Paisley Gilmour Street is a station I pass through at least once a month on my travels, deeper into Renfrewshire or down the coast to Ayrshire, sometimes even bound for Edinburgh to watch the Hibs under the lights. It is, according to the Office for Rail and Road, the fourth busiest railway station in Scotland, beaten only by Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street, with roughly 4.1 million people entering and exiting the station in 2016-2017. No wonder – you can get a train from Paisley practically anywhere. The other night, I was on the way home from work and I had some time to kill. I sat and watched the trains pass through. At least two were for Gourock, one for Wemyss Bay, others for Largs, Ardrossan and the fast trains for Glasgow. When I got there, not long after 5, the station was pretty full; by the time my own train had arrived, it was much quieter. Then again there was an amber weather warning that night for snow and ice and folk would want to get home post haste.
Despite its low roof, Gilmour Street always gives the impression of space with its four long platforms spread out over quite an expanse over the Cart and the town streets below. From Platform 1, where I usually end up on my way home to the Glaswegian suburbs, by day there is a view over spires and industrial premises towards Glasgow Airport and the Kilpatrick Hills over the Clyde. On a good day, Gilmour Street Station is bathed with light, a pleasant place to sit and wait, stretch out with a book or a coffee. By night, the lights hit the red brick of the station buildings and it isn’t as stark nor as dark as Edinburgh Waverley, for example. I don’t mind sitting there, either watching the trains or the folk going by. I look towards a door on another platform marked ‘Railway Chaplain’. I always seem to miss them on their rounds.
Gilmour Street is also one of the few stations in Scotland with a mural, in fact in the passageway that leads to the platforms, the work of local artist Caroline Gormley bearing the legend ‘Welcome to Paisley’, featuring a Scotrail train as well as local landmarks and historical events plus well-kent folk including Gerry Rafferty and Fulton Mackay (yes, him who was Mr MacKay in Porridge), not to mention the Russell Institute on Causeyside Street, the girl mural on Storey Street and the Anchor Mill. It rewards a closer look and whenever I’m there I like to admire it for a few moments. Make sure you stop next time you’re in the vicinity. Even though Paisley lost its bid to be the UK City of Culture in 2021, arriving into the station and seeing that mural gives a cracking impression of the place and it’s good to see.
The first time I ever visited Paisley was when I was a kid. I had an auntie who lived there. I remember coming into Gilmour Street and walking down the stairs into a bustling town. The station made even more of an impression than Glasgow Central, which I would have passed through only a few minutes before. Even when I’m there now, I just like to sit and look for a few minutes, to think about what this station has seen down the years, the people bound for mills and places of industry then and commuters and students now. Every so often, I’m one of those commuters and it’s always a good thing to come into Gilmour Street and wait for a train to somewhere, be it home or some distant, exciting locale, usually the right place for the right time.