For much of the period the busy A1 road passed through Musselburgh via the High Street and then Bridge Street. By the 1960s calls for a Musselburgh by-pass had become increasingly vociferous, with the Town Council protesting to the Secretary of State at the delay. There was ‘traffic chaos in the burgh‘. Delays (and promises) continued and by 1975 the new Lothian Regional Council was pressuring the town council for a decision on the route for the by-pass. By this stage the Edinburgh council’s deliberations on the route of the city’s outer ring road were having a knock-on effect and Musselburgh’s decision was delayed until Edinburgh had made theirs. By the end of October 1975 it was the economic situation that was holding things up and the Secretary of State halted the process.
February 1980 saw an announcement that both Tranent and Musselburgh by-passes were to go ahead and be completed by 1985. Musselburgh’s by-pass was opened by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind, in December 1986 (Tranent opened in March 1986). The 9.2km dual carriageway cost £9 million.
Later, traffic was again causing problems: in 1990 there was a £20,000 improvement package carried out in the High Street, designed to cut the road accident toll at Newbigging. In 2000 more chaos ensued when work began on the new public transport spine – the intent being to reduce congestion.
In the mid 1950s Musselburgh had two railway stations, a terminus to a short branch from the East Coast Main Line in the town itself, adjacent to the Roman Bridge and the vacant site which was then Brunton’s factory, and at Inveresk, a through station on the main line (see Inveresk – excluding Musselburgh).
The double track branch to Musselburgh left the East Coast Main Line at Newhailes Junction, running alongside the wall to the Newhailes estate before curving right and following the alignment which now carries a road through to the junction with the High Street at the bus garage.
The terminus comprised a substantial Victorian stone building with a canopy over the one platform and the reversing loop for locomotive hauled trains. A well-patronised news stand stood (somewhat vulnerably) immediately behind the buffers.
The branch had a coal yard on the Fisherrow side of the Esk and private sidings servicing Brunton’s and other manufacturing businesses in the vicinity of the station. A level crossing taking the Eskside West road through to Stoneybank was controlled by an adjacent signalbox.
Around 20 trains a day served Musselburgh on weekdays and this was increased to just under 30 when diesel multiple units were introduced in the late 1950s. The majority terminated at Edinburgh Waverley, with a few continuing either to Corstorphine or Morningside (on the suburban circle route).
The branch carried a fair amount of commuter traffic but was not heavily patronised as the station was poorly located for many of the town’s residents and suffered from bus competition. Despite rapid journey times – between 15 and 20 minutes from Edinburgh – Waverley station’s poor access reduced this advantage. Race days were busy, following the demise of the Waterloo Place to Levenhall tram service in 1954.
The passenger service succumbed to the Beeching axe in September 1964 and goods survived a further four years to 1968.
On a more positive note, two new stations have been created roughly a mile either side of Inveresk. The ‘new’ Musselburgh station (opened 1988) serves the Stoneybank area and the other is Wallyford, adjacent to Pinkie Braes (the ‘Wimpeys’) and Wallyford itself. The service from both stations is fast, frequent and well patronised. The poor layout and access at Waverley station remains an issue but the massive increase in road traffic over the past 25 years has offset this disadvantage.
There are many walks in the town and along the river Esk. One of particular interest is that around Levenhall Links from the harbour, by way of part of the John Muir Way.