Glasgow District Subway


This article, from The Engineer, December 4, 1896, describes the nearly completed Glasgow District Subway. The subway opened on 14-Dec-1896, but an accident caused service to halt until 21-Jan-1897.

Map of The Glasgow District Subway -- Fig. 15


from The Engineer, December 4, 1896

The past few weeks have witnessed two important inaugurations for traffic of railways serving Glasgow and district, viz., the Glasgow Central Railway -- see THE ENGINEER, October 30th -- and the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire line -- see THE ENGINEER, October 9th, 1896. Yet a third opening remains, however, to be chronicled, viz., the completion of the Glasgow District Subway, to be put in operation on December 1st. No small interest attaches to this latest addition to the facilities for passenger traffic of the "second city of the Empire" not only on account of the modes of construction adopted, but also in regard to many difficulties encountered and successfully overcome.

As far back as 1887, parliamentary powers were sought for the construction of a subway commencing in Partick, running north through Hillhead, and thence by curves passing east and then south, forming a terminus in St. Enoch's square. The Bill after passing the House of Lords, was, however, thrown out by the Commons, principally in consequence of the objections of the Board of Trade to the proposed system of working, viz., a single tunnel, with two lines spaced 3in. apart at the centres. Passing places were provided at the stations, which then, as in the finished undertaking, were designed with island platforms. The system was to be worked by cable or electric power. As two lines were provided, passing places were unnecessary, except at the stations, and collisions were stated to be impossible.

In 1888, two promoters again sought the requisite parliamentary powers, the scheme laid before the Houses being very similar to that subsequently sanctioned and carried out, and providing for two crossings of the Clyde, one at the Upper Harbour, the other a little below the entrance to the Lower Harbour. The Bill, however, encountered the opposition of the Clyde Trust who feared injury to their interests, and shared the same fate as its predecessor.

In 1889, the Glasgow Harbour Tunnel Company obtained powers for construction, thereby creating a precedent for tunnel formation under the C|yde ; and in consequence of this the promoters of the Glasgow District Subway decided to reintroduce their Bill in 1890. This they accomplished with success, and obtained the requisite legislative sanction to construct 6 1/2 miles of subway with two endless tunnels or covered ways.

A brief glance at the accompanying map will enable the route of the new line to be followed with ease. Starting in St. Enoch's Station, the Glasgow District Subway at once runs south, and passing beneath St. Enoch's Church, forthwith goes beneath the Clyde. After Norfolk-street the line turns in a westerly direction, and, passing beneath Eglinton-street and West-sreet, runs due west, traversing Scotland-street and West Scotland-street, thence crossing Cornwall-street, Paisley-road, and Cessnock-road, Copland-road is reached, and with radii of 1035 feet and 1320 feet the line turns in a northerly direction, and after passing Govan-road, again crosses the Clyde. After passing beneath the North British Railway, Dumbarton-road and Dowanhill-street are crossed, and after some distance beneath Byars-road, the subway turns east, and passing Great George-street, Kersland-street, and Hillhead-street in rapid succession, the river Kelvin is crossed, and the line following Great Western-road and New City-road for a considerable distance, curves southward in Cowcaddens, and running beneath Buchanan-street and passing under Argyle-street, forms a junction with its starting point in St. Enoch's Station.

The stations, which are fifteen in nunber, are marked on the sections, Figs. 1 and 2, p. 559, and are, on the average, spaced less than half a mile apart from each other. They are 28ft. wide by 15O ft. long, and are furnished with an island platform 10ft. in width, access to the surface being gained by a stair varying in width from 6ft. to 8ft., and with a rise ranging fron 20ft. to 30ft. The line throughout is wholly in tunnel, being formed of two cylindrical tubes, each 11ft . internal diameter and spaced apart 2ft. 6in. to 6ft. The sharpest curves are ten-chain ones, whilst the steepest gradients, viz., those at the Clyde, are 1 in 20 to 1 in 23.

The material encountered was, as a whole, bad, as the following schedule by Mr. Robert Simpson, B.Sc., C.E. shows: (1) Govan to Partick West, 2800ft., under river Govan side, sand ; Partick side, mud ; under river, rock and boulder clay. (2) Partick West to Partik East, 2155ft., clay, hard rock, shale, and old coal waste. (3) Partik East to Hillhead, 1994ft., shale and sandstone. (4) Hillhead to Kelvin Bridge, 2948ft., shale and sandstone. (5) Kelvin Bridge to St. George's Cross, 2588ft., shale and sandstone. (6) St. George's Cross to Cowcaddens, 2314ft., shale and sandstone with soft clay opposile the Normal School. (7) Cowcaddens to Buchanan-street, 2610ft., sandstone and shale. (8) Govan to Copland-road, 3007ft., sand and muddy sand and clay. (9) ~,) Copland-road to Cessnock, 2182ft. muddy sand and clay. (10) Cessnock to Kinning Park, 1614ft., muddy sand. (11) Kinning Park to Shields-road, 2671ft., sand and muddy sand. (12) Shields-road to West-street, 1964ft., brick clay. (13) West-street to Bridge-street 1710ft., brick clay. (14) Bridge-street to St. Enoch, 2204ft., sand. (15) St. Enoch to Buchanan-street, 1819ft., sand with sandstone near St. George's Church.

