Tam's Tall Tales

- Glasgow Tower


Glasgow Tower with Science Centre and IMAX Cinema on the Right


Up and Down Story of Glasgow Tower
Glasgow Tower is located on the south bank of the River Clyde and forms part of the Glasgow Science Centre complex. It holds a Guinness World Record for being the tallest tower in the world in which the whole structure is capable of rotating 360 degrees. It has been plagued by safety and engineering problems throughout its history. Originally to be called the Millennium Tower it missed its target opening date and became the Glasgow Tower instead. The structure used an advanced design and cost 10 million. Unfortunately its advanced features have proven to be unreliable and it has been closed for more than 80% of the time since it first opened.

At 127 metres (416 feet) tall the Glasgow Tower is currently the tallest tower in Scotland. The whole structure rests on a 65 centimetre diameter thrust bearing, which in turn rests in a 15 metre deep caisson; this is designed to allow it to rotate under computer control to face into the wind. The tower has two lifts each with a 12-person capacity, but this is now limited to 6 guests plus a single member of staff for reasons of comfort. There is also an emergency staircase, comprising 523 stairs from the Cabin level to the Podium.

Scottie had the opportunity to go to the top of the tower before the official opening - but as the lift wasn't yet operational he had to climb all those 523 stairs wearing a "hard hat" and steel-capped boots as it was still technically a construction site. While leaning back to photograph the top of the tower from ground level, he tipped his hard hat off his head with his camera and it fell into the murky waters of the Clyde behind him. But despite this embarrassing moment, he had the presence of mind to take a picture of the hard hat floating in the water..


Having missed its opening date in 2001 and then, due to problems with the Nigerian-made thrust bearing on which it rotates, it closed soon after, between February 2002 and August 2004. Then in January 2005, ten people were trapped in the lifts and the rescue took over five hours to complete. It closed again as a result of this and didn't re-open till 21 December 2006. In August 2010 the tower closed again due to "technical issues stemming from its original design" and didn't reopen till July 2014.

Even so, during its periods of operation, 65,000 people travelled to the observation deck at the top of the tower. The picture on the left was taken recently from the Glasgow Science Centre and shows the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (the warehouse-like structures), the Clyde Auditorium (the building known locally as the "Armadillo" because of its shape), the Scottish Hydro Arena (the circular building behind the Armadillo). The tall black building is the Crowne Plaza Hotel.


When it re-opened once again to the general public in July 2014 it had new safety features and an updated interior. However, after only three days of operation, a small fire broke out in the lift shaft of the tower caused by faulty cabling. The tower now operates between April and October and will take passengers to the observation deck when wind-speeds permit.

Despite the risks involved, Scottie took another trip to the top a few days ago and got some updated views for readers of the changes to the buildings along the river - including the "Squinty Bridge" which has been built in recent years at an angle across the river.



Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
May 2014

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