Some news that has been noted from the UK railway industry this week (railway gazette articles will require a free subscription):
Govia Thameslink are using a 30-day ‘Coronavirus killer’ on trains and stations on their network. The viruscide sticks to surfaces and will be applied once every 21 days. An app had been introduced to track which areas and rolling stock have been sprayed, so that the visuside can be re-applied when necessary. Full story can be read here : Govia Thameslink Railway uses 30-day ‘coronavirus killer’
Business cases will be allowed on the following projects, reports ‘Rail Business UK’ . These are :
Reopening Meir station near Longton on the Stoke-on-Trent – Derby line;
Providing regular passenger services on the Barrow Hill line between Sheffield and Chesterfield via Beighton;
Reintroducing passenger services on the Leicester – Coalville – Burton upon Trent ‘Ivanhoe’ line;
Provision of a passing loop to enable a more frequent service to be provided on the St Albans Abbey – Watford Junction ‘Abbey’ line;
Reopening stations at Wellington in Somerset and Cullompton in Devon on the Taunton – Exeter main line;
Introducing passenger services on the Bury – Heywood – Rochdale line, most of which is operated as the heritage East Lancashire Railway. This route had also been identified by Transport for Greater Manchester in 2019 for a possible tram-train trial;
Extending the Blackburn – Clitheroe passenger service from Clitheroe to Hellifield to link with the Leeds – Carlisle route;
Building a new parkway station at Lydeway to serve Devizes;
Reinstating passenger services on the Totton – Fawley branch in Hampshire, branded the Waterside Line;
Extension of the Island Line south from Shanklin to Wroxall and Ventnor; and integration with the existing Isle of Wight Steam Railway to provide passenger services from Ryde to Newport.
Remember these are only Business cases. They are not a green light for the projects, and many will fall at the wayside.
The one which most interests me is the ‘possible’ extension of the Island line on the Isle of Wight. Would be great to see trains run back to Ventnor through the tunnel, an experience many have not seen. The information here was taken from this article in Rail Business UK : 10 rail schemes awarded business case development funding
Practices that have been implemented by West Midlands Trains due to the covid-19 epidemic, could be used by other operators. Factors such as social distancing in stations and loading indications on trains are being used, so that other stations down the line can monitor how full an oncoming train is. This colour coded system could be applied and enable dynamic station skips or closures. The full story can be read here : West Midlands Trains leads on social distancing approach as rail services ramp up
Another plan for a HS2 station was unveiled this week. The East Midlands could get a transport hub when (or if) the spur from Birmingham up to Leeds is built. The hub would be built at Toton, giving many communities the ability to use the new High Speed network. Full story on this exciting project can be read here : HS2: Plans for East Midlands transport hub link unveiled
That’s all for this week, thank you for reading and there will be another update next Sunday.
Don’t forget to search out rainhamrailenthusiast on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Train Siding.
Well, all my best laid plans are in tatters, as least for now!! But on a serious note we should all as rail enthusiasts be observing the nations ‘lockdown’ and not going out enjoying our hobby. It will pass, and we will soon be able to once again photograph and video to our hearts content.
In the meantime, two things. Firstly, I am working on my London Transport Museum video. I shot this in November last year, but wasn’t happy with it and was going to re shoot. This however is now not possible at the mo, and so I will do an edit with the best footage I got. The reason for wanting a reshoot? Well basically I have a new camera, which enables me to get cleaner, less jerky footage. But I will put this together for now and hopefully later in the year update it with new video.
Secondly, and more importantly, as railway enthusiasts we all like the modern, but many value the past as well. Many of us visit our heritage railways during the year and sort of take them for granted. But this situation we find ourselves in couldn’t happen at a worst time of year for these attractions. Many would have been working towards a profitable Easter and summer period, but now just lie dormant, with only a handful of volunteers able to tend to and maintain both stock and building infrastructure.
This is where we can still help. If you are able, why not donate a small amount to your local or favourite (or both) heritage railway. It doesn’t need to be much, but if we can all pull together, we can help save rolling stock and these attractions for others to enjoy in the years to come. I myself have applied to become a member of the East Kent Railway Trust, where unique rolling stock is situated. It may only be a small line, but it’s importance in keeping the memeories of the Kent coalfields alive is invaluable. I am sure there are many more heritage railways around the country with similar ties to long gone industry which now more than ever need our help.
