Glasgow Subway

From Academic Kids

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A train arrives at West Street station

The Glasgow Subway is a metro system which has a circular two-track layout. Trains run clockwise on one track and anticlockwise on the other. It is said, but mainly by the media, to be nicknamed the Clockwork Orange (coined from the title of the film A Clockwork Orange) because most of its carriages are painted orange, the corporate colour of Strathclyde Passenger Transport, although these are being replaced with a new colour scheme of carmine and cream with a small orange stripe. Between 1936 and 2003 it was officially called the Glasgow Underground, but the name has now reverted back to Subway.

The circular route is 10.4 km long, and extends both north and south of the River Clyde. It was opened in 1896, making Glasgow's system the third-oldest underground rail system in the world after London and Budapest. It is one of the few metro systems that have never expanded from its original route. The tracks have the unusual narrow gauge of 4 feet (1.22 m), and the tunnel diameter of 11 feet (3.35 m) is even smaller than on the London Underground. Because of Glasgow's geology, the subway had to be cut with great difficulty through solid rock; this accounts for both the small size of the tunnels and the failure to expand the system.

The subway is not the oldest underground railway in Glasgow itself, however; that distinction belongs to a 3-mile 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 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.

As built and opened on 14 December 1896 by the Glasgow District Subway Company, it was a clutch and cable-powered line. Rather than installing an additional cable to allow trains to reach the depot, they were transferred to and from the running lines by crane; this also meant that the two tracks could be completely separate, with no points anywhere. The city took over the company in 1923, and in 1935 the existing trains were converted to electric power delivered by a third rail. From March to December 1935, clockwise trains were cable-powered while anticlockwise ones were electric.

The original rolling stock, thus converted, ran until 1977 when the system was shut down for a major refurbishment and modernisation. Badly deteriorated tunnels were repaired, stations were enlarged, heavier track was installed, the new Broomloan Road depot was built along with connecting tracks (with points) to replace the crane transfer, and new electrical supply from Westinghouse Electric Corporation was installed. The line reopened in 1980, using new rolling stock by Metro Cammell with GEC electric motors.

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Interior of Glasgow Subway car

Prior to the modernisation, the stations had a unique earthy smell. The backs of the seats were attached to the sides of the carriages, which moved semi-independently from the floor (to which the seats themselves were attached), leading to passengers being rocked forwards and backwards as the carriage "shuggled" passengers around.

The system is run by Strathclyde Passenger Transport.

Future development

The system is unique compared to other metro systems as it has never been expanded from its original route. Many schemes for extending the system have been proposed but none has come to fruition owing to the technical problems — tunnelling beneath the city is difficult owing to its geology, which is composed of solid rock and abandoned mineshafts making underground construction hazardous and expensive.

However, some refurbishment works were announced in 2004 with all stations to receive new electronic destination signs.


The underground has passenger links to the main rail system at two locations — at Partick, the system connects with the North Clyde line and Argyle lines of the Glasgow suburban railway network and a moving walkway exists between Buchanan Street station and Queen Street main line station.


The stations on the underground, in clockwise order from the northernmost, are:

Hillhead, Buchanan Street, and St Enoch are the busiest stations; some of the stations south of the Clyde are very quiet.


A subcrawl is a favourite pastime for Glasgow students. It is a pub crawl using the subway to move from pub to pub. The nearest pub to each station must be visited, leading to a total of (at least) 15 drinks consumed.


While the "Clockwork Orange" nickname is often referred to in tourist guidebooks and local literature, most Glaswegians tend to refer to the system by its historic name — "Subway", although it is often called "The Tube" in colloquial conversation, even though this tends to refer to the London Underground.

External links

Local Rail Transit in the United Kingdom:

Docklands Light Railway (East London) | Glasgow Subway | London Underground | Tyne and Wear Metro


Blackpool | Tramlink (South London) | Manchester | Midland Metro | Nottingham | Sheffield

de:Glasgow Subway fr:métro de Glasgow nl:Glasgow Subway


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