Secrets Of The Glasgow Subway

Hello. We’re in Glasgow, it’s raining. We’re outside St. Enoch’s, it’s time to do the 15 stops on the Glasgow Subway System. So I’ll be taking an anti-clockwise trip on the Glasgow Subway. But, before we start, some quick background and history on the system.

As Glasgow’s population grew hugely throughout the 19th century, schemes to build an underground railway were first proposed in 1887. But, it wasn’t until 1896 that the Glasgow District Subway opened up a circular route throughout the city with 15 stations. The 15 stops were all originally built with island platforms in a loop just over 10 kilometers long, running under the River Clyde twice, and it was originally cable hold. Electrification didn’t occur until 1935. The system also completely closed for three years between 1977 and 1980 for much needed modernization, something that we’ll refer to again later. Nowadays, services are known as running as outer, orange on the official map, and inner, that’s gray on the official map, and runs seven days a week. The services stop earlier on a Sunday, at around 6:00 PM, to allow time for maintenance.

So here are some things you might not have spotted, or may not know at all if you’ve never traveled on Glasgow’s Subway System. By starting here, we have to point out that what is now a high street chain coffee shop, this beautiful building was the original building, the headquarters of the Glasgow District Subway. In 1977 to 1980, it was totally dug up, reconstructed, and is now one of only two stations on the network to have stair-free access. To get around, I’m using the Subway Smart Card Ticket, which always works out cheaper than buying a paper ticket, whether you’re buying a single, return, or a daily or season ticket. They’re thee pounds to buy from a ticket office, or free if you order them online. There’s basically no reason not to use a Smart Card.

So onto the trains, noting that the smaller than standard gauge means smaller trains as well to what you might be used to. So if you’re 6’3″ like me, then please mind your head. Buchanan Street Station is in the shopping district of Glasgow, and is the busiest station on the network, and is the nearest to Glasgow Queen Street station, where there’s an entrance and exit with a travelator to take you to the station. The station, which is currently being rebuilt, meaning you can now see the 1842 glass canopy, which has been hidden away for years. There’s nothing really that exciting to see at Cowcaddens Station, but it is the perfect example of how all stations retained here, were all originally built with island platforms.

Then, on to St. George’s Cross with an apostrophe, which is controversial because over the years, the signage hasn’t always had them. The modern day signs do now, but if you look closely enough. So the signage at platform level has now been fixed. Just outside the station, there’s another clue on the street that maybe, just maybe, it was some lack of apostrophes.

Onto Kelvinbridge, our next stop. So called because it’s named after [inaudible 00:02:59] Kelvin outside, and there is a bridge over the River Kelvin, and because the river is here, this is the deepest station on the network. Not only is it deepest, but this island platform is the widest. Outside, evidence of the former Kelvinbridge Railway Station, which closed here in 1952, with this old cast iron staircase. This innocuous gray door, which is now an emergency exit, was the original entrance to the subway station. Oh, and yes, here’s the actual bridge going over the River Kelvin. At Hillhead, you’ll find it’s another one of the stations that’s been upgraded by turning its original island platform into a platform for trains in one direction, whilst a new platform has been installed to service the other.

There’s also a lovely mural by Alice DeGray here that depicts the local area and the subway’s history. Next up, what might just be my favorite stop on the subway. At Kelvinhall, where it’s easy to get confused. This is Subway, this is the subway. The sandwich is here, train’s here. Do not get the two confused. Now, in the late 1970’s when the network was refurbished, Cessnock Station and Kelvinhall were the only two to retain their original station entrances. I confess, we may have got into the wrong subway, but then we got onto the train, and went to Partick Station, which has murals outside to commemorate the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It’s also the station for the nearby Riverside Museum, where they have old original subway rolling stock on display. Talking of old original subway, there’s a disuse station here too.

We’ve come outside to Partick Station, at the top of this wall here, are the national [inaudible 00:04:32] trains part the ScotRail network. It’s the only station on the network, on the subway, where there is actually proper integration, albeit on two separate gate lines. This is also the location, it’s all gone, of where the subway’s only abandoned station is located, Merkland Street. Although, at platform level, you can kind of get an idea of where it was if you look down the tunnels. Merkland Street became disused in the 1970s modernization, Partick Station was built in its place. It was also during this time that Govan Cross was renamed to just Govan, and Copeland Road became Ibrox. But, we’ll get to that in a couple of stops time.

When the train leaves Partick towards Govan in that direction, about 30 meters, there’s a moment where there’s a cavern. It opens up. There’s a railing, and with your head pressed to the window, you can just about see where the old platforms used to be, that way.

Next stop along the line is Govan, which is where the depot’s located. That’s the station, but up here, the sign for [inaudible 00:05:28] depot. If we walk down this path, you can see a train in the open. So it’s a two minute walk down this road, alongside the fence, and here, you get an excellent view of … Well, sadly on the day that we’ve come, there aren’t any trains outside. Maybe it’s because it’s raining, they’ve all been inside to stay dry. But, otherwise, this is the place you can, in Glasgow, see a subway train outside. Trust me.

The distance between Govan and the next stop, Ibrox, is the longest between two stations, at 930 meters. Welcome to Ibrox. Not always called Ibrox, originally called Copeland Road, and then during the closure in the late 1970s, it had a name change. It changed to match the name of the stadium around the corner where, apparently, some football takes place. As you would expect, this station is exceedingly busy on match days, but it’s strangely quiet at all other times.

On the outside of Cessnock Station, you can see original signage from before the 1970s modernization work. The arch here also remains, following an online campaign from further modernization. Feeling a little tired from our journey so far, we took a rest before realizing that we hadn’t done any step counting in our travels yet. So at the next stop, Kinning Park provided the perfect place to do this, as it’s the shallowest station on the system. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32-

We made a quick stop at Shields Road to check out the park and ride facility, the largest of three on the network. This one has spaces for over 800 cars, and is so large that the eastern end of the car park, it’s actually physically nearer to the next subway stop along the line, and that’s West Street. Welcome to West Street, which we confess, isn’t the most exciting station on the network, nor is Bridge Street, the one up the line.

However, you see this railway bridge just here, that is a freight and passenger line. If a project known as the Glasgow Crossrail Project goes ahead … Crossrail Project, it had probably been named that from Wallace Line. If that happens, expect a multimillion pound investment to happen in this area, and for this all to be redeveloped. Until that happens, this is your chance to ride what we think is the shortest distance between two stations on the line. It’s just under 500 meters between here, West Street, and Bridge Street. So I’ve got my stopwatch up, we’re gonna time it. The distance between Ibrox and Cessnock is also very short, measured at the same distance. But, we think that the journey here is a couple of seconds quicker. In fact, it’s total journey time is 52 seconds in between West Street and Bridge Street. Less than a minute.

With Bridge Street being the 15th station on our circuit, that brings us back around to where we started. We’ve returned to where we started, at St. Enoch’s, having successfully done an anti-clockwise circle of the Clockwork Orange. It’s Craig from the Glasgow Subway, go and take a ride. Take a train to Glasgow, takes about 20 minutes to do one loop. Come ride the Orange Train.