City Union Line

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City of Glasgow Union Railway
Locale Scotland
Dates of operation 12 December 1870 – 31 December 1922
Successor LMS & LNER
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway
Sighthill Junction
Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway
Blochairn Iron Works
Provan Gas Works
Alexandra Park
Haghill Goods
Haghill Junction
Duke Street
Coatbridge Branch (NBR)
High Street East Junction
Glasgow City and District Railway
St Enoch(Dunlop Street)
Saltmarket Junction
Clyde Junction
River Clyde
Gorbals Junction
South Side
Glasgow, Barrhead and Neilston Direct Railway
Main Street
Cumberland Street
Paisley Canal Line (until 1967)
Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway
General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway
Shields Road
Shields Junction
Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway

The City of Glasgow Union Railway - City Union Line, also known as the Tron Line, was a railway company founded in Glasgow in 1864 to build a line connecting the railway systems north and south of the Clyde, and to build a central passenger terminus and a general goods depot for the city. The through line, running from south-west to north-east across the city, opened in 1870-1, and the passenger terminal was St Enoch station, opened in 1876. The railway bridge across the Clyde was the first in the city.

The northern section of the line passed to the North British Railway company and (NBR) became part of its suburban network. St Enoch became the passenger terminus for the Glasgow and South Western Railway, but other companies made little use of it; however the general goods terminal at College became important, and goods and mineral traffic were the dominant traffic of the through route. The south-western section of the line was quadrupled, and the platform accommodation was doubled, in the last years of the nineteenth century.

In the 1960s, rationalisation of railway facilities was the theme, and all the south-facing passenger services were concentrated at Glasgow Central station; St Enoch closed on 27 June 1966; most of the site is now occupied by the St Enoch Centre shopping mall. College goods too succumbed and was closed.

The through route remained open for occasional freight services and for empty passenger stock movements across the city. The Bellgrove section that passed to the NBR remains in intensive passenger use, but the elevated section across the city is the iconic part of the line, with large span lattice bridges over Saltmarket, London Road and Gallowgate.

A railway development scheme being considered may lead to renewed use of the line as a cross-city passenger link.[1]



The Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock and Ayr Railway (GPK&AR) and its rival, the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway, received their authorising Acts of Parliament on 15 July 1837. Although they hoped for separate lines, they were obliged to build their line as far as Paisley jointly; their lines diverged west of that point. Their Glasgow terminus was Bridge Street, on the south bank of the River Clyde. At first this was adequate but as traffic developed the arrangement became unsatisfactory. The GPK&AR absorbed another railway and was renamed the Glasgow and South Western Railway (G&SWR), and was running trains to a range of destinations in its area of influence.

Suggestions had been made for some years to connect the lines south and north of the Clyde, and in 1863 a prospectus for a City of Glasgow Union Railway was published: it would "unite the whole of the Railways now terminating North and South of the River Clyde", and provide a "general Central Station" (at St Enoch Square) for passengers and a separate "General Goods Station" on lands to be vacated by the University of Glasgow: "College Goods station". The line would be over 6 miles (9 km) ling and cost £650,000 to build. The promoters were contractors, hoping to generate construction work for themselves, and they wished to involve all the railways in the scheme.

The capital requirement soon escalated to £900,000, and the G&SWR and the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway (E&GR) were supportive, but the Caledonian Railway took offence at the manner of the approach and opposed the scheme. Nonetheless it received the Royal Assent on 29 July 1864. In early 1865 it was agreed that the G&SWR and the E&GR would between them take the whole of the stock of the new company, releasing the prospective contractors from that obligation. On 1 August 1865 the E&GR was taken over by the larger, but more remote, North British Railway (NBR).

The scheme for the general passenger station was now modified, as it emerged that the NBR did not contemplate making much use of it, although hopes lingered that the Caledonian would have a change of heart and join in the project. (The NBR had already caused difficulty by failing to pay subscription calls promptly.) For the time being a smaller station at Dunlop Street was considered to suffice.[1]


Work progressed and in September 1870 the City of Glasgow Union line opened to goods traffic only. It opened for full passenger use on 12 December 1870; the temporary Dunlop Street station had six platforms, and was arranged for the G&SWR only to use it; the NBR had had second thoughts but was refused access at this stage. The construction had cost about £1 million, due apparently to escalating land acquisition costs; and the St Enoch Square terminus had not been started yet. The new line incorporated the first railway bridge over the Clyde in the city.

