Glasgow Central: Steam locomotive to help create ‘immersive’ Victorian-era rail attraction

Acclaimed behind-the-scenes tours of Scotland’s busiest station are to be dramatically enhanced with a steam locomotive earmarked to be the centrepiece of a restored Victorian-age platform in the bowels of the building.

The Museum of Scottish Railways in Bo’ness is discussing the loan of the Glasgow-built engine Kelton Fell as part of plans to recreate the atmosphere of Glasgow Central’s low level station in its early years after opening in 1896.

The platform, which has lain derelict for nearly 60 years, would be returned to the Victorian era through the use of gas-effect lighting, steam and sound effects along with projections, and holograms of people in period dress.

The line, which runs underground through the city and was also used by coal trains, was described as “sombre, sulphurous and Plutonian” by the author C Hamilton Ellis in 1938.

Glasgow Central Station Museum curator and tour guide Jackie Ogilvie on the disused platform. Picture: John Devlin

A 1930 passenger carriage built by the London, Midland Scottish railway company for suburban services such as in Glasgow may also be loaned by the museum for display after “cosmetic” restoration.

The currently empty platform is hidden behind the existing low-level station and has been the highlight of the tours which have attracted some 100,000 visitors and won rave reviews.

Glasgow Central Station Museum curator and tour guide Jackie Ogilvie told Scotland on Sunday: “This will take it from being a tour to an immersive experience and really bring the stories we tell to life.”

The platform has been cleared of rubbish and it is hoped the track to be re-laid will include old wooden sleepers from the Levenmouth line in Fife, which is being rebuilt.

The derelict platform has been cleared of rubbish ahead of track laying. Picture: John Devlin

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Kelton Fell was built in 1876 at the Hyde Park Works in Springburn by Neilson & Co for Lanarkshire firm William Baird & Co for a railway at its iron mines in Cumberland before working at various Lanarkshire coal mines until 1968.

Museum of Scottish Railways director Dr Becky Peacock said: “We are working with Jackie over what we could display at the ‘Victorian Platform’ and have identified Kelton Fell.

"We are excited to see how we can progress that.

Industrial locomotive Kelton Fell has been chosen to be loaned to Glasgow Central. Picture: Museum of Scottish Railways

“We are very keen to support the telling of Scotland’s railway history.

"It’s not about 100 per cent historical accuracy, but displaying something to bring the Victorian Platform to life for the general visitor.

"There would be nothing more amazing than seeing a steam locomotive down there.

"The platform already has the wow factor, but this would add that bit extra to the visitor experience.”

The 1930 carriage that may also be loaned for display on the platform after external restoration. Picture: Museum of Scottish Railways

The Railway Heritage Trust said it was keen to assist the project.

Executive director Tim Hedley-Jones said: “The trust is very supportive of Glasgow Central Tours’ plans to reinstate tracks on the disused low level platform and we would be interested in making a grant to undertake restoration of the columns on the platform.

"It is a great way of bringing some of the past stories of this magnificent station back to life, and it fits in with one of our key objectives of restoring important railway heritage.”

Network Rail, which owns the station, said the plans had still to be confirmed.

Scotland route director Liam Sumpter said: “The tour is one of the top attractions for visitors to Glasgow city centre and we are proud of the success the station team have achieved in establishing such a unique experience.”

A steam train pulls into the now disused Glasgow Central low level platform c1955. Picture: HC Casserley
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