Travel: 120 years of Glasgow Subway

Glasgow subway underground birthday

120 years of the ‘shoogle’

Today (14th December 2016) marks the 120th birthday of the Glasgow Subway. Yay!


Opened on 14 December 1896, it is the third-oldest underground metro system in the world after London (10 January 1863) and Budapest (3 May 1896).

Glasgow subway underground birthday

Starting as a cable-pulled system, it was fully electrified by 1935.  With its dinky trains and simple circuit of two circular lines (clockwise and anti-clockwise) Glaswegians are rightly proud of their subway.

Glasgow subway underground birthday
Original carriage © Wikipedia

The route is almost 6.5 miles (10.5 km) with just over half of the stations north of the River Clyde. The tunnels are smaller than the London Underground, having a diameter of 11 feet (3.35 m) and the track gauge is only 4 ft making it narrower than standard gauge and most of the metro systems in the world!

Glasgow subway underground birthday
Inside maintenance depot

The maintenance depot is located above ground between Govan and Ibrox stations. Before modernisation, trains had to be hoisted by crane onto and off the tracks. Now, a ramp brings trains up to the depot for cleaning or maintenance.   If you keep your eyes peeled between Ibrox and Govan stations you’ll see the extra tunnels and some of the train sleeping areas.

Glasgow subway underground birthday
Inside maintenance depot

10 years ago, Mrs Foodie had the pleasure of a behind-the-scenes subway tour.  This involved visiting the large maintenance depot, as well as walking between Govan and Patrick stations along the track!

Glasgow subway underground birthday

Glasgow subway underground birthdayOne of the highlights from that visit was seeing the old entrance to Merkland Street, which was moved further north and renamed to join up with the relocated Partick train (and bus) station.

Glasgow subway underground birthday
Merkland Street Station – stairs to platform

Another interesting piece here is that in November 1940, a German plane was flying over Glasgow, and dropped a bomb on Beith Street bowling green.  The bomb penetrated the soft surface above the subway tunnels and exploded.  You can see the repairs today, the cast iron tunnels change to brick, marking the site of the bomb explosion. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Glasgow subway underground birthday
Normal cast iron tunnelling
Glasgow subway underground birthday
Repaired tunnel

Here is a clip of the old system.

Hopefully the new modernisation works will keep Glasgow Subway around for another 120 years there we’ll need Batman!

Batman Glasgow subway birthday

Glasgow subway underground birthday


  • Glasgow Foodie

    Mrs Foodie aka Emma loves to snuggle with Fred and Cleo, sleep and read. Can be found with gin or a pint in hand.

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