Glasgow Tunnel Adventure Part 2: Botanic Gardens Station

Written by  on November 5, 2014 

Update: I’ve now created an online 3D model of the station so you can “explore” it from the comfort of your browser. Click here to see it!

Sometimes, you get the chance to finally explore somewhere you’ve been desperate to get inside for years but thought you’d never be able to. In the past few months I’ve been lucky enough to have two of these chances: namely, Scotland Street Tunnel in Edinburgh, and now Botanic Gardens Station in Glasgow.

Botanic Gardens Station

In fact, on this explore we actually traversed two derelict tunnels (Botanic Gardens and Great Western Road) and saw three abandoned stations (Kelvinbridge, Botanic Gardens and Kirklee). The number of stations and tunnels in Glasgow named “Kelvinsomething” can get quite confusing; there are tunnels named Kelvindale, Kelvinside, Kelvingroveย and Kelvinhaugh (all but the last are now disused). There is also a Kelvinside Station which is right next to a tunnel, but not the Kelvinside Tunnel! Kelvinbridge doesn’t have a tunnel named after it, but it makes up for it by giving its name to two separate stations: one still in use on the Glasgow Subway, and the other a former station on the old Glasgow Central Railway.

gcrmap

The earliest part of the Glasgow Central Railway ran from Stobcross to Maryhill, and before it was even completed in 1894, the company had been swallowed up into the Caledonian Railway’s ever-expanding empire. This section of railway ran mostly underground, through tunnels that are still in place today, and there were three intermediate stations. The line closed completely in 1964, though the three stations had already been closed for years by this time.

Old railway bridge over River Kelvin

At Kelvinbridge, the line crossed the river on this wide low metal bridge, now part of the Kelvin Walkway. The station platforms once extended over the bridge.

Entrance to tunnel at Kelvinbridge

These unassuming metal doors underneath the site of the Kelvinbridge Station building mark the route of the line…

Kelvinbridge Station

… on the other side, parts of the platforms and steps that used to give access from the main building up above still survive.

Rubbish piled up at Kelvinbridge Station

The whole area is now piled high with rubbish and not particularly picturesque. We didn’t spend long at this station.

Great Western Road Tunnel portal

At the back of Kelvinbridge Station, the line passes through a short cutting and into the Great Western Road Tunnel. This tunnel is 700 yards long and, apart from a bend at each end, is exactly underneath the road of the same name on the surface.

Water main above Great Western Road Tunnel

A boxed in sewer passes overhead just inside the tunnel mouth, demanding some unusual skewed brick work in the tunnel lining.

Great Western Road Tunnel

The tunnel is very quiet and calm, and as we walked through it was hard to believe that one of Glasgow’s busiest thoroughfares was just metres above our heads. A rusted sign on the north wall indicates the position of Bank Street, one of the few clues to what lies above.

Stalactites in Great Western Road Tunnel

The tunnel was reasonably dry compared to some. Of course, it has to be maintained in good condition for the safety of the busy street up above. In places, stalactites had started to form in the minerals dripping through the roof.

Looking into Botanic Gardens Station from Great Western Road Tunnel

At its western end, Great Western Road Tunnel leads straight into the highlight of our day: Botanic Gardens Station. There is a short section of cut-and-cover tunnel with flat metal girder roof between the brick-lined bored tunnel and the open space of the station – this is where the line passes beneath the busy cross roads outside the Gardens.

Botanic Gardens Station closed in 1939. The impressive pavilion-style main building on street level had a variety of uses from then on, but unfortunately it was ruined by a major fire in 1970 and then demolished. More recently, a plan was put forward to build a replica of the station building on the original site, housing a nightclub, but opposition to the idea of a nightclub in the Gardens put an end to this.

Looking down into Botanic Gardens Station from above

Today all that remains are the subterranean platforms. Visitors to the gardens can look down through the ventilation openings onto the platform area below, and a sign on the railings explains what they are looking at. The very top of the Botanic Gardens Tunnel portal can just be seen in the brickwork at the far end. There are three ventilation openings, one just inside the gardens and the other two further in, with the station building originally standing between them.

Botanic Gardens Station

Viewed from platform level, the station is a sight to behold. Although the tiled walls are coated in graffiti and the trackbed is now seriously overgrown, there is plenty of interest still to see.

