Adding Colour To Monochrome

Lost Edinburgh has been taking Facebook by storm with its snapshots of the city in years gone by

The page has over 120,000 fans who regularly engage with the black-and-white images, and share stories and photos of their own. For co-founder David McLean, that’s what makes Lost Edinburgh stand out among the hundreds of other online photograph archives.

“Nobody’s sharing with quite the same angle as us,” David muses. “We want to tell stories, pull memories and recollections from people. It’s these stories that add colour to the monochrome.

It all started with another man’s story – that of David’s grandfather.

“Around five years ago he was starting to show signs of dementia,” says David. “He must have been around 81 at the time. I didn’t think he had long left so I made him a wee DVD slideshow of old Edinburgh images.”

The slideshow rekindled memories of David’s grandfather’s working days in the city’s old stations as a wheeltapper – employed to check the integrity of train wheels and that axle boxes are not overheating.

The image below shows him in 1965 in Caledonian Railway’s Prince Street Station, with his longhammer, the tool of his trade, propped against the ticket counter. The station, also known as the Caley, was closed the same year after nearly a century serving West Princes Street.

Caledonian Station aka Caley Station Princes Street Edinburgh in 1965.

Reminders of the station still survive – The Caledonian Hotel, incorporating the station’s entrance is now the Waldorf Astoria on Princes St, and the ornate iron gates are still standing on Rutland Street.

These stories struck a chord with David, who decided to put the images online to allow others to reminisce – and so Lost Edinburgh was launched.

David, alongside Susan Casey, and Norry Wilson who runs the Lost Glasgow page, posts images of the cities in by-gone days, seeking to spark conversations and reminiscence from their fans rather than to factually inform.

“We aren’t academic, and we’re not trying to come across as know-it-alls – that’s not to say we don’t share what information we have, but we like to get a bit of a conversation. The comments are hugely important. It’s amazing the conversation you can get going by speaking about something close to people’s hearts.”

A Friendly Rivalry

The Lost Edinburgh page was the first and most successful, but now that the Lost Glasgow page, under Norry’s guidance, gains more and more fans, the age-old East Coast/West Coast rivalry is starting to show…

“Aye, definitely!” David laughs. “Lost Glasgow creeps ever closer (as Norry’s writing improves!) so there’s a bit of rivalry there, definitely. It’s all good-natured, though. With Glasgow’s population out-weighing Edinburgh’s it’s inevitable they’ll overtake us eventually.

“I’m only too happy for them to do well.”

So what’s next for the Lost Edinburgh?

“The big plan is to set up the website, but we’ve built up such a great following on Facebook and we don’t want to lose the engagement you can get from the comments.

“The website is there, though there’s nothing set up yet! Maybe one of these day…”

Watch this space, and in the meantime click the gallery on the right to see a few of Lost Edinburgh’s images.