The Botanic Gardens Railway Station was a train station on the Glasgow railway network located near Kelvinside in Glasgow’s West End. The station was never particularly busy and it closed in 1939. The station building was later reused but was damaged by fire in 1970. It has been abandoned since.
By the middle of the 19th century, Glasgow in Scotland was seeing rapid industrialisation and influx of workers so much so that it became known as the second city of the British Empire. With the growth of the city came the potential for railway companies and in 1845, the Caledonian Railway began construction on a line from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Carlisle. Terminal stations in Glasgow were located at Buchanan Street, South Side, and Bridge Street, none of which were convenient for passengers in the city centre or goods on the River Clyde. The Caledonian Railway sought to work with the independent General Terminus and Glasgow Harbour Railway to gain access to the Clyde and this line was completed in 1848. It mainly was used to transport coal and other minerals.
In 1858, the Glasgow, Dumbarton and Helensburgh Railway opened, looping to the north of Glasgow. This line would be absorbed by the North British Railway (NBR) in 1865. As the docks grew, so did the NBR. Caledonian, with no access to the new docks, was clearly losing out. The NBR undertook a number of projects and by 1886, they had opened the Stobcross Railway, the Glasgow, Yoker and Clydebank Railway and the Glasgow City and District Railway to create quite a significant urban network.
Caledonian came up with a plan to compete with NBR. The Glasgow Central Railway was designed by independent engineer Charles Forman and would run on an east-west axis through the city centre. It would link the docks to Caledonian’s Glasgow Central terminal and beyond. The line was approved for construction in 1888 however there was outcry from many business interests in Glasgow and as a result, it was redesigned as a sub-surface railway. Construction began on 1 June 1890.
The Glasgow Central Railway began opening in stages from the 26 November 1894 onwards, first for goods and then for passengers. It was completely open by 10 August 1896 with 130 trains passing through the line each way daily. A spur known as the Tollcross Line opened in February 1897. This more direct route saw Caledonian gain a significant share of goods traffic from the NBR. Caledonian also opened the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire line in 1896, thus giving them a significant suburban network too.
The majority of the trains operating on the Glasgow Central line were steam trains and the underground stations were dark and poorly ventilated. It was suggested that a conversion to electric traction may be feasible. The Central London Railway was designed using that system and would open in 1900. Although Caledonian began planning the conversion, the project did not proceed.
The Botanic Gardens Railway Station opened on the Glasgow Central Railway on 10 August 1896. The station building was on ground level, and the platforms were underground, beneath the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. The station building was an ornate red brick structure with two towers sporting a clock and Caledonian Railway monogram, topped by domes reminiscent of a Russian orthodox church.
From the outset, passengers complained about the smoky atmosphere and dirty conditions of the stations and trains. As passenger numbers declined, stations with little traffic were closed. The Botanic Gardens station closed on 6 February 1939, just a few months before the start of World War II.
In 1948, the railways were nationalised with competition no longer relevant, the consolidation of lines in Glasgow led to closures, first of stations and then entire lines. On 5 October 1964, the Central Railway was closed to passenger traffic. Goods traffic came to an end in 1966.
By this time, the Botanic Gardens station had been converted into The Silver Slipper Café, Sgt. Peppers nightclub and a plumbing shop called Morton’s. The platforms underground remained unused. On the the 23 March 1970, a fire broke out during a Battle of the Bands contest in the nightclub. It was suggested that somebody had left a cigarette lighting in the attic. The two domed towers were demolished on safety grounds but by and large, the structure remained undamaged. It was decided that repairing the building would be too costly and so it was demolished. The underground tunnels and platforms remain.
Part of the Glasgow Central line has been reused for the Argyle Line which still operates in the city today.