GLASGOW Central Station is one of Scotland’s busiest railway stations.

Now an A-listed building, with 15 high level and two low level platforms used by 38m people annually, it is hard to imagine there was once resistance to it being built at all.

Building a large passenger station in the city centre was part of a power struggle, stretching back to the 1840s, between several rival railway companies.

Glasgow Times: Inside the station in 1936Inside the station in 1936 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

Since 1846 the Caledonian Railway Company had tried to get permission to build a station on the north bank of the river.

At that time, the nearest mainline station was Bridge Street on the south side of the Clyde.

Glasgow Times: The entrance to Bridge Street Station in 1870The entrance to Bridge Street Station in 1870 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

This was Glasgow’s first custom built passenger railway terminal. Opened in 1841 with a grand Doric portico-fronted booking hall, five tracks and four platforms, Bridge Street was operated by several railway companies.

It’s estimated that during its first year over the Glasgow Fair Week around 21,890 passengers used the station.

Over time, with various mergers, the station became jointly run by Caledonian Railway Company and their main rivals the Glasgow & South Western Railway Company.

The city’s growth in population and industry soon meant that a larger passenger terminus was really needed to deal with increased travellers, but getting across the Clyde wasn’t easy for either railway company.

The Clyde Navigation Trust and the Admiralty opposed any railway bridges that might restrict river traffic and trade. Glasgow Corporation objected, citing poor station premises in other cities, and other railway companies moved to block any plans for a new city centre station.

The Glasgow & South Western Railway Company left Bridge Street Station first, when St Enoch’s Railway Station was built in 1876, and in 1883 made St Enoch’s their headquarters.

Glasgow Times: A Milk Bar inside the station in 1936A Milk Bar inside the station in 1936 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

However, finally in 1873 the Caledonian Railway Company obtained an Act of Parliament to construct a grand new station, with a bridge over the river leading from Bridge Street station.

Originally, they planned to build a double-decked bridge for trains and road traffic (like that at Newcastle), but this was dropped in favour of single deck viaduct with four tracks in 1875.

Glasgow Times: The building of the bridge at Central Station c1901 to 1904The building of the bridge at Central Station c1901 to 1904 (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

Ten million bricks and 14,000 tons of cast iron were used in the building of Central Station. It was built over the old site of Grahamston village, demolishing Alston Street which had been the village’s central throughfare. This later led to claims the street lay untouched under the station’s foundations….

Central Station opened on August 1, 1879 with eight platforms. The low-level station was a later addition with two platforms, opening in August 1896, initially so that freight traffic from the then booming docks and shipyards could travel underground. Despite closing in 1964 the low-level was reopened successfully in 1979 after electrification.

Such was Central Station’s success, that not long after opening overcrowding became an issue. A ninth platform was constructed, and the bridge expanded in 1890 to help ease congestion.

This worked until 1900 when ever-increasing passenger numbers meant more expansion was essential. Between 1900 and 1905 much of the original station was rebuilt under the design of architect James Miller. Bridge Street Station was finally closed during the new station’s expansion, and in the 1950s its old booking office was torn down.

The famous ‘Hielanman’s Umbrella’ (so called as it became a regular meeting place for Highlanders living in Glasgow) was erected over Argyle Street, extending the station overhead.

Wooden concourse buildings were also designed during this period by chief engineer Donald Matheson, who created a curved design as he thought this eased bottlenecking.

By 1905 Central Station had 13 platforms, and a new eight-track bridge. Various modernisations have since taken place since, keeping the station up to date and running, while many other stations such as St Enoch’s no longer survive.