Granton - Burntisland

Ferry Service


Granton - Burntisland Ferry


Definition of Leviathan (Colin's English Dictionary):

1. .Bible:  A monstrous beast, esp. a sea monster.

2.  Any huge or powerful thing.

The World's first 'Floating Railway'

The ferry 'Leviathan' plied across the Firth of Forth between Granton and Burntisland, becoming the world's first 'floating railway' in 1850.  The service continued to operate until 1890 when the Forth Bridge opened, crossing the Forth at Queensferry, about 9 miles further up the Forth at Queensferry.

Here is a brief extract from Marie Weir's book, 'Ferries in Scotland',  setting the scene in the mid-19th century, followed by a report in 'Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers' on the service after it had been operating for ten years.



"There was increasing disquiet concerning the time lag, additional expense and the frustration experienced whenever passengers or goods had to be transferred from train to ferry.

On the Forth, the problem was ingeniously solved by Thomas Bouch who later masterminded the building of the ill-fated Tay railway bridge.  He proposed a 'Floating Railway' whereby railway wagons could run aboard a specially built ferry boat to carry them across the water.  The wagons would then run off the ferry boat directly onto the railway system. 

... a successful trial was held ... As a result the' Leviathan' was built.  This 'Floating Railway' was specially construc-ted to carry between thirty and forty goods wagons which could be loaded or discharged in about five minutes.  It made four or five double journeys daily.

At the same time other steam boats continued to convey passengers according to a regular ferry timetable."

Extract from 'Ferries in Scotland: Author: Marie Weir:
Publ. John Donald, Edin.
ISBN  0 85976 235 1)

The extracts below give more details about the 'floating railway'.  They are taken from an article in 'Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers' written about ten years after the ferry service commenced.



"Piers were constructed at Granton and Burntisland Harbours, each 5 ft above Spring High Tides.  On the eastern side of each pier was a slipway of gradient '1 in 6'.

Heavy travelling platforms 65ft long and 21ft broad were laid on four balks of timber 14ins square, on the slipways, to enable railway wagons to be loaded and unloaded onto the ferries at different states of the tide, without the use of cranes."



"The Leviathan makes 4 or 5 double trips o a day and it can take from 30 to 34 wagons at a time.  The time occupied in making the single trip is about 26 minutes and the operation of loading and unloading takes an additional 5, or 8, minutes.

During the six months from Feb 1st to July 31st 1860, the number of trips made was 1,546, equal to 8,503 miles and the number of waggons carried was 32,712.

The rate for the carriage of minerals and other heavy goods is one shilling per ton.  The opening of this work has been the means of introducing into Edinburgh the coal from Fife which before was unknown in this market."

Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers: 16 April 1861, p.1036


'William Muir'

Granton-Burntisland ferry


A list of Ferry Boats

Granton-Burntisland ferries