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Clockwork Orange

Clockwork Orange

The Glasgow Subway, opened on 14 December 1896, is the third-oldest underground metro system in the world after the London Underground and the Budapest Metro. Originally built as a cable-hauled railway, with propulsion provided by stationary steam engines, the railway was hailed as the first of its type in the world. The subway saw little change until in 1935 the trains were electrified and in 1977-1980 the stations and trains were modernized.

The Subway runs in a loop for some 10.5km (6.5 miles) in twin tunnels, clockwise on the Outer Circle and counterclockwise on the Inner Circle. There’s a total of fifteen stations, spread out on both sides of the Clyde. The three busiest stations are Buchanan Street and St Enoch in the city centre, and Hillhead in the West End. The most noticable feature of the Subway and the trains is its size, as most of the tunnels are relatively shallow, and narrow, being only some 3.4m in diameter. Each car is very small (12m long) and quite low, adding to the perception of the trains coming out of the tunnels like little worms or caterpillars. Today, more than 14 million journeys are made on the Subway each year.

The Glasgow Subway system is unusual compared to other metro systems around the world as it has never been expanded from its original route in more than 100 years. Many schemes for extending the system have been proposed but none have been implemented, for a variety of reasons. Most recently, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT, which operates the Subway) approved outline plans for a £290 million upgrade of the Subway, to extend the lines, possibly create an East End line, and replace the existing trains with new driverless trains.

As far as I can tell, the only one accident of note has occurred on the Glasgow Subway. A cable fault on the inner circle caused a car to be derailed at Buchanan Street, limiting service to the Inner Circle. Then, on the same day, a collision between two cars near St Enoch Station caused all services to be halted. This was way back on December 14th, 1896. The day the subway had opened.

The nickname of “Clockwork Orange” is most often used in tourist guidebooks and local literature, as opposed to by locals themselves, who prefer to refer to the system simply as “the Subway”. The name roots from the circular nature of the line and the orange paint of the subway trains, although SPT refers to the colour as “Strathclyde PTE red”.

Glasgow Trivia #14: In addition to the regular pub crawls, Glasgow has its own version of the activity: the Subcrawl. Quite simply, as the subway in Glasgow travels in a circle, you and your friends purchase a Discovery ticket and travel to each of the 15 stops and head to the nearest pub for a drink before continuing. In the end you’ll end up where you began. Curlers, which I mentioned last week, is a popular pub for this on Byres Road, being located right next to the Hillhead subway station where the above photo is from.

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