Subway Heritage

Recently I was quoted in the Herald in an article about plans to remove Cessnock’s individual subway signs, amongst other changes in the modernisation of the system. Here’s the full text of what I wrote for future reference…

The proposed removal of the stylish and unique subway signs at Cessnock is just the latest step in SPTs apparent quest to remove all evidence of the system’s historic past, and in particular anything that doesn’t fit in with the current modern “branding” colours. The signage being removed may not be original or authentic but importantly it was specifically designed to fit in with its individual surroundings and listed buildings – something the new generic branding can’t hope to do.

Cessnock is just the start – the plans for Buchanan Street are available on the Council planning portal, and include the removal of the original and historic train carriage that’s welcomed passengers to the station – and given them a flavour of the past – for decades. Its planned replacement? An unclearly defined “art wall”. I’d argue the old carriage and its history, displayed here in a prime position in the city centre and not hidden away in storage, has a level of impact to count as culture enough. Use it as a way to tempt people to visit Riverside or the other museums, but don’t remove it!


No one denies that this modernisation is very welcome, and very overdue. But when the underground was last overhauled, the people running it went out of their way to celebrate the past of the system, not hiding all of it behind the shiny and new like the current plans seem to do.

There’s also been a great opportunity missed with this refurb to celebrate the foresight of the Victorian engineers that designed it. Many stations had glass roofs, allowing natural light to beam into the gloomy stations. Both Cessnock and Kelvin Hall still have these roof areas – boarded up since the 70s, but perfectly capable of being reinstated. You only have to look at the glorious restored glazing at Glasgow Central on a sunny day to get a sense of the impact this could have had on the subway stations, had SPT had the vision to celebrate, rather than hide, their subway heritage.

Gordon Barr 

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Herald, the designer of the Cessnock arches had this to say.

Pleasingly, since this, SPT have agreed to reinstate the Cessnock signage.

It will be interesting to see what they do with the Buchanan Street train…

About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
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