So please if you can, give a little to help keep these running. Lets hope that by at least mid summer we can get out and about again, and hopefully get back to video and photography.
Many thanks for reading.
If you wish please visit my YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages, just search for Rainhamrailenthusiast in the relevant apps search bar.
On sunday 29th September 2019, I visited the LTM Depot open day. The museum is in Acton, and can be reached on the Underground network via the Picadilly and District lines. The museum itself is a 5 minute walk across the road from the station.
The first thing to note as you approach the entrance was a small miniature railway which runs on event days such as this. Entrance to the site was very fluid, a quick check of my printed ticket and I was in.
You will see various large equipment from the underground network either side of you as you enter, and straight ahead there are rows of shelving stacked high to the roof with boxes. Stairs to the right of you take you up to a mezzanine level where on this day an interactive area was laid on for children. Great views can be had over the museum here, especially the tube stock.
Before you get to the actual tube trains, go up the stairs to your left. This will take you to an area which contains a fantastic amount of old signage, and various models used in planning. As seen in these photos, you can easily spend 15 minutes + up here.
Before you view the tube stock, have a look at the old equipment in front of them, old ticket machines and barriers, and signalling equipment.
The variety of tube stock here is amazing. Everything is well laid out, and you can even enter some of the old trains. The level of refurbishment is exceptional, and has quite a nostalgic feel.
To the extreme right of the tube stock is an area dedicated to buses. Again the level of care in refurbishing these is exceptional.
Outside there was an area to buy various food and drink, and a place to sit down. No food and drink is allowed in the museum for obvious reasons.
I came on a day which was all about the London Termini, and the lectures provided were excellent. I also went on an included tour of the small item store, which was fantastic and lasted around 20 minutes. You have to sign up for this on the day, but they were quite regular.
Overall I would recommend going to visit this museum during its open days, the amount of heritage equipment, stock and signage on display is astounding. They only open it on select dates, and more specific tours are held on Saturdays throughout the year. Follow the link below the video to see if anything interests you.
Below is a video which i shot on the day, which gives an overall view of the museum.
Once one of the busiest stations in London, Liverpool street has a very ornate interior much overlooked by its passengers. Having undergone many refurbishments in the years, the concourse now fills with natural light from the vast roof which spans it. Although now not as busy, the soon addition of the Elizabeth line may make this station a true hive of activity again.
A Brief History
London Liverpool Street was built to be the London terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway. Opened in 1874 with 10 platforms, two of which extended under the station forming a junction with the Metropolitan Railway.
Originally the buildings were 90ft high, with a spired clock tower. A hotel named “The Great Eastern” was built down the entire length of the new frontage. Many expansions came in the early years, which unfortunately created a myriad of entrance and exits. As well as this, the bridge used across the station was not wide enough and on two levels, which caused congestion and confusion for passengers wondering which part of the bridge they should be on.
The station is probably most famous for its role in welcoming children of the “Kindertransport”, an operation started in 1938 to bring children from the ever expanding Nazi Germany. The first children arrived on December 2nd 1938, and by September of the following year, almost 10,000 children would arrive into Liverpool Street, many of which landed at Harwich.
After being damaged in the Second World War, the station remained in a poor state until the 1960’s, when British Rail rebuilt and refurbished the station, giving it a new clock tower.
It was therefore a surprise that in 1974, British Rail would earmark the Liverpool Street station building to be demolished, and an underground terminus put in it’s place. Many campaigns were launched by eminent figures of the day, including the comedian Spike Milligan, to stop the bulldozers from destroying such a beautiful example of a London Terminus. Eventually after a few years, the tireless campaigning worked and Liverpool Street was saved.
A full refurbishment was again undertaken in the 1980s, with the train shed roof being fully repaired and restored. The main roof would follow in 1987. At this time a link would be established to the Cambridge line, enabling trains to terminate at Liverpool Street instead of Broad street. The entire work was finished in 1991, and the station was officially re-opened by the Queen.
Since 2013, the site has had many excavations in preparation for the Elizabeth Line. During one of these, a mass grave was found on the site of the “Bedlam” burial ground, dating back to the 17th Century. This lead to a full excavation of the area, recovering what is believed to be 3,000 bodies.
