101: The Tunnels

While it’s true that the public are somewhat clued-in to the existence of the tunnels beneath the streets of Glasgow, most are unaware of any of the entrances to the network and the extent to which the tunnel system spans the city. This is fortunate, as even fewer are aware of the things that stalk the shadowy, claustrophobic depths of the underground tunnels.

One of the main tunnels runs from the crypts in Glasgow Cathedral all the way to Rutherglen in the south-east: this tunnel has the nickname of the Rutherglen Rig. There are anecdotal stories of a piper who ventured into this tunnel alongside his dog, all the while playing his bagpipes in order to allow his associates above ground to trace the pathways of the tunnel: halfway through, the sound of his piping disappeared completely. The piper’s associates ran to the other end of the tunnel and waited for him – hours later, the only thing that emerged was the piper’s dog, shaking, squealing and shivering, with every strand of fur torn from its flesh. Contemporary accounts of urban explorers corroborate one part of this story – sometimes, people who enter the rig just don’t come out. Nonetheless, in an emergency, the rig does provide an easy means of escape from the city center on rainy days when They are abroad.

There is another tunnel in Glasgow, accessible only from the now-defunct Glasgow Green railway station. A hatch in the street nearby leads down through the roof of the building below, where one will find oneself on precisely the platform required to ‘ride’ the Contrary Line – an impossible railway line that includes the High Street Bone Railway among its stops, though no train ever runs on it – the only traffic it sees travels by foot, acolytes and pilgrims looking for the stations in alternate Glasgows glimpsed only in the throes of fever.

Another important tunnel lies somewhere underneath the centermost streets of Glasgow – in fact, this particular tunnel has entered public consciousness, as many natives to the city will be aware of the existence of a completely preserved Victorian street, with old shop-fronts still standing, having been built over by one of the larger streets but kept intact. A cobblestone road is flanked by small pavements of concrete, and the wooden veneers of a pharmacy, dentists, tobacconists and post office lie quiet and undisturbed in their dusty sleep beneath the streets above. Varying accounts claim it lies beneath Hope Street, Union Street, or Argyle Street. Slightly more savvy individuals place it under Glasgow Central Station; the village of Grahamston once lay outside the city of Glasgow before it was demolished in order to make way for the station, and the Grant Arms pub, only a few yards from the station itself, is a still-standing relic of the village. These estimates are partially true: in fact, the tunnels one must traverse to find the underground street lie under each of these locations. A postal network tunnel under Hope Street is accessed through the heavy-load elevator in Glasgow Central Station near platforms 11-15. The tunnels split under Union Street, and one tunnel leads down Argyle Street, connecting the sub-basements of shops and department stores on the street above. By going down a waterlogged sub-basement on the southern side of the tunnel, one can find the underground street.

The street is well-preserved, largely because each of the shops are still in use, run by eccentrics and visited only by acolytes. Alas, we are here to speak only of the tunnels: the underground establishments are another matter entirely.


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