The Glasgow Subway, the only true underground railway in Britain outside of London, was originally opened in 1896 but the Victorian carriages were still running 80 years later. Now Video 125 has found a fascinating film of the line shot in 1974 by the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. Filmed in colour with sound, this remarkable record of the line is the nearest one can get to experiencing what it was like to travel on an original Victorian tube train.
The film starts with the history of the line in 1897 with old photographs, posters and diagrams. Forward to 1974 and we see the original cars, including 'gate' stock, the gates being opened on the two-car trains by the guard, still in operation. We witness the method of rescuing a broken down train in the tunnel - by being pushed out by the following train. In another example, we see passengers being evacuated from a broken down train through the tunnel.
We get a comprehensive look inside the depot as the old wooden bodied cars are kept running long after their natural expiry date. We see the cars being lifted out of the tunnel by crane - there were no points anywhere on the 6½ mile circular system. Uniquely, for an underground railway, the trains were originally hauled by seven mile long continuous cables, the working of which is fully explained. In 1935 the trains were adapted to run on electricity collected from a third rail, though electric lighting was still collected by pick-ups running along the tunnel walls — still in use in 1974.
We go inside the tunnels to see the track gang at work replacing a section of worn out track. We even see the battery locomotive being lowered onto the line at night. We hear from those either working or travelling on the railway, such as the Director General of the Greater Glasgow PTE, the Director of Planning and Development, the Car Sheds Superintendent (who joined in 1929) as well as a driver, electrical engineer and even some of the passengers.
This film will more than live up to the Underground enthusiast's hopes and expectations. The use of music is minimal, the commentary is informative without being intrusive and all the while we can hear the actual sounds of the trains, stations and depot as they were back in 1974. A real gem!
BONUS: Following the documentary, there are 36 colour slides shot by Peter Middleton on a visit to the subway when it was unexpectedly closed for maintenance. Peter tells the story.
||John Hume &