14th December 1896

Glasgow Subway runs its first services

Originally known as the Glasgow District Subway, then the Glasgow Underground, the Glasgow Subway ran its first services on 14 December 1896.

The subway is a loop, with trains running in both directions, serving stations on either side of the Clyde. The loops are described as ‘inner’ and ‘outer’, and these terms are used in travel reports. Construction of the system began in 1891, and the first trains, upon its opening five years later, were moved by a series of steam-hauled cables, as the lines were not initially electrified.

The two tracks served fifteen stations, at which trains would call in either direction once every six minutes. It would take 47 minutes to complete a single loop.

Early hiccups

Its opening was greeted with some excitement, despite some teething problems. The Glasgow Herald of 15 December 1896, reporting the previous day’s opening, said that “the first train left Govan Cross at five o’clock in the morning, running by way of Partick, a second leaving Copeland Road and running by way of Kinning Park… the cars, capable of holding each about 50 passengers, ran with almost perfect regularity and the officials were beginning to congratulate themselves on the success of the inauguration. Unfortunately, however, there was a complete breakdown on the outer circle between three and four o’clock in the afternoon. Where the cars stopped in the tunnels, a good deal of inconvenience was caused to passengers who had to get out and walk along the line to the nearest station.”

Glasgow Subway crash

However, worse was in store. Late that evening, two of the single-car trains collided and four passengers were injured.

The Falkirk Herald of 19 December reported that “a car was standing on the line at a point underneath the Clyde waiting for the signal to advance to the platform at St Enoch. This car was run into with considerable violence by another one which came up behind. The latter vehicle was crowded with passengers, and the force of the impact sufficient to knock them with great severity about the compartment… one woman had her arm broken and a boy who was badly cut about the head was in an unconscious condition.”

The collision resulted in the subway being temporarily closed, and it didn’t re-open until early the following year.



Other events that occured in December

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