Glasgow’s brand new Riverside Museum of Travel and Transport has something for everyone – and it’s free. KATH KYLE paid a recent visit and gives us her verdict.
The shiny new structures that have sprung up along the banks of the Clyde in recent years are often given nicknames based on their outward appearance. Ask a Glaswegian for directions to the Clyde Auditorium and they may well respond with a blank stare. Ask instead for the Armadillo. The nearby road bridge, the Clyde Arc, is now universally known by its more colloquial title, the Squinty Bridge.
A mile or so downstream, the jagged, uneven roofline of the Riverside Museum looks like the silhouette of a mountain range. From other angles it could be a crushed can, or even a heart monitor display. But for now, it’s not yet been re-christened.
Boats, trains, automobiles..and shoes
Under the unique zig-zag roof lies an equally unique space for 3,000 exhibits and over 150 interactive displays. It’s difficult to think of anything that’s been missed. Cars, trams, trains, bikes, even shoes, they all seem to be in the bright airy halls.
A huge locomotive that once ploughed across South Africa sits beside an old ambulance. And your first car is bound to be on the dizzying wall display, or maybe you were a bit racier and your first wheels are on the motorcycle wall.
More than just machinery
An unusual angle on Clydeside’s shipbuilding past will give you food for thought. And a mini dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Two for the Road hangs next to a classic Mini car.
Although it is a Glasgow museum, the exhibits and the stories – told through touch-pad screens – are familiar to everyone.
There is an emphasis on the role of people in building, owning and operating the vehicles on show. The ‘Great Tram Gamble’ recalls the controversy caused by women taking over as conductors and drivers because of the staff shortage during the First World War.
History, behind-the-scenes stories and lots of interesting little diversions make this a full day out. Fire up a steam locomotive but avoid blowing the boiler; deliver a telegram in 1950s Glasgow; or pedal a simulator of Sir Clive Sinclair’s ill-fated C5.
The most popular exhibit at the old Transport Museum – which the Riverside Museum repaced – was the 1900s street reconstruction. Happily it has been recreated and expanded. Wander in and out of old shops, a traditonal café and the Mitre Bar, where footage of chatting drinkers will have you propping up the bar.
The nineteenth century Glenlee was recently moved downstream to new berth at the back entrance to the Riverside Museum. It’s one of only five Clyde-built sailing ships still afloat. You can clamber aboard and explore the old three-masted vessel as part of your visit, though there is an entry charge.
The museum has an attractive cafe and restaurant, while just outside, there are are coffess stalls and various fast food vans. You can bring a picnic – There is plenty of space to hang about, outside and inside.
The museum sits at the confluence of the rivers Kelvin and Clyde and is easily accessible by car, or on one of city’s tour buses. It’s also close to Partick interchange where there is a train and underground station.
But by far the best way to get to the Riverside Museum is on one of the passenger ferry services that ply the river. Operated by Clyde Clippers, you can make the trip from the city centre (Adults £6 return; concession/children £3); or make the short hop across the river from near the Govan underground station (£3 and £1.50 return), which offers a stunning view of the building from the back, with the tall ship Glenlee moored alongside (see photos above).