A quick view of the station today
Due to its complex nature, you could start anywhere at Liverpool street and still get great views. Howver for the sake of this quick walkthrough, we will start at the entrance at Hope Square in Liverpool Street.
Going through the gates, you will be greeted by the ‘Kindertransport’ statue in front of the glass fronted entrance. Take time at this statue to read the plaques and appreciate this significant event in history.
If we now go through the entrance, you will gain the first look at the roof, with the concourse opening out below you. You are on the mezzanine level at this point, so take some time to look around you, admiring the columns which hold up the glass roof which is allowing natural light to flood in.
Looking left, you will see some arched windows, move toward these and then turn towards the concourse, so that you are looking straight down it. It is one of the best views of any London Terminus in my opinion, and a great photo if you can get it.
Move back along the mezzanine, a row of retail is ahead and to your right, but if you carry on down into a corridor, the exit to the bus station will eventally be on your left. Keep going down here for a very good view across the platforms.
Once, you have seen the the platforms, with the fantastic train shed above, head back to the mezzanine level and turn left, so that you can see the arrival and departure board ahead of you, hanging above the concourse.
Once you get to the board, turn right and go underneath it, good views can be had of the concourse left and right here. At the other side, turn right and then left, you should see a rather large marble mural which reaches up toward the roof. This great marble structure is one of the best dedications to those who lost their lives during the First World War at any railway station. Below it are dedications to Captain Charles Fryatt and Sir Henry Wilson, both of whom were decorated in the Great War. Many other dedications and wreaths are normally to be found under these.
Go back past the memorial and then past the departure board, and you should find on your right three brick reliefs. These depict a steam train, a ship and a scene involving coal being put into a firebox.
You will now see an exit which takes you out onto Bishopsgate. The former Great Eastern Hotel is to your left, and the original ballroom ceiling can be seen if you enter this building (which is now a major chain pub). Looking back towards the station you will see a glass canopy with escalators down to concourse level. This is framed with two brick columns, one with a clock tower. Also to be found here to your right is a very unusual metal totem with a London Underground roundel and the Liverpool Street name underneath.
Take the escalators down to the main concourse. Walk forward here and again admire the roof structure. Keep to your left here as you walk along. There are lots of places to sit here, and a set of escalators will take you down to the toilets. Go past these, keeping left until you almost reach the entrance to the Underground station.
You will then see another statue dedicated to the Kindertransport. This was the original one dedicated in 2003, and used to sit in Hope Square. When it was there it contained a glass box with actual artifacts from some of the children, with the standing girl only. When it was relocated however, a sitting boy was added and the glass box removed.
Moving past the Underground entrance, there is another exit ahead of you which takes you to an area with a low veiling and retail outlets. Eventually it leads to the Bus station.
London Liverpool Street is not the largest London Terminus, but this and Marylebone do keep the charm of the old railway, and although I have detailed a few hidden gems, but there are more (but that’s for another time…)
You can see a short video of the trains at Liverpool Street on my YouTube channel below:
Before the re-imagining of London Bridge station in the 2010’s, it was the subject of a huge re-signaling scheme in the mid 1970’s. The idea was to completely redesign the approach, especially across Borough Market Junction. This was a notorious bottleneck where trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, as well as approaching traffic from Kent and Sussex would almost always grind to a halt at peak times.
The solution was to create more throughput by using crossovers from Charing Cross and Cannon Street and using a new flyover at St Johns. Some terminal platforms were also connected to the Charing Cross lines in order to facilitate more throughput.
The entire area would be controlled via a massive new signal control room at London Bridge, which would mean the demise of at least 16 smaller signal boxes nearby.
Amazingly for such a large project, it was finished on time, at a cost of £21.5 million pounds in 1978. Below are some scans from a mini booklet produced by British Rail to commemorate the achievement.
I must thank Mr David Bonnett, who very kindly donated this leaflet and other materials to myself.
The last terminus to be built in London, Marylebone has never really been finished. It was designed with future expansion in mind, but still only has 6 platforms today, and for much of its life only had 4. Very quiet during the day it springs into live during the rush hours, or when a major event is going on at the nearby Wembley complex. However this is its charm. With an expansive concourse, it’s just a nice place to sit and reflect during those quiet times.