Stairs in Botanic Gardens Station

The stairs that gave access down to the platforms are still in place on both sides, though since the loss of the main building they are now blocked off at the top.

Botanic Gardens Station

At the eastern end of the station is a more recent development. These sturdy metal brackets have been installed to strengthen the roof as it nears the busy road junction up above.

Looking into Botanic Gardens station from the tunnel

At the western end, the line disappears into another tunnel – the Botanic Gardens or Kirklee Tunnel. The photo above shows the view looking back through the fence into the station from this tunnel.

Looking out of Botanic Gardens tunnel portal

Botanic Gardens tunnel portal

At just over 200 yards, Botanic Gardens Tunnel is much shorter than Great Western Road. It burrows underneath the Gardens themselves on a gentle curve round to the north, exiting into a leafy cutting by the River Kelvin.

Kirklee Station platforms

A short distance from the portal, the disused and overgrown platforms of Kirklee Station can still be seen. These two stations were unusually closely spaced and even on foot it only takes a few minutes to get from one to the other.

Remains of bridge over Ford Road

The line continued north from here to Maryhill. Much of it has been built over, but there are occasional remnants still visible – for example, the abutments of this bridge which used to take the railway across Ford Road, just outside the Botanic Gardens.

I think I went a bit overboard on the photos this time, sorry! But I found this location so interesting that I wanted to cover it in as much detail as possible.

 

Category : Transport โ€ข Underground

Comments

41 Responses

  1. Bruce D Allen says:

    Thanks for these fascinating photos–not overboard at all. Do you know what the archways now occupied by the Inn Deep pub were originally? I had assumed they were part of a rail or subway line, but I can find no photographic or cartographic evidence of such.

    • gcat says:

      Due to their construction and their closeness to the old Kelvinbridge Station, it seems likely they were something to do with the railway. I don’t think there were ever actually tracks in them though, as none of the old maps I’ve seen show anything like that and the layout on the ground today also makes it look unlikely. It’s possible they were built at the same time as the station and used for storage or similar.

  2. Ritchie says:

    Been along those tunnels many years ago – they’d make a great set of art galleries!

  3. Melissa says:

    Not over board on pictures at all! It looks really interesting and would love to go and take some of my own snaps. How is it you got into the tunnels?

  4. Z says:

    I would be interested in taking some images on the old train platform under the botanics. The entrance in the botanics now has metal sheeting over it. Are there any other entrances in that aren’t boarded over?

    Thanks

    • gcat says:

      I don’t think so, unfortunately… realistically the only other way in is at Kelvinbridge, but that’s normally locked up behind big metal doors.

  5. Zena says:

    Hi, photos look amazing! I’ve wanted to go into the tunnels for ages, particualrly to see the botanic station, how did you get in?

  6. Zlata says:

    Hi,

    I really enjoyed reading your report. I have the previously mentioned question: what is the best way to get in? Did you meet any other explorers underground? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • gcat says:

      No, we didn’t meet anyone else down there… did get a scare on our way out when we saw movement under the fence and it looked as if someone was out there waiting for us, but it turned out to be just a squirrel, thankfully.

      I don’t think there’s an easy way in at the moment, unfortunately. Both ends were pretty well fenced up last time I looked.

  7. katie says:

    Gorgeous Pictures, thank you for sharing…. I am looking for a location exactly like the tunnels, in Glasgow for a shoot…did you have to break in incognito? Thank you, Kx

  8. Jack McArdle says:

    Great stuff. When I was a kid we used to walk through these tunnels for a dare. Do you know if a map exists showing the tunnels, especially the Thornwood and Hyndland ones

    • gcat says:

      There’s this map where someone has drawn all the disused railway tunnels in the west end area onto a present day map. There’s also the National Library of Scotland site which has a lot of older maps, some of them are detailed enough to show the tunnels – this one shows the two you mentioned when they were still in use.

  9. 1605 says:

    Me and my friends are meeting up tomorrow hoping to get into botanic gardens station. Do you think there’s a way in apart from going through the other stations? Lovely photos by the way!

