Trams, trains and automobiles – the Riverside Museum is a fabulous way to travel to the past

The delights of visiting Riverside Museum, the new home for Glasgow’s Transport Museum, begin before the stunning Zaha Hadid-designed building is even in sight.

For our father and son adventure starts as soon as we board a train at Waverley, Edinburgh, bound for Queen Street, Glasgow. Then it’s on to the subway to Govan before walking a few hundred yards to catch the Clyde Ferry. It only takes a few minutes, but there’s no finer way to arrive, with the Tall Ship, Glenlee, gleaming in the sunshine, moored outside. The building itself, part of an ambitious regeneration of the Clyde, opened this summer at a cost of £74 million. It is spectacular, with the front looking a little like a heartbeat trace, and voluptuous gleaming curves everywhere you look.

Perhaps invoking a New York subway, or the form of energy that powered Glasgow’s former industrial might, steam – lit by multicoloured lights – spews from vents in the ground on the harbour side of the building. Harvie is entranced, jumping from one to the next, almost disappearing in the plumes, shouting and giggling.

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Once dragged away, it is into the museum proper. It is so vast inside that a wall filled with cars seems like Dinky toys lined up in a bedroom. Here there is a steam train, a Hillman Imp or the Subaru in which Colin McRae won the World Rally Championship in 1995; there, some skateboards, bicycles and tram cars. It is a bit of a sensory overload and it takes a while to acclimatise and get to grips with the layout.

Harvie isn’t particularly interested in cars or trains, but he is impressed with the scale and finds himself returning again and again to the recreated street, dating from the late 19th century to around 1930, which has at one end a hearse being pulled along by horses and includes along the way a period subway station to explore and various shops, from pawnbroker to saddler. We go in and out of each shop and along the way we learn a little of life before homogenous high streets. There is much that Harvie walks by that I want to stop and pause at, for adults of all ages will find things to reminisce over, even if it is simply the sight of an Austin Allegro or a “jam sandwich” police car.

The interpretation of transport and travel is rather fluid, allowing for rooms filled with items such as toys or prams through the ages, one or other of which will probably start a wave of nostalgia. Glasgow’s proud shipbuilding history is represented, with magnificent models, either in a huge glass case or moving along a conveyor belt. It shows the scale of the city’s maritime output, but those wishing to identify individual ships and the yards they were built in are left trying to tap video information screens which are rarely next to the thing they want information on. It’s a minor gripe in a day of great pleasure. A new favourite place for both of us has been discovered.

• Riverside Museum: Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, G3 8RS. Open daily, free, see