A Brief History
The station was built for the Grand Central Railway, a company formed out of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The terminus for that railway was only 2 miles north of Marylebone, but building an extension down to Marylebone would come with massive planning problems.
One of these was from the MCC at the Lords Cricket Ground, who massively objected to the original proposals which would see the railway go straight through the nursery end of the ground. After many years of argument, it was agreed that the railway company would purchase and relocate the orphanage next to the ground. This would enable the railway to be put in place using the ‘cut and cover’ technique. The ground was then put back as it was, with the railway running under the Nursey end.
The work on this completed in 1898, and it was then that the Grand Central Railway title was introduced. The new terminus however suffered from the money spent to do all the extra work, including a high speed railway link for the railway to Nottingham. It was therefore proposed to be a simple but elegant terminus.
A four platform trainshed was put in place, which only covered 495ft of the total 950ft platform length. It was envisioned that more platforms would be added during the early 20th century, but low passenger numbers would mean that this didn’t happen at this time. However the station would boast an extensive concourse, and the glass roof provided natural light which flooded in.
A station hotel was built opposite the station on Melcombe place, and is arguably the most opulent of all the London station hotels. A massive central atrium is inside and it still has that feel of early 20th Century rail travel. It was only converted once, into railway offices between 1945 and 1986. It was then purchased in 1986 and re-opened as a hotel in 1993.
Marylebone was never going to be a busy station however. The nearby Euston and Kings cross had been taking passengers north for over 40 years. Many attempts to close the station occurred between 1960 and 1986 (the Beeching review and cuts of 1966 meant that Marylebone would only provide trains as far north as Birmingham), but eventually was given a full reprieve as British Rail decided to creative a new working group for the station.
This allowed it to be more adventurous with its route planning, including heritage excursions and special event trains. The privatisation of the UK rail network in 1996 saw Chiltern Railways take over, and they have successfully managed it ever since.
A quick view of the current station
Moving toward the main entrance at Melcombe Place, you will see the ornate canopy over the road and taxi rank. Behind you is the impressive Landmark London Hotel. The pillars here are great, black with a red motif around a third of the way up.
As we enter via the main entrance on Melcombe Place you will see above the writing of Marylebone Station in stonework. Next to this you can still see the uncoloured logo of Network South East (the last British Rail operator for the line before privatisation).
Entering the station, note the GCR logos on the gates. In fact this logo can be found all around the station, especially over exits in the brickwork. The station here opens out in front of you, with the platforms directly ahead under the impressive canopy and trainshed.
Move slightly further in and you will se an electronic information board to your left. Underneath this are electronic ticketing machines. Turn left now, and go towards and past these information boards so that they are on your right as you go past. You will see the station information booth in front of you. This is also the station reception as well.
Moving past the information centre you will see yet more electronic ticket machines below some distinctive Network South East branding. If you now turn directly to your right you will see the ticket office. Moving forward a little further and the entrance to the Underground station is on your left.
Turn 180 degrees back towards the information centre and go past it. The ladies toilets are directly in front of you. Now turn right and walk down this part of the concourse. Various retail outlets are on your left, the current M&S store is housed in what used to be the ticketing hall. Some Cash machines are on your right.
Around half way down this hall on the left are three plaques. The top one is the coat of arms of the Great Central Railway, the next is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Sir John Betjeman, and the last one is dedicated to the centenary of the station in 1999.
Moving back down the concourse to the end wall, where a further three plaques sit. These are dedicated to those railway employees who died during World War One. Two are on bronze sheets and the third is on a marble stone.
Carry on down past the plaques, and as it narrows, the Gents toilets are on your right. Now carry on through the arch and past a public house. You will see an exit here, but of more interest is the framed information on the walls, detailing the history of the station. They are very interesting and worth spending time reading.
Instead of exiting into Harewood avenue, lets re-trace our steps back into the station and go towards the Information centre once more. Take time to look up an appreciate the roof here, with the light flooding in over the whole concourse.
Go past the information boards and turn left to see the platforms ahead of you. If you are able, go through the gate lines onto these platforms. You really get the sense of the wider than usual platforms, and there is an extensive bike rack on platform 3 which is nearly two thirds the length of the trainshed.
