Glasgow Subway

(Glasgow Underground, Clockwork Orange, The Shooglie)

The Clockwork Orange, Glasgow
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Clockwork Orange, Glasgow

The Glasgow Subway runs over a 6½ mile (10.4 km) route in the centre of the city and is the third oldest underground public transport system in the world after London and Budapest. There are fifteen stations on a circular route, with inner and outer loops of track, allowing one service to run clockwise, while another runs anti-clockwise. The distinctive little orange trains, which run on a 4-foot (1.2m) gauge, have given rise to the network's sobriquet, the 'clockwork orange'. It runs south from Queen Street, past the Merchant City before crossing the River Clyde. It then turns northwest at West Street, running parallel with the river to Ibrox and Govan, where it turns northeast, crossing the river once again towards Kelvinhall and Hillhead. The route finally turns southeast and passes Kelvinbridge and Cowcaddens before turning south to return to Queen Street. The trains climb and dip markedly with the depth of the line below the surface varying from only 2.1m (7 feet) to 35m (115 feet).

Opened on the 14th December 1896, the service closed again the same day due to a derailment and a collision. It re-opened the following month. Originally privately financed, the service was run by Glasgow Corporation from 1923.

The trains were originally pulled by a continuous cable. Separate cables for each loop were drawn at a constant speed of 12½ miles/hour (20 km/hour) and trains 'gripped' the cable when they wished to move and released it to stop. These cables were driven by steam engines located in Scotland Street. In 1935, following electrification, the necessary 600V DC supply was provided by the dedicated Pinkston Power Station until 1958, after which it was drawn directly from the public electricity network.

The system was completely modernised during the 1970s, with new stations, track and rolling stock. It was re-opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on the 1st November 1979 and the first passenger services ran the following year. Today, it is operated by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), which manages integrated transportation within and around Glasgow.

The 'clockwork orange' remains the only underground public transportation system in Scotland.

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