Ghost Trains/Midden men

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Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby scotchharry » Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:24 pm

Does anyone remember the Glasgow ”Ghost Trains”? The big electric dustcarts used by the Cleansing Dept. They crept about the streets so quietly, you did not hear them coming. They were a 1928 ecologically marvel, years ahead of their time as means of rubbish removal. They ran on electricity generated from burning the city’s rubbish at Govan RPW which was between Craigton Rd & Helen St in Govan –see Virtual Mitchell C41. I briefly worked with them when I was with the Cleansing Dept. They were being scraped in 1963 many have worked double shifted since 1928. Very few pictures exist of them and they are an almost forgotten part of the city’s history.
See http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image.php?inum=TGSE01344 and Virtual Mitchell - C6216 C1815.


I would like to here from any one who remembers them or the cleansing dept operations.

Yours Harry.
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Govan's old "midden men" motors.

Postby Dugald » Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:37 pm

Scotchharry, I remember the "Ghost Trains" you ask about although I don't recall them by this name: they were known simply as the " miden-mens' midgy motors". You're right, they were " a 1928 ecologically marvel, years ahead of their time as means of rubbish removal." They really did creep along with nary a disturbing noise during their nocturnal cleansing.

The vehicles weren't fast, but they were fast enough for the job they had to do, and one could scarcely hear them brake. Now I lived for several years just 'in the close', and if they had caused any disturbance I would certainly have been aware of it.

They did a great job too! The big gray-coloured vehicle would quietly park at the close-mouth and a crew of 'midgy' men would set about going round the "back" and filling up the basket they carried on their back with the refuse from the midden. They all carried a light on their 'bunnets' just like coal miners .If it was the old-style midden; ie., a real "midden" and not a series of big refuse bins, one of the man would go inside and shovel the refuse out into the baskets.

We don't have nocturnal cleansing where I live now, it's all done during the day with a big noisy "garbage truck" equipped with apparatus for compressing. Oh, no doubt it's a lot more cost efficient, but it's very noisy and spews obnoxious fumes al the way down the street.

The name "Cleansing Dept" was a more or less formal name. We simply called the cleansing complex the "Destructor". As boys we'd go inside it the Destructor sometimes and "rake" around the metal stuff looking for old WWI helmets and bayonets... Great fun!
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Mori » Fri Apr 04, 2008 11:22 pm

I can Actualy remember a smaller version around our area which was a road sweepers version of a battery charged dustcart it had a large red handle lever from the front and the batteries that drove it were in the under carragie of the cart... the guy that drove it had big bulging 8O eyes with giant gaps in his teethand wore a leather cap ... he was a scarry lookin guy 8O we called him the Bogey man :D

This is the way i remember it :mrgreen:

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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Dugald » Sat Apr 05, 2008 11:22 pm

While we're extolling the virtues of Govan's midden-men, let's say a complementary word or two about their milkmen too. The Scottish Farmers on Elder Street used little pollution-free electrically driven vehicle to deliver their milk from their stables on Elder St. I say "stables" because when i first became aware of them their milk carts were pulled by horses (might even have been ponies!). Then of course there was that electric passenger-carrying vehicle called a 'tramcar", which at the time, along with their great wee red circular subway, gave the people in Govan an affordable means of transport that was as good as that provided by any other city in the world and better than most!

Was it that good? Probably not, since I'm sure it was simply just the right thing for Govan at that time, but I submit that the Cleansing Dept. really did do a good job, and they did it in a way that put them, as Scotchharry reminds us, away ahead of their ecological time
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby tombro » Sun Apr 06, 2008 10:59 am

I can remember 'the midden men' and the electric milk carts of the late 1950's mentioned by Dugald. I also have great memories of Govan where my Grandmother lived in McGregor Street. Travelling from Drumchapel, we'd either cross the Clyde on the ferry to Govan or catch the Subway from any one of a number of stations, getting off at Govan Cross.

From there we'd catch a tram up to Craigton Road, or sometimes even the Trolley Bus !

Like Dugald, I think in those days that Glasgow had a fantastic Transport System !

Regards,
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Dugald » Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:48 am

tombro wrote:I can remember 'the midden men' and the electric milk carts of the late 1950's mentioned by Dugald. I also have great memories of Govan where my Grandmother lived in McGregor Street. Travelling from Drumchapel, we'd either cross the Clyde on the ferry to Govan or catch the Subway from any one of a number of stations, getting off at Govan Cross. From there we'd catch a tram up to Craigton Road, or sometimes even the Trolley Bus !
Like Dugald, I think in those days that Glasgow had a fantastic Transport System !Regards, Tombro :)


HelloTombro, I forgot all about the trolley buses that use to toot up and down the Craigton Rd. They were quiet just like the big gray midden motors, but I never did like them. One was never sure where they were: they made no noise and they would weave from side to side on their own side of the road, oh yes, and their trolley wires were always coming detached from the power wires. By the way, I knew McGregor Street quite well and delivered milk there for the Elderpark C0-0p dairy... The didn't have any electric carts nor wee ponies, well except for our shanks' ponies!
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby tombro » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:48 am

Dugald,

I guess my recollections of the electric milk carts may have come from an earlier life in Possil, or even memories of Benny Hill's 'Ernie' !

I'm sorry, though, that you didn't like the trolley buses because I used to love riding on both them and the trams.

