Wednesday, 25 November 2009


The Glasgow Subway is a metro system in Glasgow,
Scotland. Opened in 1896, it is the third oldest subway
system in the world after the London Underground
and the Budapest Metro. Originally a cable railway,
the Subway was later electrified, but its one circular
line has never been expanded. Officially the Glasgow
Underground between 1936 and 2003, it has reverted
to its colloquial name of Subway. It remains one of
only two underground metro-type systems in the UK
outside London, the other being the Tyne and Wear
Metro. The Subway has been policed by British
Transport Police since 2007 .

One of the few long-lived metro systems that have
never expanded from its original route, its circular
route is almost 6.5 miles (10.4 km) long and extends
both north and south of the River Clyde. The tracks
have the unusual narrow gauge of four feet
(1219 mm), the tunnel diameter of 11 feet
(3.35 m) comparable to that of the deep-level
lines of the London Underground (11'8" or 3.56m).
A £40,000 study examining the feasibility of an
expansion into the city’s south side is in progress.

The subway is not the oldest underground railway in
Glasgow itself; that distinction belongs to a 5 km
stretch of the North Clyde Line of the suburban
railway network which runs in a sub-surface tunnel
under the city centre between High Street and west
of Charing Cross.

The subway’s running lines are entirely underground,
but the maintenance depot at Broomloan Road
(located between the Govan and Ibrox stations) is
above ground, as was the earlier depot, also at Govan.
Prior to modernisation, trains used to be hoisted by
crane onto and off of the tracks. Modernisation brought
the installation of points and a ramp between Govan and
Ibrox where trains can exit the underground tunnel
system to terminate for engineering, cleaning or storage.

As built and opened on 14 December 1896 by the
Glasgow District Subway Company, the subway
was powered by a clutch-and-cable system, with
one cable for each direction. The cable was driven
from a steam-powered plant between West Street
and Shields Road stations. There was no additional
cable to allow trains to reach the depot; instead, they
were transferred to and from the running lines by crane
operating over a pit at the Govan workshops. This
also meant that the two tracks could be completely
separate, with no points anywhere. The company's
headquarters were in the upper rooms at St Enoch
subway station; this distinctive ornate building still
stands in St Enoch Square and is now used as a
travel information office.

When the Subway first opened, single-carriage trains
were operated. An accident on the opening day
entailed the closure of the Subway until 1897. The
20 original carriages were built by the Oldbury Railway
Carriage and Wagon Company, of Oldbury,
Birmingham, England. Many continued in service
until 1977. A further 10 were delivered by the
same manufacturer in 1897. From 1898, second
(trailer) carriages without a cable gripper mechanism
were added, though they were considerably
shorter than the front (gripper) carriage. These
additional carriages, eventually numbering 30,
were built by Hurst Nelson & Company,
Motherwell, Lanarkshire. These carriages were
soon expanded to match the length of the front
carriages, although carriage 41 has been restored
to its original length and can be seen preserved
at Buchanan Street subway station. Most of the
gripper carriages were subsequently converted
to electric traction in 1935. All carriages were
originally built with lattice gates (instead of doors)
at the ends; many were converted to air-operated
sliding doors in the 1960s, but a few retained the
gates until 1977.

All 15 stations were built with island platforms.
The trains were thus built with doors on one side
only. When electric lighting in the trains was
introduced, the current was supplied by two
parallel wall-mounted rails (known as "T-irons")
at window level on the non-platform side of the
trains; trains were equipped with skids to pick
up the electricity. The trains remained cable-
hauled until 1935, though the anachronistic way
of supplying power for the lighting continued
until 1977.

Glasgow Corporation took over the company in 1923.
In 1935, the existing trains were converted to electric
power delivered by a third rail at 600 volts, direct
current. From March until December 1935, clockwise
trains were cable-hauled, whilst anti-clockwise ones
were electric. The trains lost their original plum and
cream-coloured liveries, being painted red and white
instead. From the 1950s the trains became all red
-— in a shade similar to that of London buses.
During the early 1970s, trailer carriage number
41 was repainted in the original 1896 livery; part
of the carriage, shortened to its original length, is
now preserved at Buchanan Street station.

After the Beeching Axe of the 1960s, both St
Enoch and Buchanan Street mainline stations were
closed and demolished. Ever since, the Subway
has had no direct passenger connection to the national
railway network -— a major weakness -—
although an interchange to the suburban rail
system exists at Partick, and a moving walkway
was installed between Buchanan Street station and
Queen Street mainline station as part of the
late 1970s modernisation.

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