Move out further past the edge of the roof and look back. This shows off the trainshed really well, with the ornate pillars of red which hold it up. The station really does have a great feel, and although not as grand as say St Pancras, is nonetheless extremely appealing.
A view of trains departing and arriving at Marylebone can be seen below
London Bridge is the oldest of the Termini in London, and one of the combined termini where terminating platforms are alongside through services. Often derided in the past as gloomy and difficult to navigate, a 21st Century makeover was completed in 2018. It is now a sleek modern building, its angled lines smoothed out with a curvy façade on one side. London’s tallest building, The Shard, towers above it, literally pinpointing the stations position.
A brief history
In 1831 a railway was proposed between Greenwich and Tooley Street. Because it would run through very congested streets, it was agreed that the best course of action was to build a viaduct. This would become a huge 878 arch bridge, made from 60 million bricks which were made in Sittingbourne, Kent. Initially the viaduct had a walkway which people could use for the sum of 1 pence, enabling elevated views of the city. However this was closed during the expansion of 1840.
Partly opened in 1836 as far as Spar Road, the full line to London Bridge was opened in December 1836. The station at this time was very basic, steps or ramps up to the platforms which were totally open to the elements having no sheltering roof or trainshed whatsoever.
Expansion came very quickly, with the London and Croydon Railway Company and The South Eastern Railway company taking routes North and South respectively between 1839 and 1842. The increased traffic gave the station a new building in 1844, the first of many rebuilds London Bridge would have.
The most significant of these was in 1850, where the station was divided in two, the South Eastern taking control of the North side, and the newly formed London, Brighton and South Coast railway company the South side. A huge wall was erected, with both sides having differing rules and regulations, causing services such as horse drawn taxis to pay differing charges as they traversed the station.
This remined in place until 1923, when all the southern rail companies were amalgamated into the Southern Railway Company. A footbridge was built to link the two stations in 1928.
The arches under the station were used in the Second World War as air raid shelters, although conditions were very grim. Inspections declared they were unfit for use and demanded improvements to make them both safer and hygienic. Unfortunately, before any real improvements were made, a bomb hit London Bridge in February 1941, killing 68 and injuring a further 175.
A Major rebuild of the infrastructure and station occurred in the 1970’s. This included new signalling and rerouting of the lines in and out of London Bridge. The building was given a modern design, but people would still complain that it was cramped and uninviting.
It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that another rebuild would take place. The most radical and expensive so far, this time they seem to have got it right , as I shall explain in the rest of the blog.
A quick view of the current station
Although I label this as a quick view, the station is so vast that being quick here is not something i’d recommend if you wish to appreciate this new station.
Entering from the underground station, after going up the escalators you enter a passageway which is Joiner Street. Move into Joiner Street and you should soon see on your left the entrance to the Western Arches.
Moving into here, the old pillars that are holding up the railway above you, go down this corridor in a pleasant symmetrical fashion. Shops are placed at the side, and the feel of this section is fantastic.
At the end of the passageway is another intersection, this time with Stanier street. Of note here is the plaques along the wall detailing the history of the station layout, well worth a look if you have the time.
Moving back to the end of the Western arches, and head of you is the main concourse – a sleeper in on one of the walls just as you are about to enter the concourse is dedicated to the opening in 2018.
Turning right here will take you down past more shops on your right, and the main ticket office on your left. Carry on down to the exit and you will see on your left a memorial to the railway workers who died in the first world war. This exit would take you into St Thomas’ street, next to St Thomas’ hospital, should you go through it.
Turning back into the main concourse, head all the way back to the Western Arches and carry on. You will see various gateline entrances to your right, as well as a big escalator and stairs in the middle which will take you up to the upper concourse and the bus station. Lets go up and take a quick look.
Up the escalator ahead of you is the glass frontage of what used to be known as the main entrance to the station. If you were to exit there, the Shard would be immediately to your right, with the bus station immediately in from of you. It is worth going out here just to marvel not only at the Shard, but the impressive all glass frontage to the station here (see the opening picture of this blog post).
Moving around the upper concourse the sense of natural light and space is very evident. Moving to the left you will find gatelines for Platforms 10-15. If you gain access to these platforms, try to take a moment to stand at the end of the terminating platforms, and you will be greeted by a very pleasant sight as the canopy structure over the platforms snakes away from you, yet another good photo opportunity.
