Some people won’t know that the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow were once served by a railway. It existed for a mere 68 years, from 1896 to 1964. The station in the Botanics closed in February 1939, though generations of Glasgow children remember climbing down where the trains once steamed through. It is now firmly fenced off, industrial archaeology to be observed, not walked in. The ventilation shafts are still visible in the Botanics and I go for a look whenever I’m there. I stood there the other day, imagining trains of Glaswegians decamping for an afternoon amidst the trees, but not seeing them, the buses I could hear along Great Western Road conveying visitors there now.
I was told recently of the concept of the urban imaginary, the different meanings and contexts that the urban can assume. (With thanks to lullueblog. I like this blog for intriguing discussions of what constitutes authentic travel.) The urban imaginary is quite similar to psychogeography, I gather, a way to help people make sense of often obtuse and overwhelming cities. Glasgow is one of those cities where it helps to look up and down whenever possible, to be aware of what is around. There is simply a lot going on here, architecturally and in every other sense. In a city which thrives on being stylish and friendly, it is nice to peek behind that exterior and realise there are parts of this city which have just been abandoned to nature. The Botanics is in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, one of the more desirable parts of the city to live and love in. Yet there’s an old railway station there. There are times when I like places to be ruined, to have embarked on a different phase of their life cycle than first intended. Yet there are times when looking upon a place that a reimagining and reworking is what comes to mind. I hope that one day trains run again in the Botanics, just as I hope to stand on the terracing at Cathkin Park and see league football. In the meantime, we have memories slowly fading but urban imaginaries slowly emerging too.