THE heritage group which led a community Big Dig project at Cockenzie Harbour last year has taken on an even bigger challenge for 2018 – recreating one of the original coal wagons used there.

The 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group welcomed hundreds of volunteers and visitors to the harbour last summer as members carried out an archaeological dig to discover what they could about the former railway line, which linked the coal pits of Tranent with the harbour and is believed to be one of the oldest in Scotland.

Now they have taken lease of a large workshop space on West Harbour Road, next to historic Cockenzie Harbour, and revealed plans to reconstruct one of the wagons which would have used the waggonway, and create a short length of track for it to operate on.

With help from Cockenzie Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) the group has already commissioned local archaeological illustrator Alan Braby to draw a set of detailed plans depicting the wagons that ran on the iron railway between Tranent and Cockenzie Harbour in the early to mid 19th century.

Now the plan is to bring part of that work to life.

Mr Braby said: “This is an exciting project, to attempt to construct from scratch an almost 200-year-old coal wagon.

“Producing the technical drawings isn’t the hard side of this; the background research is, trying to tease fragments of evidence from contemporary plans by Robert Stevenson and fantastic early photographic images from the 1850s, which amazingly show coal wagons in the background.

“We now have a decent idea of what a wagon looked like and can soon start on the construction of it.”

The group is now appealing for volunteers from the community to help with the task ahead.

Gareth Jones, secretary, said: “Some knowledge of woodwork or metal working would be useful but is not essential.

“If you think that you can help in any way, then please get in touch.

“The build will hopefully start at the end of January and our target is to have the wagon ready for display during East Lothian Archaeology and Local History Fortnight 2018.”

Ed Bethune, project leader, said that the group was hugely excited about what it had achieved over the last year and the next phase.

He said: “We aim to create a heritage asset that Cockenzie and Port Seton, and East Lothian, can be proud of.

“Our new workshop space is a fantastic resource for the community and will be accessible to all, with a new exhibition being created to allow locals and visitors alike to come and learn the history of Scotland’s first railway and its associate industries.”

Jamie Baker, town centre regeneration officer with East Lothian Council, said Cockenzie CARS was focusing on increasing the understanding of local heritage, history and traditional craft skills.

He said: “The Waggonway group’s plan to build a working replica of a coal wagon will not only be a great opportunity for local people to see a piece of their heritage brought to life but also to help build it, learning some new skills along the way.”