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Images of the Subway.

 
       
 
 

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History - The first 100 years

1896 to 1935 – The Cable Era

The Subway was built between 1891 and 1896 by the Glasgow District Subway Company. It was opened on 14 December 1896.

Image: officials of the original Glasgow District Subway.
Directors, engineers and officials of the original Glasgow District Subway, pictured around 1896.

The system was a tunnelled loop, 6 and a half miles long, linking the burghs of Govan, Partick and Kinning Park with Glasgow City Centre and the West End. It was unique in being the only cable-operated underground railway in the world.

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Image: Copland Road station, 1897.
Underground cars in Copland Road station (now Ibrox) in 1897. Notice the cable traction system on the curve of the track.

About one third of the route is in cast iron-lined tunnel – the rest is of brick and concrete construction. The deepest point of the system is the inner circle tunnel beneath the Clyde between Partick and Govan.

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Image: Scotland Street frontage of the Power Station.
The Scotland Street frontage of the Power Station.

The power station was in Scotland Street. Coal-fired boilers and steam engines drove the cables at 13 miles per hour. The system has the unusual track gauge of 4ft (1,220mm).

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Image: cable winding gear in the power station.
The cable winding gear in the power station.

The first cars were on bogies, but the second batch were 4-wheelers (like the one now on display at Buchanan Street Station). Some of the first batch ran for 80 years!

There were no points – cars were lifted out of the tunnel by crane at the Car Sheds in Govan.

Journey time for a complete circuit was 40 minutes.

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Image: battery locomotive, 1937.
Battery locomotive – originally built in 1927 – after rebuilding in 1937.

The busiest section was across the Clyde from Govan to Partick Cross. A fare of a halfpenny was charged until 1940 – long after the halfpenny fare had been withdrawn on the trams.

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Image: first car converted to electric traction.
The first car experimentally converted to electric traction, early 1933.

The system was taken over by Glasgow Corporation Tramways Department in 1923.

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