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1893-present – Pollokshields East

Tramway is a contemporary theatre and art space that used to be a Transport Museum, and before that, a tram shed. It is, as the venue boasts on its website:

”An industrial cathedral that connects art with humanity…It’s real, it speaks of the city’s history, it speaks of Glasgow.”

Glasgow was once a city with over a thousand trams. For only a few pennies, the trams took people across the city, and out of it, as far as Milngavie, Paisley, Renfrew, Clydebank, Uddingston and Airdrie. Tramway was established as Coplawhill tram shed in 1893, and was once the city’s main terminus, depot, and factory. But in 1962, crowds of up to 250,000 gathered in the rain to watch a parade of the last trams in Glasgow. They drove from the east end, through the city centre, to be scrapped at South Side Car Works. People were ‘hanging out of tenement windows’ (Black), with children climbing over each other to see the trams off.


The Last Days of the Trams

Glasgow was not just losing the trams, it was losing a way of life. Women had been driving or working as conductors on many of the trams since the First World War, but they could not get work on the buses that replaced the old trams. Glasgow’s transport corporation did not employ women in the 1960s. The new buses were also more expensive, making it harder for poorer people to take trips out of the city. The old trams, or ‘caurs’ as the locals called them, had had some of the cheapest travel rates in world. The staff of the old trams held a funeral wake at Dalmarnock depot, where they danced and drank to the end of an era. You can see footage of the last trams here, in a short video about the final days of the network.


Museum of Transport

Once the trams had been scrapped, the Tramway was converted into the Museum of Transport. In 1986 this museum was relocated to Kelvinhall in the west end of Glasgow, before being moved again to its current location in including Glasgow’s Riverside Museum. Today you can visit the museum, and see a few of the trams that avoided the scrapyard.



In the 1980s, the Tramway was vacant and facing demolition. It was relaunched in 1988 – in preparation for Glasgow’s year as City of Culture 1990 – as a performance and arts space. The venue opened with Peter Brook’s Mahabharata, a nine-hour long stage adaptation of the Hindu epic poem. In the years that followed, Tramway established its reputation for showcasing innovative work. Tramway featured British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s Snowballs in Summer, work by Canadian director Robert Lepage, and the development of a major exhibitions programme including pieces by British artist David Mach, and several Italian artists. By 1991, The Independent stated that ‘The brightest legacy of Glasgow’s year as City of Culture is surely the survival of Tramway’.

Since then, Tramway has hosted, exhibited, and commissioned innovative work by both emerging and established contemporary artists and performers, from Scotland and the rest of the world. The venue has multiple exhibition and performance spaces, where you can see theatre, dance, drag, site-specific installations, film, painting, sculpture, and everything else in between. Numerous artists commissioned by Tramway have received international acclaim for their work, such as Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon, and Scotland’s Venice Biennale 2007 representative Henry Coombes.


Tramway is also now one of the main venues for Glasgow International Festival of Contemporary Art. The venue reopened after renovations in 2000, with upgraded stage and exhibition spaces, a café, and residency, rehearsal, and workshop spaces. In 2003, the award-winning Hidden Gardens opened just behind the Tramway, featuring original artworks, and acting as an event and workshop space. The Tramway has continued expanding. In 2009, the venue became the new headquarters for Scottish Ballet. The building now also hosts family-friendly and youth-focused events, and residencies, including its own award-winning youth-theatre, Junction 25; the Tramway Young Critics programme; and Time for Art, a practical art workshop for over 55s. The venue continues to showcase innovative contemporary works, with shows regularly selling out. I would recommend a visit if you can, to see some of the incredible performances and exhibitions, and explore this incredible historic venue for yourself.


Saskia McCracken



Tramway: A History

Riverside Museum

BBC News

History Scotland

The Last Trams


1 reply added

  1. JohnStephen April 1, 2020 Reply

    I attended Cuthbertson primary school when the last tram arrived at the depot. We were allowed out from school to see it arrive. We put old 1d pennies on the rails before the tram went over,pity I don’t have it now. Must have straightened it out to buy some sweets 🙂

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