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New artwork celebrates rich transport history of Scotland’s mural town

New murals depicting the industrial history and transport heritage of Prestonpans have been installed at the town’s railway station, thanks to the efforts of East Lothian Community Rail Partnership (CRP).

Working with local artists and the art department at Preston Lodge High School, the partnership used funding from CrossCountry to create four murals designed to bring the area’s past back to life.

Murals and paintings have been a feature of the station for many years, but the previous artwork had deteriorated beyond repair. To befit Prestonpans’ standing as Scotland’s ‘mural town’, the partnership has created a long-term solution by printing the new murals on recyclable polypropylene, which is highly durable and weather-resistant.

Two of the murals are by Lesley Innes, who has created images of Mallard, which holds the record for the fastest steam locomotive in the world, and a 1950s Bedford Wiles coach, used by a well-loved local independent bus operator based in Port Seton.

Fellow artist Thomas Ewing has highlighted The Tranent to Cockenzie Waggonway, which was opened in 1722 and was possibly the first railway in Scotland, used to move coal from the East Lothian coalfield from around Tranent to the salt pans at Cockenzie and the port at Port Seton. The final mural, created by Preston Lodge High School, shows the site of the Prestongrange Heritage and Mining Museum, where coal was first mined by the monks of Newbattle Abbey in the 12th century.

Also depicted in two of the murals is local feline celebrity Rupert of Bankton, the cat who frequented Prestonpans Station for many years, and was so loved by locals and passengers alike that a statue in the town was erected in his honour.

As well as all the artistry being sourced from within Prestonpans itself, the photography, digitisation, and printing of the murals was also handled locally, with the CRP partnering with Hangar Art and Framing in Drem, and East Lothian Council.

Harry Barker, chair of the CRP, said: “Prestonpans has a very rich industrial and transport heritage, and the murals reflect this. The subjects were chosen to illustrate local historical interest, as we wanted local people to treasure their history. We hope that the murals will help to bring the past to life. 

“It was very important to not only promote local content in the subject of the murals, but also to work with local artists, and it is wonderful that such local talent has been used in this project. We are absolutely delighted with the result.”

The murals were funded through CrossCountry’s Community Engagement Fund, with installation support from ScotRail. Community Rail Network, the umbrella body for more than 70 community rail partnerships across Britain, also supported the scheme.

Ben Simkin, CrossCountry’s regional director, North East and Scotland, said: “We were pleased to be able to support East Lothian CRP in bringing a new lease of life to Prestonpans Station. Having been created by those as the heart of the community, visitors and local people will now have a gateway to the town that they can be proud of.”

Caroline Thompson-Noble, Community Rail Network’s sustainable travel engagement co-ordinator in Scotland, said: “Scotland’s network of community rail partnerships and station groups engage communities with their local railways and stations, promoting social inclusion, tourism, health and wellbeing, and enabling and encouraging more people to get around sustainably by train.

“We were delighted to support East Lothian CRP with this project, as we know that as well as improving the appearance of stations and creating welcoming gateways to the areas they serve, station art can also help to promote positive mental health and discourage anti-social behaviour. Every station has a story to tell, and the murals really give a sense of how important transport and the railway has been to Prestonpans.”

Further information can be found on the East Lothian CRP website, here.