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.
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, Kelvingrove 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.
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.
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.
These unassuming metal doors underneath the site of the Kelvinbridge Station building mark the route of the line…
… on the other side, parts of the platforms and steps that used to give access from the main building up above still survive.
The whole area is now piled high with rubbish and not particularly picturesque. We didn’t spend long at this station.
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.
A boxed in sewer passes overhead just inside the tunnel mouth, demanding some unusual skewed brick work in the tunnel lining.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.