Glasgow's secret train stations, lost subways and abandoned spaces

Thousands of people visit Glasgow'˜s Botanic Gardens every year, but few have any idea about the secret abandoned train station concealed among the greenery.

What is left of Glasgows Botanic Gardens railway station has been reclaimed by nature (Photo: Thomas Nugent / Wikimedia Commons)

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Further along the same line, there’s another abandoned station at Kelvinbridge, and there’s even a secret derelict platform hidden in Central Station.

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Built during the heyday of Victorian rail travel, the Botanic Gardens station was opened in 1896. The station’s main buildings were on ground level, and the platforms underground, beneath the gardens themselves.

James Miller (a renowned Glasgow railway architect) was responsible for the station’s eye-catching design.

It was a well-known landmark in the area, and featured an ornate red brick building with two clock towers, topped with decorative domes, reminiscent of Russian architecture.

Despite its initial success, between January 1917 and March 1919 the Botanic Gardens station was forced to close due to financial struggles during the war. It wasn’t long before the station was permanently closed to passengers in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War Two.

The line remained open for a further 25 years, with trains regularly passing through the ghost station, but was closed for good in October 1964.

After the station was closed, the building was converted into shops and cafes, with the platforms remaining untouched below.

During the 1960s, the space was occupied by a popular cafe called The Silver Slipper, a nightclub known as Sgt Pepper’s, and Morton’s plumbers shop.

Disaster struck, however, in March 1970, when a fire broke out during a ‘battle of the bands’ contest in Sgt Pepper’s. It is thought that someone left a cigarette burning in the attic space, as the damage was concentrated on the roof of the building.

Luckily, no one was badly injured, but the cafe owner’s dog died from smoke inhalation.

Firefighters were forced to pull down the iconic domed towers for safety reasons, and the inside of the building was destroyed by the fire. The outer walls remained intact, but the decision was made to demolish the building rather than repair it.

Despite plans being put forward in 2007 to convert the old station site into a bar, restaurant and nightclub, it has now lain derelict for almost 50 years.

As with most abandoned places and buildings, caution is advised and it’s best to view the station from the outside for safety reasons, as well as to avoid trespassing.

Parts of the old Botanic Gardens station can be viewed without entering it, but it’s well hidden, in a quiet north west corner of the gardens. The underground platforms can be viewed from above, through open air vents in the Botanic Gardens.

Although the station building was torn down, the floor and foundations can still be seen within a fenced-off area of the gardens.

There’s even an original tramway kiosk, added to the station in 1903, which is still visible on the site. The old platforms have been taken over by nature and vandals (meaning they are no longer considered safe to enter) but remain standing – an eerie reminder of Glasgow’s past.

The Botanic Gardens station isn’t the only abandoned railway station still visible in Glasgow. The remains of the next station up the line, Kelvinbridge, is also popular with urban explorers, and it has a spookily similar story to the Botanics station.

It, too, was designed by James Miller, and it was destroyed by fire in 1968, just a few years after it was permanently closed in 1964. The outer walls remain standing, as well as part of an entrance vestibule with fragments of black and white checked floor tiles.

Elsewhere in the city, there is also a hidden Victorian platform beneath Central Station, which was abandoned when the line closed in 1964. Currently only accessible by guided tour, the abandoned platform remains virtually the same as it was on the day it was closed.

Gartloch Asylum, as it was originally known, was built in 1896 as a mental health hospital, but was abandoned a century later, in 1996. The surrounding area and buildings have since been redeveloped into luxury homes, but the gothic-style main building remains standing, with some very dilapidated beds and equipment still inside.

This primary school (built in 1907) quickly fell into a state of disrepair after it was closed in 2011. The school has some interesting historical connections (the political activist John Maclean taught classes in Marxism there until 1915), but there are no signs of it being restored.

Opened in 1896, Merkland Street was mainly used by shipyard workers travelling from one side of the Clyde to the other. But both the decline of the shipyards and the subway station’s close proximity to the Partick stop, meant that it soon fell out of use, and it was closed completely in 1977.

Subway trains continue to hurtle past the abandoned Merkland Street stop, but most passengers have no idea it’s there.

Originally opened in 1884 as a ground for Queen’s Park Football Club, the football stadium at New Cathkin Park was passed over to Third Lanark in 1903.

Due to the team’s financial struggles, the stadium was abandoned in 1967, and slowly the stands and buildings were taken down. All that remains today are some overgrown concrete terraces and an empty football pitch.