IN the 1840s, Glasgow and much of Scotland was caught up in the great railway mania, and as we have seen, the big leap forward was the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway authorised by Parliament on July 4, 1838, which brought Glasgow’s first major terminus, Queen Street station which opened in 1842.

As we have also seen, thanks to the late P.J.G. Ransom’s excellent work The Iron Road, The Railway in Scotland, published by Birlinn in 2007, the two engineers who were behind much of the early rail developments in Scotland were Thomas Grainger and John Miller.

The partnership were very busy in the 1840s, building Linlithgow and North Leith railway stations and laying out lines and bridges as far apart as Airdrie and Cupar.

Railway developments were usually unanimously supported by the press. I will be looking at the growth of Glasgow’s newspapers in a future column when I will definitely be including excerpts from a book written by Alexander Sinclair, the original copy boy who rose to become managing partner of the publishers of the Glasgow Herald

In his entertaining memoirs, Fifty Years of Newspaper Life 1845-1895, Sinclair recalled those early railways in and around the city.

“The Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway was opened in 1841, and had an exceptional patronage from a large portion of the public by its 4th class (somewhat like a cattle truck), which ran between Glasgow and Greenock for 6d., so as to compete with the river steamers. They were called “ stand-ups,” because they had no seats, and this of course caused most of the passengers to stand, lean over the open sides, or sit on the floor when they could.

“On one occasion a sailor going to Greenock and a weaver to Paisley happened to be together leaning against the open side. Jack was to win’ard, and went on to squirt his tobacco juice overboard, but it was blown back in spray to the weaver’s face and ear. It was too much for long endurance, so that with a scowl he turned to the self-absorbed sailor, and angrily said to him: “ Spit in your ain lug, and be hanged to you.”

The main period of the railway mania was 1845 to 1847, when millions of pounds were invested in a whole host of new railways, and one of the key ambitions of Glasgow businessmen was to have a link to London. In 1845, however, the rails from London stopped at Lancaster.

As early as 1841, Parliament had been asked to decide on whether the London to Scotland link should go via the east coast or west coast – the Government of the time deemed that it would be impossible to have both.

The Parliamentary commission, the Annandale Committee, reported in 1841 “the preference they felt bound to give to the western route to Scotland by Lockerbie, under the supposition that at present one line of railway, only can be formed from the South to Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

Sir William Acworth in his The Railways of Scotland, published in 1890, recorded: “Then followed a weary struggle of four more years. The Clydesdale landowners, who were as much concerned as their neighbours south of the watershed, were apathetic ; Glasgow, interested in its Ayrshire line, was largely hostile, Edinburgh was desirous of an East Coast road all its own; everybody was waiting in the hope of Government assistance. Worse than all, a heavy cloud of trade depression overhung the country. But through it all the Annandale Committee held on. In 1844, by which time not only had track much improved, but also some unknown genius had discovered a name suitable for the company which claimed to be the national line—the Caledonian Railway.”

The Act authorising the Caledonian Railway was passed on July 31, 1845, and the line was completed and opened between Glasgow and Carlisle in February, 1848, when the through railway connection to and from London and Glasgow was first formed.

By then, the mania was fading but at its height in 1846, an astonishing array of Scottish lines received Parliamentary approval. They included the General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway Act; an Act to enable the Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock Railway Company to make a Branch Railway to the River and Firth of Clyde at or near Greenock, and a Pier or Wharf in connection therewith; the Glasgow, Barrhead, and Neilston Direct Railways (Branches to Thornliebank and Househill) Act; the Caledonian Railway Glasgow Termini and Branches Act; and the Glasgow Southern Terminal Railway Act, plus many others.

You can see that Glasgow truly was at the centre of a huge pioneering effort as the Scots took to the rails in vast numbers.

Acworth, reflecting on that early period, wrote: “The Scottish people can at least claim that, as they had been among the first to appreciate the value of railways for local traffic, so now they were among the first, if not indeed actually the first, to draw out on a large scale and in bold outline, a comprehensive scheme of railways in their newer development as the grand highways of national and international communication.”

The point about the railways’ rapid expansion was that it allowed Glasgow to consolidate its own network and reach out to Edinburgh and beyond.

Meanwhile, with Chartism still under way and the Great Disruption in the Church of Scotland having its effects, Glasgow continued to develop as a city. An example of its ambitions was the opening of the Glasgow Stock Exchange in 1844. It opened with just 28 members and in its early years, most of its business was conducted on behalf of wealthy private investors.

The City of Glasgow itself expanded massively in 1846. As Irene Maver on the Glasgow Story website records: “Glasgow was fundamentally reshaped in 1846 when the municipality was extended to 2,344 hectares (just over nine square miles), more than double the territory of the old burgh. Natural boundaries, such as the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin, as well as the Forth and Clyde Canal, were used as far as possible to mark the new city limits.”

We’ll see next week how that expanded city developed.