Glasgow Subway celebrates 115 years of service

115th Birthday

Passengers travelling by Subway on Wednesday, 14th December are in for a number of special treats as the network celebrates its 115th birthday.

The day-long celebration will see a year’s free Subway travel up for grabs for one lucky traveller along with free ticket offers for 115 other Subway winners, 115 chart album giveaways, an 8gb Ipod Touch, complimentary cupcakes and much more.

The prizes, courtesy of the Evening Times and Capital FM, will mark the anniversary of the Subway opening back in 1896.

Originally built for the Glasgow District Subway Company, it was only the third underground railway in the world behind London (1863) and Budapest (May, 1896) but the only one to be hauled by a giant cable.

It has only been modernised twice in its lifetime – being converted to electric traction in 1935 and later closing between 1977 and 1980.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, which owns and operates the system, has already begun a multi-million pound modernisation project to ensure the Subway remains at the heart of the city for generations to come.

The Subway has an amazing history, from carrying over 500,000 people in one week to the famous Empire Exhibition in 1938 to surviving a German bomb which landed on one of its tunnels in Partick in 1940.

Jonathan Findlay, SPT Chair

SPT’s Chair Jonathan Findlay said: “The Glasgow Subway is truly a national icon. It’s marvellous to think that it has been serving the city for well over a century and long before the first and second world wars.

“I’m delighted we’re able to celebrate with our passengers by offering up some special treats on the day as their loyal custom is the reason we are still running today.

“There are many cities across the country that would dearly love to have an transport asset as clean and green as the Subway and we are incredibly lucky in Glasgow that the city’s forefathers had the insight to build one – it’s worth remembering that it would take 400 extra double decker buses a day to carry the same number of people across the city that the Subway can.”

“The Subway has an amazing history, from carrying over 500,000 people in one week to the famous Empire Exhibition in 1938 to surviving a German bomb which landed on one of its tunnels in Partick in 1940.

“It ran without incident during the unprecedented snowfall of last winter and just last week it helped keep the city running as hurricane weather saw other modes of transport struggle.

“That is why SPT is pushing ahead with work to modernise the Subway and I’m sure it will still be ‘shoogling’ residents and visitors alike in another 115 years time.”

The Subway had a low-key opening on its first day — a wintry Monday morning in 1896 – but as word spread thousands queued outside stations to experience travel by a non-steam train for the first time.

The original clutch-and-cable system, with one cable for each direction, was driven from a steam-powered plant on Scotland Street, between West Street and Shields Road stations.

In 1923 the Subway passed into the hands of Glasgow Corporation Transport Department and was converted to electric traction in 1935.

The railway ran with little further change until 1977, when the new operators, Greater Glasgow Passenger Transport Executive, closed it for two years to allow for major modernisation.

The Subway in its present form reopened for operation on 16 April 1980. Now part of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, it is one of the very few railways in UK remaining in public ownership and ‘vertically integrated’, where SPT responsibility covers all aspects of operation and infrastructure.

The route is a loop almost 6.5 miles (10.5 km) long and extends both north and south of the River Clyde. The tracks have the unusual narrow gauge of 4ft (1,219 mm), and a nominal tunnel diameter of 11 feet (3.35 m), even smaller than that of the deep-level lines of the London Underground; the rolling stock is also considerably smaller.

The system is unusual compared to other metro systems, as it has never been expanded from its original route in more than 100 years.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government approved SPT’s plans to carry out a multi-million pound upgrade of all 15 stations, bring in new “driverless” trains and introduce electronic smartcard ticketing.

Work is ongoing at Hillhead Station in Glasgow’s bustling west end to dramatically overhaul the station’s interior.

Due to complete in summer 2012, it will become the flagship for further station upgrades across the whole Subway network.