Lets go back downstairs to the main concourse, and turn right towards the exit for Tooley Street. Various gatelines will be on your right, as well as an information centre. Exiting into Tooly Street will give you a look at the new sweeping façade at this entrance. This mixes well with the original arches, which can be seen meandering away towards Greenwich. The view as you enter the station again is below.
Moving into the station, we go through a gateline into the inner concourse. Impressive concrete pillars, looking like huge egg timers, are dotted around, with seating around their circumfrence. The space here is very welcoming due to the high ceiling. Various lifts are in the centre too, and ahead of you are the huge escalators which take you to platforms 1-15.
Departure boards are placed around the lifts and on the side walls, really the wealth of information about arriving and departing train services is comprehensive.
I visited during rush hour, and yes it was busy, but the station layout as it is now didn’t seem to have any major congestion points. The station and surrounding structure is still being worked on, but all the major components are open, and it seems that at last London Bridge is able to cope with the passenger numbers it receives.
The video below shows London Bridge platforms at evening rush hour.
The essence of a true commuter station, very quiet during the day but in the morning and evening a hive of activity. Served only by the SouthEastern Railway and serving only Kent and Sussex, this central London hub has a varied but solid history.
A Brief History
The South Eastern Railway Company started construction in 1863, from a design by Sir John Hawkshaw. The railway entered via a 706ft bridge which at this stage only carried 5 lines. This was increased to 10 during the late 1800’s. The engine shed roof was an impressive 190ft wide and more than 680ft long, with a central lantern section which ran almost the entire length.
On the bridge side, two towers sit either side of the bridge, each adorned with a square domed roof and spire. It was found during restoration in 1986, that the east tower contained a water tank, either for replenishing the locomotives or for use in powering the stations hydraulic lift systems.
A hotel was built on the front entrance of the station. At only 5 stories it was one of the smallest station hotels, but had turrets mirroring those of the main towers. Like most railway hotels however, the popularity waned in the early 1900’s and it closed to customers in 1931.
The station officially opened in September 1866, and provided additional services to and from Charing Cross via a 7 minute shuttle, considerably quicker than the 35 minute walk. However, the advent of the district railway a few years later would render these shuttles almost useless.
The trainshed roof was extensively damaged during an air raid in 1941, and engineers deemed that replacing the glass would not be possible. The structure stood in skeleton form until 1958, when it was demolished in the first re-model of the station.
The new office complex which replaced the hotel was derided by critics, and certainly wasn’t as grand as the original Hotel. It was followed in the 1980’s by a ‘floating’ office block above the station platforms, held up by a 6000 ton metal frame. The block nearest the river has a roof garden, and slightly protrudes the two towers.
A quick view of the station today
Going in via the right hand steps on Cannon Street itself, you are greeted by a British Rail Sign hanging from the roof and a blue “Welcome to Cannon Street Station” sign. Immediately at the top of the two flights of stairs to your right is the entrance to the Underground station.
The low ceiling, clad in silver stripes with bright lighting makes you feel penned in. The floor, a cream tile with grey borders almost makes it feel like a department store. This aside, you remember that this is just a “people mover” station, so modern clean almost clinical lines wont be noticed by the thousands using it each day.
To the right is a coffee shop, then the ticketing office and finally the toilets. Straight ahead are the gatelines to platforms 4-7. Look to your left here and a statue called “The Plumbers Apprentice”, which commemorates 400 years of the Worshipful Company of Plumbers. Their hall was once on the ground of the station.
Carry on past the statue and on your right will be ticketing machines and the gatelines to platforms 1-3. Directly ahead is a retail outlet and a pub/restaurant. Turning back towards the street and by the steps on your right is the lift down to the Underground Station.
Moving onto the platforms, ex Network South East overhead clocks continue to click away, and the pillars in the centre of the platform still contain the Network South East colour banding at the base.
As you move outside, to the left is a view over the River Thames to Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast and The Shard. To the Right you will see both Southwark and Blackfriars bridges, as well as the Tate Modern.
But look back towards the station and the full glory of the two original towers rise before you. A very impressive site, and totally at odds with the office block in the middle, yet somehow it does fit together. In my view it only goes to enhance the old structure.