    • gcat says:

      Realistically the only ways in are through the tunnel entrances as it’s a hell of a drop down through the vents! There’s some climbing involved though (unless you get lucky and someone’s left the door open). Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚ .

  10. Caitlin McGrath says:

    Hi,

    I’m doing my geography dissertation on the Botanic Gardens abandoned railway station and would love to ask you a few questions about your experience of it! if your interested could you give me a wee email please and I will let you know more about it. It would be great to hear from you !

    Thanks !

  11. Hi,

    Really loved reading through this. I was hoping to get down there myself and take some photos. Would you be able to let me know the best route into the tunnels?

    Thanks so much!

    • gcat says:

      Glad you enjoyed it ๐Ÿ™‚ . I don’t think there’s an easy way in right now, unfortunately… last time I was there both ends were quite well locked up.

  12. Jack says:

    Hello, great photos and such an interesting site to read about! Would you be able to tell me where exactly the entrance to the Botanic gardens tunnel is? The ‘leafy cutting by the River Kelvin’?. Hoping to go down there this week. Thanks

    • gcat says:

      It’s at the north end of the gardens near the Kirklee gate, behind the bushes. You’ll see the remains of the old railway bridge just outside the gardens, the cutting is to the south from there.

  13. Jamie Macfarlane says:

    Went down yesterday ( 14th Feb 2016 ) getting over the huge steel sheeted fence was a lot easier than it looked, the tunnels are increasingly dusty the further in you go and I suggest bringing a face mask, the station is overgrown and full of dead pidgeons, only went as far in as halfway down the tunnel
    After the first station at the botanics before we decided to turn back due to lack of light ( we weren’t really prepared to go in ) heading back today thoe with torches and such so will post pictures then !

    • Kit says:

      I plan to make a trip to Glasgow to visit the botanic gardens on Tuesday, would you be able to give me any directions to entrances that will get you into the tunnels! I’m doing a shoot for my photography project there, and any information would be really valuable! I’ve replied to your comment because it’s the most recent one on the thread!

  14. HJ says:

    HAS ANYONE GOT LOCATION FOR ENTRANCES

  15. SM says:

    The Kirklee one can be accessed through the Botanic Gardens. Going in at the entrance nearest Kelvin Walkway (rather than the Queen Margaret Drive one) and on the left hand side there’s a well trodden path amongst the trees that takes you straight there. At the the end of the platforms you’ll see the boards that need to be climbed over to get to the Botanics platform.

    Kelvinbridge station is easy enough to get to but it involves climbing through some fences and wooded areas. The bridge after Kirklee bridge (as you walk towards Maryhill Locks) has, again, a well trodden path going up towards the woods. Go up it and climb through the various fences and voila, you’re there. It’s mainly overgrown weeds but you can get onto the bridge but the tunnel at the end is now securely locked.

  16. […] Gardens Station anyway. So I did it the old fashioned way instead, using the photos I took when I explored the station as a reference and crafting the 3D model to match using Blender’s extensive modelling […]

  17. donny says:

    We explored these areas as kids early 7th. Great summers.

  18. donny says:

    Early 1970s

    • ruth says:

      So many of us went ‘tunnelling’ in the 70s I’m surprised we didn’t all meet up or pass each other! We used to go on Sunday afternoons – went east to Bridgeton and parkhead as well as Finnieston

  19. skye says:

    I was there yesterday,I found many ways in anyone know which ways the easiest route to take!?

  20. William connell says:

    Who knows how to get in to this where is the entrance to get in to this ????

  21. donny says:

    Used to play there as kids, about 1974.
    We spent a lot of time in derelict buildings. So much fun.

  22. Maddie says:

    Hi there,

    This is amazing, how did you create the 3D model? Do you have plans from the site? I’d love to look at plans of it for my university project if you could help!

    Thank you very much
    Maddie

  23. Diana Tanner says:

    Just fascinating for someone who was brought up in the area. I remember the Station and Silver Slipper Cafe! Thank you for the photos and information. Shame it is unused and so much now built upon the line as it would be a great commuter line and hopefully take a lot of traffic off very busy routes!

  24. Chelsea says:

    To anyone interested. I went down today and you can enter through the Kirklee tunnel, it seems that someone has prised it open! It was really cool to see it in person.

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