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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”