Glasgow Corporation Tramway System was one of the largest urban tramway systems in Europe until it was phased out in 1962. Over 1000 municipally owned trams served the city of Glasgow, Scotland with over 100 route miles by 1922.
Glasgow’s tram lines had a highly unusual track gauge of 4 feet 73⁄4 inches (1,416 mm). This was to permit 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge railway wagons to be operated over parts of the tram system (particularly in the Govan area) using their wheel flanges running in the slots of the tram tracks. This allowed the railway wagons to be drawn along tramway streets to access some shipyards. The shipyards provided their own small electric locomotives, running on the tramway power, to pull these wagons, principally loaded with steel for shipbuilding, from local railway freight yards.
The tram system was gradually phased out between 1956 and 1962 (in favour of diesel-powered buses), with the final trams operating on 4 September 1962. As a boy I can remember the final journey, through the city centre, of some of the trams before they were retired from service.
Apart from the Blackpool tramway, Glasgow became the last city or town in the UK to operate trams until the opening of the Manchester Metrolink in 1992.
The Glasgow Museum of Transport was established in 1964 and initially located at a former tram depot in Pollokshields. From 1987 the museum was relocated to the city’s Kelvin Hall opposite the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the West End of Glasgow. The Kelvin Hall was built in 1927, originally as an exhibition centre, but was converted in 1987 to house the Museum of Transport and the Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena. The current Kelvin Hall site itself closed in April 2010, with the Museum moving to its third home at the new Riverside Museum in 2011.
The Riverside Museum building was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and engineers Buro Happold. The internal exhibitions and displays were designed by Event Communications. Replacing facilities at the city’s Kelvin Hall, the new purpose-built museum is the first to be opened in the city since the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in 1993 and is expected to attract up to 1 million visitors a year. Although containing approximately the same floorspace as the previous museum facility at 7,500 sq m, it creates a more environmentally stable home for Glasgow’s significant Transport Technology collections. The building also houses a workshop and office space for the Clyde Maritime Trust.
The location of the museum is on the site of the former A. & J. Inglis Shipyard within Glasgow Harbour, on the north bank of the River Clyde and adjacent to its confluence point with the River Kelvin. This site enables the Clyde Maritime Trust’s SV Glenlee and other visiting craft to berth alongside the museum.
On a personal note. I visited the museum last December, not long after it had opened. It has a fantastic collection of transport items and is well worth the visit if you happen to be in the City of Glasgow and have an afternoon free. Best of all it free, that’s right, free. It won’t cost you anything to get in, that can’t be bad. If you’ve got the time combine the trip to the transport museum with a trip to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It’s free to get in there as well and is about 15-20 minutes walk away from the new Riverside Museum.