Journey to the centre of the past

A tour of Central Station with The Glasgow Central Experience

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Glasgow Central Station is visited by 38 million people each year. They run for trains, stand in queues for a coffee, sit at the platform to wait for their friends and family to arrive, and occasionally might leave the newspaper they were reading behind, such as the one recently discovered on a platform deep underground, which had been patiently waiting there to be picked up since the 1920’s.

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If the prospect of the rental of a fashionable hat and tabard doesn’t tempt you, I don’t know what will. #selfie central.

Something that all those people perhaps don’t do, is look around and marvel at the glass roof which supports itself without a pillar in sight, wonder why the floor beneath their feet slopes upwards from the Gordon Street entrance, or contemplate what might be hidden in the labyrinth of tunnels and archways below that, which stretch several square miles under the city. It is, of course, dictated by the purpose of this building that visitors seldom stay for long and rarely have time to muse upon its secrets, but it is all this coming and going, the bustle of activity and the sheer number of people who have passed through the main gates (which have a story of their own to tell) that make the station a crucial location when understanding how Glasgow has become the city we know today.

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This simultaneously reminds me of the Arches and the Shining, it’s a creepy combination either way.

The immense and varied purposes that this building has for Glaswegians and visitors mean that it’s not enough to describe it merely as located in the centre of Glasgow: it has also been at the centre of the city’s history since 1879. Guides Vic and Paul invite you to visit, not as a means of travelling onwards for once, but in order to see the station as more than just a brief connection, to travel back through time and reimagine the stories, facts, myths and legends that remain hidden in the closed-off underground tunnels and platforms. From JFK to the Highland clearances, the swordfight on platform one to the make-under in honour of Queen Victoria, there’s sure to be a story connected to the station’s past which surprises and intrigues you. There is no doubt that these are stories which deserve to be told, and the guides have made a special effort to search for more than just the stories that made the papers – they pay homage to the everyday people of Glasgow whose lives became entwined with the station’s history in various ways throughout time, for better or for worse – and this is what makes the tour truly unmissable and unique. When discussing some of the more chilling moments, Paul remarked –

“Not everything in this world needs to be seen.”

But rest assured that the incredibly detailed knowledge, the humour and the overarching enthusiasm with which both guides deliver the tour will leave you seeing the station in an entirely different light. Perhaps you’ll linger longer when walking to Platform 17, as you now know what lies behind an unassuming door on the walkway. Perhaps you’ll point out the green pillars in the main hall to a friend and recount what makes them unusual, or find yourself reminiscing about a Victorian past, that happened long before you were born, but still leaves clues to its existence in the station to this day. There’s only one way to find out – here’s the link to book your tour. Happy searching, and watch out for the ghost in the old boiler room… you have been warned.

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With a little masterful storytelling, this Victorian platform will come back to life. Will you be there to see it happen?

2 Comments

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  1. Was fortunate eneuch to be on the tour this morning, with our historian guide Paul. Disappointed not to be allowed on the roof anymore, as this was a primary reason for my going. However, I certainly wisna disappointed by the tour. It is made by Paul’s narrative – at once appropriately irreverent, deeply moving, and enlivened by his gallus Glesca humour. This tour is a gem, and I look forward to going on some of the new tours which Paul is planning. More about Glasgow and Scotland’s social history than the station architecture, but just as they make Gesca, people make railways. Credit to the enlightened railway management who were at last persuaded to give this a try. This is publicity which you simply can’t buy, and I would urge you to continue to support and develop this initiative. All power to your elbow, Paul, and may the Glasgow Central tours flourish.

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