It's interesting to consider that, fifty-odd years on, electric Trolley Buses and Trams are now considered the epitome of successful Transort System in many of the world's major cities, and that the Glagow Corporation was providing exactly that service (and even an exceptionally successful Underground Transport System) in that late 1950's period !

What the hell has happened since ?

Regards,
Tombro 8O
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Dexter St. Clair » Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:02 pm

The demise of the transport came about in the fifties with a Council that felt trams stood in the way of the progress of the car.
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Dugald » Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:05 am

tombro wrote:Dugald,I guess my recollections of the electric milk carts may have come from an earlier life in Possil, or even memories of Benny Hill's 'Ernie' !
I'm sorry, though, that you didn't like the trolley buses because I used to love riding on both them and the trams.
It's interesting to consider that, fifty-odd years on, electric Trolley Buses and Trams are now considered the epitome of successful Transort System in many of the world's major cities, and that the Glagow Corporation was providing exactly that service (and even an exceptionally successful Underground Transport System) in that late 1950's period !
What the hell has happened since ?Regards,Tombro 8O


Yes Tombro, a valid question... what indeed happened to the great electric refuse, milk, and transit systems we had in Glasgow. Well, I don't know about the refuse and the milk, but as Dexter points out in the last post, the demise of the transit was intended to keep Glasgow "progressive" with respect to the advent of the car. Maybe they, the council, did, maybe the Glasgow motorists are happy with their lot, i don't know.

The electric Trolley Buses just didn't have any great popularity over in Canada. They had them in Toronto for a while, but i don't recall any great effort to keep them running. It was of course a different case with the street cars. There was a major battle between the transit people and the city about keeping the cars, and the transit people, under the leadership of a Glaswegian transit engineer, won. The tram cars are still running in Toronto and still doing a great job.
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby cell » Sat May 31, 2008 2:25 pm

Thought I'd add the pictures from the Mitchell to this thread, for those of you who don't know this is now the site of the big ASDA in Govan. When electricity generation started here in 1930, there were two 5MW turbo alternators which were connected into the grid as well as charging the batteries of the ghost trains. There is a very detailed 6 page article on the whole site in the March 1930 Scottish Electrical Engineer magazine which you can get in the Mitchell if anyone is interested.

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I presume Govan was closed around the time that Polmadie was opened. Does anyone know when Govan stopped generation and if it was the same time as it was closed. Also did Polmadie ever generated electricity, if so have you any details when it started or stopped or anything about the equipment used ie boilers, turbines etc?
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby peasy23 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:11 pm

I presume Govan was closed around the time that Polmadie was opened. Does anyone know when Govan stopped generation and if it was the same time as it was closed. Also did Polmadie ever generated electricity, if so have you any details when it started or stopped or anything about the equipment used ie boilers, turbines etc?



I have worked for the "Cleany" since 1987. Govan was still open as an incineration plant up until about 1989, I have no idea when it stopped producing electricity, but I would imagine it was long before then. Polmadie (where I work) in recent years has been used as a transfer depot, i.e. the rubbish is emptied from the refuse collection vehicles and is then put in to trailers for transport to landfill. It was originally an incinerator, hence the large chimneys. There are plans for a new type of recycling plant at Polmadie called an Autoclave which involves burning rubbish to generate electricity, now where haveI heard that before........
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Dugald » Thu Jul 31, 2008 8:58 pm

An intersting post Peasy, and welcome to HG... I'm sure you'll find it both entertaining and enlightening.

I was never aware of any generation of electrical power at the Helen St/Craigton Rd. "destructor". I knew about the incineration that went on; easy to tell from the dirty black smoke going up the chimneys.
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby cell » Fri Aug 01, 2008 7:37 am

Excellent info Peasy, any chance you could ask around to find out if Polmadie actually generated electricity, any info would be greatly appreciated. I can’t believe that they were burning tons of rubbish and not using the waste heat for something.

Dugald, if you check out the aerial photo you can see the 3 square cooling towers which are used to cool the water used for steam condensation and I guess the rectangular building between the chimneys was the turbine house. The layout shows that the waste was sorted in the building to the left and transported by conveyor belt to the boiler house, I guess ash was removed by rail via the diagonal siding.
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby Dugald » Fri Aug 01, 2008 10:31 am

Thank you for the information Cell. Yes, I knew about the 3 big black square cooling towers, but i never knew what they were for. Neither did i know about the steam condensation and the turbine house... a wee bit too technical for me when i lived in Govan. I wonder how the electricity generated made its way out of the destructor, as i don't recall any unusual number of elictric wires or cables, unless of course they were underground. Oh yes, i remember the ash well, with the correct wind it came into our house!
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Re: Ghost Trains/Midden men

Postby peasy23 » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:35 pm

cell wrote:Excellent info Peasy, any chance you could ask around to find out if Polmadie actually generated electricity, any info would be greatly appreciated. I can’t believe that they were burning tons of rubbish and not using the waste heat for something.




Polmadie never generated anything other than lots of smoke! Glasgow had 3 incinerators at one time with no benefit from them, at Polmadie, Dawsholm and in its later days Govan. Nowadays most of the rubbish is going to landfill, Glasgow is way behind in terms of the percentage of refuse which is recycled, and unless they get the finger out the council will be getting hit with big fines in the next few years.
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