Cannon Street with all its stark modern looks deceives you, and the small things like the Statue, Network South East reminders and of course the towers are reasons to just spend a little more time looking around you, rather than rushing to get that train home.
A gateway to Europe, the finest of stations, but nearly demolished in the 1960’s. An amazing station, with plenty of history, a huge trainshed and a 5 star Hotel attached. The story of St Pancras is long and full of near disaster moments, but now it stands proud as the main Termini of Eurostar, and with it the first station many overseas travellers will see.
A Brief History
The Midland Railway was desperate to get away from sharing Kings Cross with the Great Northern Railway. So when a bill was passed in 1863 for a railway between London and Bedford, they jumped at the chance to construct a new station between Kings Cross and Euston. It would be known as St Pancras, after the local Parish.
William Barlow designed a radical trainshed for the station, 245ft wide, 689ft long and 100ft high, it was the biggest single span roof in the world for a time.
The void left by excavation works was used to store beer and other goods, and was known as ‘the vaults’. This is now a superb shopping arcade linking the station down its spine underneath the trainshed.
The hotel was built to rival the one next door at Kings Cross, and was a highly flamboyant affair, the architecture lending itself to Italian and Belgian influences. It is often seen as the face of St Pancras. However it never seemed to make a profit and was closed in 1935, only to later be used as crew sleeping quarters and offices for British Rail Catering Division.
A concerted effort by many historians and railway enthusiasts (including Sir John Betjeman) stopped the bulldozers destroying the station in the late 1960’s. This however didn’t stop the station from falling into dis-repair.
Amazingly though, a major lifeline was given when in 1994 the government approved St Pancras as the Terminus for the new Eurostar service. A major renovation project started in 2001, and by 2007 after restoration and modernisation (including a modern extension to the trainshed, if not in keeping with the original), St Pancras re opened fully.
A quick view of the current station
As you enter via Pancras Road, through a huge glass façade, the concourse opens out in front of you. To the left, escalators take you down to the underground station, while a lift to your right either takes you down also, but will take you up to the SouthEastern High Speed platforms.
Moving forward slightly, turning right past a coffee shop, ahead is a new pub restaurant and also 3 sets of escalators. Two sets take you up to the HighSpeed platforms, the middle set taking you down to the Underground.
Turning past the pub, moving forward past a retail outlet on your right and food to your left, another retail unit is in front of you. Turning right here will take you to lost property, toilets and the station office. Turning left and carrying down the corridor you will come back to the main concourse, where a departure and arrival board sits above other retail outlets.
Now turn right and go down towards another exit, this is the Midland Road entrance. To your right as you walk down is a ticketing centre, and at the end on your right, access to the Thameslink platforms, seen below.
Back up from Thameslink, go straight on into the old Vaults, which is now a great arcade full of mainly high end retailers, with a few pianos in the centre aisles for the public to use! This area also gives you the first real glimpse of the original trainshed, a glance upwards reveals its vast nature. A quarter of the way down on the left is the entrance to the Eurostar terminal.
Going up a set of stairs brings you to the Grand Terrace, and a statue of Sir John Betjeman. He is looking up, almost encouraging you to do so. The massive trainshed extends out from here and is a superb sight. Looking towards the back, the Hotel can be seen, as well as a clock and an art installation by Tracey Emin. This is part of a series of artworks commissioned by The Royal Academy.
Moving toward the Hotel, another statue is very prominent. This is called “The Meeting Place” and stands at 30ft high. Along its base are castings of various railway events.
Turn 180 degrees and the Eurostar platforms and trainshed are before you.
If you go to the other end of the trainshed on this level, you will come to the platforms for East Midland Trains. Going back downstairs, head back to the back of the arcade and through into the Underground station. Here you will find information, ticketing and entrance to the Circle, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines.
Carry on down this corridor and on your right, you will see a dedication to the Kings Cross fire in 1987.
Following this corridor to the left will take you down to the entrances for the Victoria, Northern and Piccadilly lines. There is also a piano here, if you feel so inclined!
Carry on down the corridor and you will have come full circle if you take the escalators up to the main concourse.
A great station, made better by design, yet old charm can be found if you look for it. Speaking of which, as a little challenge to those who don’t know, try to find this gem in the Underground Stations network of entrances and exits!