The History of Glasgow's Subway System
Most big cities have a subway, or underground train system, to get you about the place quickly and easily. This is a fast and convenient way to get around, and it can help reduce congestion and pollution. Glasgow's subway system is well known and well loved, for good reason!
Glasgow's subway is the third oldest underground train system in the entire world, only behind London and Budapest. It was opened in December 1896 (there's a useful pub quiz fact for you!) and has continued to run smoothly for more than a century. There was one reported incident on the evening of the opening day, where a carriage with 60 passengers was rammed into by another, underneath the River Clyde. No one died, but the subway then had to be closed until January of the following year.
No tour of Glasgow would be complete without a trip on the subway. It is known as a subway by the locals, but it was officially named Glasgow Underground in 1936 - this name difference didn't change how it worked though! Subway was then readopted in 2003, so stick with this if you want to blend in.
The subway's route is a 6.5 mile (10.5km) loop which extends South and North of the River Clyde. Trains run clockwise and anticlockwise on this route, and use separate tunnels. There are a variety of different platforms, including single islands and opposing side platforms. Despite the fact that other subways run underground, Glasgow's is the only one that has no part of it above ground at all, it is solely beneath the surface. The maintenance area at Broomloan Road, is the only part of the system that is above ground.
By the 1970s, subway usage had reduced significantly, caused partly by the demolition of many tenements around the Clyde, and by the closing of some of the dockyards. It was decided around this time to embark on a fair bit of refurbishment and modernisation, as many of the carriages from the original opening of the subway were still in use, dating back to 1896! Damaged tunnels were fixed, stations were enlarged and rebuilt, and general modernisation (including escalators and emergency exits) was undertaken. The subway was officially opened to passengers in April 1980.Since this time there
has been more rebuilding and modernisation of Glasgow's subway, including driverless trains, smart ticketing, improved signalling and refurbishing of all the stations, including making them more accessible.
This subway is one of the only ones to have never expanded its route for 120 years, and there have been plans and costings in the pipeline for many years, particularly focused on areas that are not well served by rail. Despite massive public support for an expansion of the subway these plans have not yet come to fruition - but watch this space!
As Glasgow attractions go, the subway is one of the most steeped in history and interesting facts. Plus, it's a great way to get about the city! If you are doing a tour of Glasgow you should definitely pop down underground for the experience of riding around on one of the oldest subway systems in the world.
If you're booking one of our private walking tours of Glasgow, and particularly want to ride the subway, just ask our personal guide!