Socceroo wrote:The following is taken from the book “From Glasgow’s Treasure Chest” by James Cowan :
BENEATH ALBION STREET (December 1935)
At the south – east corner of Bell Street and Albion Street the passer – by may notice four large iron gratings set end to end at the edge of the pavement, and at the Trongate end the same arrangement may be found.
As gratings in such a position are not common in the city, the observant pedestrian will naturally wonder for what purpose they are put there. The opportunity to find out came to me when I was passing down Albion Street with a friend.
At the Trongate end a brown canvas shelter was erected over one of the gratings. We looked in, and saw a small iron ladder leading down to somewhere beneath the street, and as there seemed to be nobody about we decided to go down and investigate.
At the bottom we found ourselves in a space of about 15 feet square, and with plenty of head room. Immediately behind us another man had descended the ladder, and, though possibly wondering what we were doing there, he asked no questions, but passed round a corner into a tunnel, which ran across the western side of the compartment in which we stood.
Looking along this tunnel we judged that it must be exactly below the middle of Albion Street, and if we cared to follow it northwards we would, no doubt, have come to another large square compartment at the Bell Street end ; but there was no temptation to do this, because we had no light, and in any case we felt sure the scenery all the way would be just the same as where we stood.
This consisted of a collection of iron pipes of various sizes, and some electric cables. The tunnel was quite roomy, and well ventilated, being fully seven feet high and equally wide.
We now turned our attention behind, to where the man who had come down after us was talking to another two men, who sat in a small canvas hut brilliantly lit by an electric bulb. They had earphones on, and were busy testing wires which they selected from among enormous bunches which protruded from the open end of the cables.
Two of these cable we were told, contained 625 wires each, and another 217 wires. The pipes running along the sides of the tunnel were water pipes, both high and low pressure.
The tunnel was constructed at the time the present buildings were erected in the street, the idea being that the pipes and cables it contains can be attended to when anything goes wrong, without the necessity of lifting the street. Here and there, at intervals on both sides little branch passages could be seen, through which, we gathered, tappings from the main pipes could be led to either side of the street where required.
It is easy to understand that if all Glasgow’s water – pipes and electric cables could be accommodated in such tunnels the advantage would enormous. The day may come when the system will be largely extended ; but meantime, I think Albion Street is the only one in the city to have a subway of this kind for its pipes and cables.
The iron grating access points on Albion Street and Trongate described by James Cowan are long since gone. This section of Albion Street has been re surfaced with the standard city centre concrete slab types and all utility manholes/box types have been replaced to blend in. This practice can make it difficult to locate a specific entry point. Thanks here to the excellent set of true to scale diagrams I came across in the basement of the Clydeport Building which enabled me to pinpoint the exact locations (pic 19)
Here are the main utility diagrams that corroborate Cowan’s description of the tunnel running directly below the middle of the street
Ordonnance Survey (hand drew the tunnel to give an approximate estimation)
entrance to the Trongate end chamber
inside the Trongate chamber
Unfortunately the Power switch wasn’t working, pity as its pitch black down there
view to Trongate
I wasn’t really fully prepared for the condition down here to do a detailed exploration. Full battle gear would be required. There was no water in the tunnel but there is about 4in grey sludge. On reflection I dread to think what this was.
view to the tunnel looking north to Bell Street
I got about 5m into the tunnel and the gas monitor went off for asphyxiating so decided to exit stage left at this point
entrance to the Bell Street end chamber
Inside the Bell Street chamber
viewing to the Bell Street tunnel end section
viewing to the Trongate section
The gas monitor went off again at this point before I had a chance to enter the tunnel at this end so decided to call it quits at that (for the time being anyway)