WHEN Queen Street railway station had its first redesign in 1878, engineer James Carswell introduced electric lighting.

It was one of the earliest examples of the use of electricity in Glasgow.

Queen Street, currently the focus of a massive £120m redevelopment, opened for business 179 years ago this week, on February 18, 1842, as the terminus for the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway.

Originally called Dundas Street Station, its innovative use of electricity was not its only early design and engineering triumph.

The site was not the easiest place to build such a railway hub – the Cowlairs Incline, a steep slope with a gradient of 1 in 46, meant early trains had to be hauled from the station by means of a steam-driven winding cable.

Cowlairs Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Works at Cowlairs in Springburn was built in 1841 for the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway and was taken over by the North British Railway (NBR) in 1865.

Cowlairs. Pic: Glasgow City Archives

Cowlairs. Pic: Glasgow City Archives

It was named after the nearby mansion of Cowlairs and was the first works in Britain to build locomotives, carriages and wagons in the same place. It was located on the western side of the Glasgow-Edinburgh mainline at Carlisle Street.

Three people died at Queen Street in 1928 when a train leaving the station rolled back into another. The 21:45 express train from Glasgow to Edinburgh slipped on greasy rails, and according to reports at the time, the driver did not as the tunnel was pitch dark and full of smoke and steam.

Tragically, one of the dead was a young man who had been married only three hours earlier. His bride had to have one of her legs amputated.

Below the station, low-level platforms were opened in 1886. This was another engineering feat, with the underground platforms and lines all excavated successfully without disturbing the main line above it. Open spaces provided escapes for the smoke from passing steam trains.

Further changes to the platforms, track and signalled were made in the late 20th century.

The multi-million redevelopment of Queen Street Station in Glasgow is on track for completion this year. It is Scotland’s third busieststation - by 2030 the number of people using it is expected to increase by 40 percent to 28 million.

Queen Street Station. Pic: Newsquest

Queen Street Station. Pic: Newsquest

Various schemes to link Queen Street to Glasgow Central station have been considered over the decades – at the moment, passengers switching between lines have to cross the city centre by foot or by bus.

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One suggested option was to use a former passenger line (now used only for freight) that links High Street to the Gorbals area. Another envisaged a new city centre station (possibly in a tunnel underneath the city centre) or a light railway/metro system….