London Termini – Marylebone

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.

Ticket machines with the old Network Southeast branding still visible

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.

The marble plaque dedication to railway workers who were killed in the First World War

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.

Information boards at the entrance to the station at Harewood Avenue

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.

The huge bike rack at platform 3

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 back to the trainshed

A view of trains departing and arriving at Marylebone can be seen below


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London Termini – Cannon Street

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.

View to the station entrance from platform 7

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.

The Plumbers Apprentice

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.

The two towers of Cannon Street

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.


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British Rail 411 Unit (4 Cep) and variants “Slam Door”

I make no apologies for this blog.  These are the trains from my area of the country (North Kent) when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The familiar sound of these “Slam Door” trains were the soundtrack to the rush hour, with the sound of said doors ringing through the major London Termini of Charing Cross and Victoria.  So here is a short history of these workhorses of the North Kent and Chatham Main Line.

The 411 unit, also known as the 4Cep, were built for British Rail between 1956 and 1963, mainly ran on the Chatham/North Kent lines.  A total of 133 units were made, mainly just passenger based, although around 22 had buffet cars installed, these were re-categorised as 4 Bep units.  The 4 referred to the 4 car formation, two driving cars which also had standard seating, the middle two cars having a mix of 1st class corridor and standard class corridor coaches.  They had a maximum speed of 90 Mph.

Each area of seating contained a door, which was inherently dangerous as it could be opened at any time.  This lead to many doors being opened way before the stopping, and people would literally jump from a moving train onto the platform.  You really had to stand away from the platform edge when a slam door was coming in, otherwise you may had had a door in the head!

If you had ever ridden in one, or heard one you would not forget it.  They were dangerous, accidents such as the Clapham Rail Crash of 1988 with Vep and Rep variants would prove to be catastrophic.  Replacements such as the Networker and Electrostar would follow, with their automatic doors and safer designs.  But they never quite recaptured the feel and seating comfort of these trains.


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Stations Near Me – 1 – Sittingbourne

As a companion to my ongoing series of potted station histories in the Medway area, this blog subsection will concentrate on other stations near to where I live in Rainham (Kent). The first is Sittingbourne.

Sittingbourne station opened on the 25th January 1858, as part of the East Kent Railway (later to be merged with the South Eastern railway to form the South East and Chatham Railway). At this time, trains would terminate at Chatham and a horse and cart would transfer passengers to Strood, where they would join passengers on the South Eastern Railway.

The large and impressive station building is situated on the “up” line, with 2 platforms, the “down” side connected by a subway. Goods sidings at this time were adjacent to the “up” line, to the east of the main station building. In 1860, services to Sheerness-on-Sea commenced via a new line next to the existing down platform, making this platform an island type.

In 1899, a new footbridge linked the two platforms, complementing the existing subway. It was around this time that the station was also re-named “Sittingbourne & Milton Regis”, a name it was to retain until changed back to “Sittingbourne” in 1970.

The Southern Railway took over in 1923, The goods sidings on the “up” line were removed around this time. In its place, a small goods yard was installed to the side of the “down” platform. Serving primarily the paper mills, it also provided stabling for chemical trains going to Sheerness Steel in the late 20th Century.

Electrification at Sittingbourne came quite late in 1958 (the lines further west through Gillingham had been electrified since the late 1930’s). With electrification, the old semaphore signals were removed, with full electric light signals put in their place.

In recent history, a new bridge to the east of the station building was opened in April 2012. This included a lift for passengers. This was a great improvement on the situation before that, which required passengers who needed assistance to be taken across the tracks via a walkway with a member of station staff. A full refurbishment to the toilets and station building was also undertaken at this time, as well as new platform shelters. The subway was blocked in the early 2000s.

The station building is the oldest piece of railway architecture surviving in the area.

Incidents:

Three major incidents have occurred either in or near the station:

1861 : A derailment just outside the station causing 1 death.

1878 : A collision within the station as a passenger train ran into static goods vans. The fault for this was attributed to the goods shunter. 5 People died.

1966 : 18 vans of a freight train de-railed just past western junction on the “Down” approach to the station. This caused extensive damage to the infrastructure and closure of the entire line for two days. Thankfully there were no casualties.


Some information contained is this blog was obtained from the KentRail Sittingbourne Page .

Photographs (c) David Glasspool and Stacey Harris


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Medway Stations 1 – Rainham

A small potted history of the Railway stations in my home area, Medway, Kent.  I will start with my “Home” Station, Rainham.

The station was opened on 25th January 1858, as “Rainham & Newington”.  It formed part of the London to Dover route of the “East Kent Railway”.  The Station comprised of two platforms and two sidings adjacent to the “up” line platform (for those new to railway terminology, the “up” line is towards London, and the “down” away from London).  The station was re-named “Rainham” in1862 when Newington station was built to the east.  A further 400 yard siding was introduced beside the “down” platform in 1897, and a signal box was also added at this time, enabling the removal of the manual point system.

Ownership by the Southern Railway commenced in 1923.  This was to bring a few cosmetic changes to the station furniture, as well as a footbridge next to the level crossing to the east.

The next major change would not come about until 1957. The “Kent Electrification Scheme” was initiated in the area throughout what was now known as the “Chatham Main Line”. This comprised on a 750V third rail system, with line speeds up to 75mph initially, although this was raised to 90mph around 1962.The advent of British Rail meant changes for Rainham, many not very good.  The major change was the demolition of the original station building, which was replaced by a one story prefab.

New automated level crossing gates were  installed in December 1972.  At sometime in the early 1980’s the remaining siding was removed from behind the “down” platform.

When “Network South East” took over in 1986, the station was revamped in the familiar red and white chevrons, and in 1990 a new station building was opened.  This one was a modern brick structure with a glazed arched roof, and was a vast improvement on the 1970’s prefab.

As part of the 2014-2017 “East Kent Re-Signalling Project”, it was decided that Rainham would have a bay platform added adjacent to platform one on the “up” side.  This involved lengthening platform one considerably to accommodate 12 car trains in this new bay, which was given a designation of “Platform 0”.  New pointwork to the west of the station was installed to service the platform, and new SPAD (Signal Passed At Danger) signal was placed at the eastern end of platform 1.  The new platform arrangements are seen below, facing to the west with the new platform 0 to the left of the picture :

Rainham_Bay_Platform_1

The future of Rainham Station is bright.  Since 2009, “Javelin” 395 units have stopped here, giving access to high speed services to St Pancras International.  In 2018 a Thameslink service started from the bay platform to Luton via Abbey Wood and St Pancras.  This will enable passengers to access the new Crossrail “Elizabeth Line” via Abbey Wood.

A video I have taken of  37 800 travelling through Rainham Station can be found on my YouTube channel, just click the link below :

37 800 passes through Rainham Station

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