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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914



By Gilbert T Bell

Caledonian Railway No 21 Springburn began as a small weaving community, but the coming of the railways transformed it uniquely and completely. Springburn was on the route of the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway and when the railway opened in 1842 Springburn grew rapidly. It grew to be the Scottish railway metropolis with railways its life-blood and its glory.

Beam engine Queen Street Station was the Glasgow terminal, but a winding engine was required to haul locomotives up the Cowlairs Incline (a 1 in 42 to 1 in 50 slope) that provided direct access to the city centre. Railway workshops, to build and repair rolling stock, were also established at Cowlairs.

Springburn Parish Church The railway company, later known as the North British Railway, also built housing for its workforce and "The Blocks" were long part of the Springburn scene. As the industry expanded Springburn grew – people crowded in to live and work. The population reached around 30,000 by 1900 and much tenement building had taken place to provide housing.

Springburn Park Springburn Road became the principal thoroughfare, but was also a popular shopping centre. Many churches were built to satisfy the diverse religious habits of its citizens and a public park and pleasure ground provided open recreational space. A splendid new Public Hall (opened 1902) demonstrated the pride of the community and the wealth generated by a flourishing industry.

Springburn College The Caledonian Railway established their St Rollox workshops nearby. Two large private companies, Neilson, Reid & Co and Sharp, Stewart & Co, eager to share in the almost insatiable demand for locomotives, also established works in the area. In 1903 these two companies, together with another Glasgow-based firm, Dubs & Co, united to form the North British Locomotive Company (NBL), the biggest locomotive- building company in Britain employing 8,000 workers.

Railways had made Springburn and they had made it great.

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