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The Glasgow Subway

Updated on June 2, 2015
The Glagow Subway train!
The Glagow Subway train!

If you have read my other hub The London Underground – The History you’d learnt how the London Underground is the oldest and has the most history behind it. Yet what you may not have realised is that London is not Britain’s only underground train system. In Scotland, Glasgow, Britain’s third biggest city, also has its very own underground train system, referred to as ‘The Glasgow Subway.’

Construction for the Glasgow Subway first started in 1891 under the Glasgow District Subway Company and was opened for the public 5 years later on December 14th 1896. The very earliest trains ran on a cable (similar to the above ground cable cart system) and used a clutch and cable system. This principle works on the cable being pulled by either one of the motors, powered by steam generators at West Street and Shield Road stations (the original ends of the line). To go beyond the stations however to the train depots on either side, a crane mechanism was used, which allowed the train carriages to be picked up off the tracks, placed in the depot, and likewise taking the carriage out depot to be placed back on the tracks. This enabled the engineers to initially design two tracks which are not connected but run parallel to each other. As such, one track can be for trains going one way, and the other track can be used for trains going the other way.

Unfortunately on the opening day, there was a disaster which caused the line to close again until January 19th 1897. Many of these wooden carriages were used right up to 1977. These wooden carriages were built by the Oldbury Railway Carriage & Wagon Company. Around the time the Glasgow Subway first started, 20 wooden train carriages were used.

Over the years, more stations were opened, until the number of stations running on the Glasgow Subway now reached 15 stations, consisting of two lines, one inside the other, the outside ring, both forming a ring. If you in anyway claustrophobic, than the Glasgow Subway may not be for you. Most tunnels are only 11 feet tall. All the station platforms on the Glasgow Subway are designed so that the lines run alongside either side of the platform (known as an island platform).

One of Glasgow's Island Platforms!
One of Glasgow's Island Platforms!

In 1935, the Glasgow Subway was converted from the traditional cable method to the nowadays electric system. In-between 1977-1980, the Glasgow Subway undertook major modernisation. During the modernisation, the last of the original carriages were removed and in the process, replaced with the complete aluminium carriages which carries passengers around the city of Glasgow.

Over the years, the Glasgow’s subway system has experienced several different colour designs for its trains and stations, but the existing decorative design came about in 1990s. This architectural design saw each of the stations having their own unique colour scheme. Furthermore, the trains which in the 1980s were initially orange with a white line going through the middle, have changed to become carmine-red and cream livery.

It should be mentioned that like most underground train systems, the Glasgow Subway trains are designed in tube shape. This allows drivers to simply leave one end of the train and enter the driver’s seat at the other end, hence enable the train to be driven back the way it came, without having to actually drive the train through a loop track in order to turn it around.

So what lies in the future for this Subway system? Well in March 2007, SPT (the company who now run the Glasgow Subway) decided to invest in the construction of a new extension of the line, giving the Glasgow Subway a figure of 8 rather than a circle. This additional circle will have 7 new stations on it, allowing more parts of Glasgow to be connected to Subway System. As of yet, I’m not as yet sure when the plans for construction for this new Glasgow Subway extension are set to take place!


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