, not unsurprisingly, "Transylvania" appears on this map but so does "Transy" in the names of the farm and iron works nearby.  Perhaps the Prince of Darkness was already trying to hide his presence?  Maybe he knew that Bram Stoker would expose him in due course? Incidentally, while chatting about this little journey of exploration with my friend Clive, he commented that the last time he visited Dunfermline he saw a pub that advertised "Stake Pies".  Maybe it wasn't a spelling mistake.

OS 6 inch 1st Edition
OS 6 inch 1st Edition, sheet 35 (NLS)

From this map, it looks as if "Transylvania", at least at this point, is specifically referring to the building at the bottom of the image, while "Transy" is used for the more general area, but it still doesn't explain how the abbreviation came about: We'll need to find some written accounts for that.

The East of Scotland Malleable Iron Works had been acquired by the Weardale Iron Works Company in 1850 for £15,250, but seemingly was closed down with the loss of all employees within a year and, in a form of Victorian asset stripping, all the equipment had been removed by the time this map was published and the buildings reduced to rubble.  The town annals comment: "These Works were purchased by the Weardale Iron Co. in Nov., 1850, but finding after a year’s trail that they had been carried on at a great loss, resolved to remove and transport all the machinery to Weardale, so that the works were closed, and all was quiet before the end of December, 1851.  From first to last these works were an unfortunate and unhappy speculation, as noted in the newspapers of the time". 

Close to the Iron Works was a smithy, conveniently close to source of raw material.  Maybe even a maker of pitchforks, supplying angry mobs as they march up the hill to Transylvania?

It's hard for me to look at a map like this without scanning over it and finding all sorts of things to distract me. On the image above you'll see a Curling Pond at the top edge: That's on the North side of Halbeath Road, just about where Atholl Place is today, meaning that with some strange synchronicity it's right beside where the "Iceland" frozen food store is now.

Continued in Transylvania - The Count may be closer than you think! - Part 2...