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The Romance of St Pancras Railway Station

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For the traveller walking into St Pancras International Station, they would look around and consider it a masterpiece of Railway Station design, however this disguises a rather chequered past.

St Pancras was considered one of finest of the “new” London station built in the Victorian age, the train shed, completed in 1868 by the engineer William Henry Barlow, was the largest single-span structure built in the world at that time. The front of the station was taken up by the Midland Grand Hotel, designed by George Gilbert Scott, an illustrious example of Victorian Gothic architecture.

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Product of the boom in railways in the 19th century it was in the 20th century that problems began to appear, the merger of a number of railway companies meant that Euston became the main London terminus serving the Midlands and the North. By 1935 The Midland Grand Hotel was closed and used for offices and during the Second World War bombing damaged the famous train shed.

By the 1960s St Pancras was seen as surplus to requirements for the now state owned British Railways and plans were made to demolish the station and the former Hotel.
These plans provoked strong and successful opposition, with the campaign led by the later Poet Laureate, John Betjeman.

The completion of Channel Tunnel held out hope that St Pancras would become the Eurostar terminus in London, the go ahead for this plan led to one of the largest renovations of a railway complex in the UK, costing an estimated 800 million pounds the station and the former hotel were dramatically restored to or even surpassed their former glory and now included upmarket shopping areas.

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Walking through the Gothic masterpiece now called St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the visitors are faced with a nearly 30 feet bronze statue called The Meeting Place  by Paul Day, the statue tries to depict the romance of the  railway station but in reality the romance is in the incredible restored Train shed roof and the wonderfully placed statue of Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman gazing at the roof which he helped to save.

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Strangely as you walk along the platform, the huge Paul Day statue disappears below the station clock and the smell of the Eurostar trains takeover, perhaps not the romance of steam trains but a nod back to the glory days of the elegance of the Orient express.

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To show how far the station has come,people not even travelling come into the station to use the bars, cafes and shops or gaze at the amazing roof.

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If you are a visitor in the area, take a short detour into one of London’s finest railway stations and breathe in the romance of train travel.

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Kings Cross Station, Boudicca and Harry Potter


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King’s Cross station is one of Britain’s major railway terminus  with high speed inter-city connections to destinations in Yorkshire, the North East and northern and eastern Scotland. King Cross is tied closely to St Pancras sharing the tube station on the London Underground network.

King’s Cross was built in 1851–1852, the main design was by Lewis Cubitt of the well known Cubitt family which was based on two great arched train sheds, with a brick structure at the end. In contrast to the ornate and decorative St Pancras, King’s Cross station was built to be based on efficient functionality.

The heyday of Kings Cross was between the 1930s and 1960s when it was the terminus of the high speed lines from Scotland and the North.  Some of the most famous steam trains of the time, the Flying Scotsman, Gresley and the record breaking Mallard steamed into King’s Cross.

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In 1972, a new frontage containing a passenger area and ticket office was built to the front of the station, although considered to be temporary, it was still there 40 years later. In 2005, a £500 million restoration was planned that would return the original roof to its former glory and restore the Grade I-listed façade of the original station.

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A new concourse was built to facilitate movement around the station and a piazza on the front of the original façade.

The opening of the restored Kings Cross and St Pancras are part of a massive regeneration of an area that had a less than attractive reputation in the last 30 years.

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As well as its place in railway history , King’s Cross is also known for two very different reasons, one of the oldest legends related to Kings Cross was related to Roman times when the area was supposed to be the scene of a battle between Boudicca’s Iceni tribe and the Roman Army. This has led to the a series of stories that the Ancient Queen is buried under platform 9 and her ghost stalks the station.

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A more recent phenomenon related to Kings Cross is the Harry Potter novels by J K Rowling, according to the books Harry and his friends depart from the fictional Platform 9¾ on the Hogwarts Express to go to Hogwarts School.

King’s Cross have entered into the spirit of Harry Potter by creating a fictional Platform 9¾ which has a luggage trolley  impaled within the wall, which is a mecca for  Harry Potter fans for photographs.

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There is also an Harry Potter shop nearby to buy your Harry Potter merchandise.

Kings Cross perhaps does not have the gothic splendour of nearby St Pancras but is worth a short visit to understand another style of Victorian Railway architecture .

A Short History of Euston Railway Station

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Euston railway station is a London railway terminus serving as the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line, the main gateway to the West Midlands, the North West, North Wales and part of Scotland.

Unlike the multi million pounds development of St Pancras and King’s Cross, nearby Euston has not had a recent makeover and stands rather forlorn on the busy Euston Road.
However this was not always the case, Euston was the first inter-city railway station in London, opening on 1837 as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway.

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The original station was built by William Cubitt and  designed by architect Philip Hardwick, although initially it had only two platforms, it had an impressive entrance known as the Euston Arch.

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The station underwent rapid change in the 19th century and by the 1930s was increasingly congested, however it was not till the 1960s that the decision was made to demolish the old station and the famous Euston Arch. Although there was considerable opposition, the demolition went ahead and a new building constructed.

The new station was never popular and over time the destruction of the old station was considered “one of the greatest acts of Post-War architectural vandalism in Britain”

Apart from the lodges on Euston Road and Robert Stephenson statue now on the forecourt, little of the old station survives.

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There is a large statue by Eduardo Paolozzi named Piscator  at the front of the courtyard.

In the twenty-first century, many plans have been put forward to redevelop Euston, however the announcement that Euston would be the terminus for the proposed High Speed Two Line  might indicate that Euston might not be the ugly duckling of London railway stations for much longer.

A Short History of Waterloo Station

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London Waterloo station is a South London railway terminus, with over 90 million passengers per year it is Britain’s busiest railway station.
Much of Waterloo’s traffic is local or suburban, although the station was the London terminus for Eurostar international trains from 1994 until 2007.

The London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) opened the station on 11 July 1848 as ‘Waterloo Bridge Station’ , it was designed by William Tite. Waterloo was not designed as a grand terminus and growth and expansion was largely piecemeal which led to a great deal of confusion which led to the station becoming a bit of a Music Hall joke at the end of the 19th century.

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Eventually a decision was made to build a new station building which was eventually completed in the 1920s, later in  the main entrance was built a Victory Arch as a memorial to the staff who were killed during the two world wars.

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A large four-faced clock hangs in the middle of the main concourse is a famous meeting place, and  a statue of Terence Cuneo by Philip Jackson was erected in the station in 2004.

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Waterloo station has featured in a large number of novels including Three Men in a Boat and The Wrong Box. It has also featured in a number of songs most famously the Kinks’ song “Waterloo Sunset”

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