In 1871 Bellgrove station was opened, adjacent to the city's main cattle market, and a 15-minute interval service was operated over the Union line to Shields Road. Here there was a station on the Union line and also on the Glasgow and Paisley Joint line, where passengers could change for Paisley, Ayr and Greenock. By 1 June 1871 the line was extended to Bellgrove. The line through to Sighthill Junction was opened to goods traffic on 18 August 1875, although it was not until 1 January 1881 that passenger services reached Alexandra Parade; 1 October 1883 to Barnhill; and 1 January 1887 to Springburn, beyond Sighthill Junction. By October 1872 the College Goods station was in operation, though with costs escalating, it was long before it was completed.[1]

Over 1300 houses had been demolished in the construction.[2]

St Enoch station opened at last[edit]

Negotiations between the G&SWR and the English Midland Railway for mutual co-operation or merger had blown hot and cold. Finally on 1 May 1876 the first through trains ran from St Enoch to St Pancras station, London, over the two lines. Four trains ran daily, with Pullman drawing room cars, and sleeping cars on a night service. In fact the station was far from complete: it was not until the end of 1877 that the station was ready, with the southwards connection opening on 1 November. There were six platforms beneath the arch iron and glass roof. The cost had risen to £1,275,000. There were 43 trains each way, six days a week.

On 3 July 1879 the St Enoch station hotel opened.

St Enoch station had been built under a separate financial account; on 29 June 1883 that charge was incorporated into the G&SWR general account; it had cost £1,672,474.

From July 1883 there were through services from Greenock, Ayr and Ardrossan to Edinburgh; complicated movements were necessary at St Enoch to achieve a through service.[1]

Quadrupling, and division[edit]

In 1894, discussions took place about capacity on the Union Line. The North British Railway had opened its Bridgeton terminus, on a branch from High Street, and a short spur was proposed to enable eastbound trains on the Union Line to run to Bridgeton.

Quadrupling of the section of the Union Line between Clyde Junction and Port Eglintonm Junction was proposed, responding to the increasing density of traffic: the line was said to be carrying 9 million passengers a year, and a million tons of goods and minerals. The section east of College Junction fell logically to the North British, and it was proposed to divide the company, the NBR taking 40% of the share capital.

The Act authorising this split was passed on 7 August 1896, in the face of opposition from the City Council of Glasgow, who calculated that it would lose rates income from the split.

On 18 August 1898 an Act for the extension of St Enoch station was passed. this involved a second arch roof and six further platforms; they were brought into use progressively from 1901. It was completed in 1904, at a cost of £2,500,000.[1]

Subsequent history[edit]

With the separation of the north-eastern section, the part of the original Union Railway north-east of St Enoch became simply a part of the North British Railway system.

In the 1960s, consideration was being given to rationalisation of railway facilities in the city: at the time there were four major termini. It was decided to concentrate the services of the former G&SWR and the Caledonian Railway on Glasgow Central station, and St Enoch station was closed on 27 June 1966. For some time the extensive site in the city centre lay almost abandoned to pigeons and car parking, but a commercial shopping development was built on the site: the St Enoch Centre. College Goods station closed with the decline of wagonload freight.

The through route from Shields Junction to Bellgrove remained in use for a light freight service, and to transfer empty coaching stock across the city. The large span lattice girder bridges over Saltmarket, London Road and Gallowgate, and the elevated viaduct sections there and near Cumberland Street are reminders of an ambitious scheme to connect the north and south railway networks in the city.

That connection may once again be resumed: a development scheme is being planned that may lead to use of the line as a cross-city passenger link.[1]

Description of the route[edit]

This short route joins the two halves of inner Glasgow's railway system. At its northern end, it connects to the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway at Sighthill Junction (now Sighthill East Junction), and its southern end is connected to the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway at Shields Junction.

At Bellgrove the line joins the Coatbridge Branch of the North British Railway, now part of the North Clyde suburban route, from the north east. At High Street East Junction (now High Street Junction) the line heads off in a south westerly direction, through the Calton district, and over the River Clyde to the Gorbals and Tradeston, where it joins the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway at Shields Junction.

Connections to other lines[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f David Ross, The Glasgow and South Western Railway: A History, Stenlake Publishing Limited, Catrine, 2104, ISBN 978 1 84033 648 1
  2. ^ Carol Foreman, Lost Glasgow: Glasgow's Lost Architectural Heritage, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2002, ISBN 0857906348