The railways encountered by the Glasgow District Subway were protected in all cases by special clauses inserted in the Act, the chief obligation being that all plans and sections should be previously submitted to tbe engineer of the line to be traversed. In the case of the crossing of the then authorised and now completed Glasgow Central Railway, the Subway Company was required to construct the Central Railway for fifty yards on each side of the subway, great difficulty being then anticipated in successfully forming both lines at their crossing in Argyll-street.

With regard to the method of execution of the work, Mr. Simpson has divided the modi operandi into five heads, which may be succinctly summmarized :-- 1) Ordinary cut and cover ; (2) underpinning under air pressure, the material being capable of being drained only with considerable difficulty, or not at all ; (3) iron tunnelling without air, in cases where material impervious to water was found, where the surface was occupied, and where immunity from all subsidence was specially sought ; (4) ordinary brick tunneling where material impervious to water was found, with an occupied surface, but the possibility of repairing the damage at moderate cost should subsidence occur ; (5) iron tunnelling under air pressure through water-logged strata at considerable depths.

The first-named system presented no feature of special difficulty, and beyond the fact that good progress was made, averaging 140ft. per month of finished work, the maximum in one month being 280ft. -- day shifts only -- calls for no detailed comment. The second mode of working gave results satisfactory from the point of view of cost ; whilst with the third method an average speed of 150ft. a month was attained, with a maximum of l95ft. in the record month. The fourth system was that employed under Cook-street depot, the tunnels being advanced at the rate of about 73ft. per month, with a maximum advance of about 93ft., in the fastest month experienced. The last system was pursued at six different points, viz., at (1) St. Enoch for Buchanan-street and the Clyde crossing ; (2) at Coburg-street to gain the St. Enoch tunnels ; (3) at Govan for the Clyde crossing ; (4) at Partick to gain the Govan tunnels and for the tunnels from Hozier-street to Dumbarton-road ; (5) at Copland road ; and (6) at Shields-road.

There were in use in the subway altogether sixteen shields, chiefly by Messrs. Markham, of Chesterfield. Each weighed about six tons and was actuated by six rams, designed for a pressure of 2200 lb. per square inch, though one of more than 500 lb. por square inch was seldpm required. The shields had an inside diameter of 12ft, 1 1/2in, were 6ft. 6in. long, and consisted of two steel skins, each 1/4in. thick.

The iron linings, formed of cast iron segments manufactured by the British Hydraulic Foundry Company, Limited, Whiteinch, Glasgow, are fully detaileded in our illustrations, p. 559, and need little additional comment at our hands. Three thicknesses were employed, 3/4in., 1in., and 1 1/8in., the first being the ordinary section throughout the undertaking, the second being employed for the Clyde crossings, and the Glasgow Central Railway crossing, and the third for the passage at Pollokshields beneath the Caledonian and Glasgow and South-Western railways. In all 120,000 segments, weighing about 20,000 tons, were employed in the undertaking. The iron was required to stand a tensile straln of 6 1/2 tons per square inch and of 2 1/2 tons per square inch without loss of elasticity, whilst bars 1in. square in section stood a load of 7 cwt., applied at the centre of a 3ft. span, without fracture.

The subway is worked by two traction cables one in each· tunnel, both being operated from a single power station in Scotland-street -- see map -- which contains two main driving engines, with a total power of 1000 to 1400-horse power, and each capable of doing the whole of the work. Each engine is of the single cylinder non-condensing type with cylinders 42in. diameter by 6ft. stroke, and well adapted for a varying load. The speed of the cars will range from 15 to 16 1/2 miles per hour. The steel cables have a diameter of 1 1/2in. The stations throughout are of handsome and ornamental type, well adapted for their purpose. The engineers of the undertaking are Mr. Alexnder Simpson, Mr. W. S. Wilson, and Mr. Robert Simpson, B.S.C. The resident engineers are Mr. James Brown and Mr. Alexander Simpson, jun., the power station having been entrustcd to Mr. D. H. Morton.

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