Plenty of spirit but no ghosts anymore at Glasgow’s transport museum, the Riverside Museum of transport
Many visitors to Glasgow’s arresting transport museum will think back with affection to its old location at Kelvin Hall. Some may even say that they enjoyed the old museum more than the new one, because it was possible to examine the vehicles more closely. But one thing that doesn’t trouble the new Riverside Museum is ghosts.
The old one was declared to be one of the most haunted buildings in Scotland. It was used as a mortuary during World War Two, which won’t have helped; fittingly, one of the ghosts is said to be that of a car salesman who took his own life in 1948.
A short distance from the old museum, spectacularly located on the site of Pointhouse Shipyard on the Clyde, the Riverside Museum opened in 2011. Designed by Zaha Hadid, it cost some £74 million. The exhibits have doubled in number under the sawtooth roof and the interior is a blend of pistachio and lime paintwork, wonderfully lit, with the glass front of the building letting in masses of natural light.SEE RELATED: Best Classic Car Shows in 2017: Events to visit
Inside is a spectacular collection – from skateboards to railway locomotives and (obviously) a highly interesting car collection. Behind a Glasgow-built locomotive is ‘The Wall of Cars’, all kinds of them displayed on shelves projecting from the wall, some at great height. Visitors have criticised this method of display, as it puts the cars well out of reach, but it is quite a spectacle and a clever way of housing dozens of cars.
Around the corner is a similar display of motorcycles, along with a couple of street scenes, recreating local neighbourhoods from the 1890s to 1980. The Cunarder tram nearby is said to be the last double-deck tram to have been built in the UK.
Another imaginative display recreates the Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb. The original hillclimb was part of a military road, built in the 18th Century. In the 1950s and 1960s, Rest and Be Thankful achieved legendary status when racing drivers tested their mettle there.
At Riverside, an Alvis chases a Ford Capri up a ramp around a curved wall.
Arrol-Johnston was one of the famous Scottish car manufacturers, operating from 1897 to 1931, originally in Glasgow. Fittingly, Arrol-Johnston and fellow Glasgow marques Argyll and Albion feature strongly, helping to remind us that Scotland once had more than 50 motor manufacturers.
More modern history is remembered with the first of the 440,000 Hillman Imps to have come off the production line at the Linwood factory, and the Mini that you see is reputed to be the oldest in Scotland. There are also hundreds of model ships scattered around, including a number on a conveyor belt, so you can sit and watch them pass.
Rather than just a museum, Riverside Museum is an experience. It was justifiably named 2013 European Museum of the Year, and one million visitors a year pass through. There are walkways with excellent views of the exhibits, a couple of cafés with similarly good views and imaginative menus, a locomotive sticking out of a wall, 90 touchscreens, a subway station and carriage, and a shop. Oh, and outside the front door is the Glenlee, a magnificently restored Glasgow-built tall ship. You can even get married there if you want.
Location, parking and prices
The Riverside Museum, 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow G3 8RS, is open daily 10am-5pm (Friday and Sunday 11am-5pm). Admission is free, with donations welcomed. Disabled access is good. There are free guided tours. Pay and display car parks are nearby, as well as electric car charging points.
Words and photography: Barry Wiseman