Lying beneath North Bridge in Edinburgh, and extending from Waverley Bridge in the west to Calton Hill in the east, is the immense Waverley Station. Covering 10 ha (25 acres), with a 5¼ ha (13 acre) glass roof, Waverley is the second-largest station in Britain and one of the largest in the world. Unusually for a British city, Edinburgh's principal station is located very much at its centre. This is because the geography of the city, with the Old Town perched on a ridge to the south, linked via North Bridge to the New Town on a ridge to the north, allowed the railway to be routed through the valley between. The valley had been the site of the Nor' Loch, effectively a sewer for the Old Town, but was drained in the 18th C. In the early 19th century plans were laid to build a canal through the valley, involving noted engineers such as Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), but the railway era overtook these proposals.
In the early 1840s, three stations were established here in quick succession: the first as the termination of the North British Railway from England; the second, by the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway, took trains at a sharp angle to the current platforms, through a tunnel under Princes Street and the New Town to Scotland Street and then onwards to the Granton Ferry over the Forth. The third was the eastern terminus of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, which followed a controversial link through Princes Street Gardens to Haymarket Station in the west and on to Glasgow. The link through the gardens, and tunnel under the Mound, were only established following extended argument, and debates in Parliament, as the residents of Princes Street, led by Lord Cockburn, defended their environment. The name Waverley, after Sir Walter Scott's novels, was applied to the three stations from c.1854.
The station we see today was begun in 1868, after the North British Railway absorbed the other companies, replacing the congested old stations. The Scotland Street tunnel closed at that time.
Many the station buildings, including large vaults beneath, are underused and various plans for redevelopment have been proposed but, as yet, none implemented.