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History and Progress – London’s Famous Rail Stations

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The emergence of locomotives to London signalled great progress in Great Britain. They connected the previously distant, and almost mystical, capital with the provinces in a way that had never before been achieved.

The railways have continuously shaped the development of London – from the movement of livestock to market in the mixed economy of the early industrial revolution; right up to modern day with business travellers, commuters and tourists flocking to London by train from all corners of the country and even from mainland Europe.

At its heart, London has a number of iconic railway stations that are vital to the functioning of the city. These stations, as much a part of London as the Bow bells, each have their own history and tell a tale of growth and progress through good times and bad.


St Pancras – gateway to Europe

Two of London’s largest railway stations, Kings Cross and St Pancras, lie within a short distance of each other and are a major hub for transport into and out of the city. The latter of the two, St Pancras station, has recently had a multi-million pound refurbishment that has renovated the original Victorian gothic façade and developed a new terminal for the Eurostar trains that link London to Paris and onwards into mainland Europe.


The glorious gothic façade of St Pancras station from Euston Road


While the exterior of the building is the main attraction, the inside of the station has also undergone a major overhaul with new platforms and public art to commemorate the arrival of the Eurostar service to the terminal. The glass domed roof owes much to the original style of the Victorian railway architects and lets as much light, as the built-up area around the station will allow, into the concourse.


Euston – oldest of the London Terminals

Euston station is the oldest mainline terminus in London and rubs shoulders with London Bridge to be the oldest railway station of any kind in the whole of the city. Opened in the 1830s, Euston brings train traffic to and from the West Midlands and North West of England.


It’s Euston, Jim, but not as we know it


The Euston you see today owes more to the refurbishment of the station carried out in the 1960s and is more concrete slab than elegant architecture. The original station platforms were covered with an elaborate wrought iron roof that was very much the fashion in design in Victorian England. Its place in railway history is much more glorious than the building that now stands in the stead of the original terminal.


Liverpool Street Station – welcoming the new railway

In the east of London, Liverpool Street station is the next to see development in its purpose and design. As the central London hub for the new Crossrail service, Liverpool Street is due to be redeveloped with new platforms and access at street level to make the station more user-friendly for those who struggle to get up to the concourse using stairs.

Retaining many of its original features, the addition of Crossrail to the services offered by the station will do little to alter the outward appearance at Liverpool Street. Access to the new link from East to West London will be underground, although the development will bring more space and easier access to the other overground and underground services offered at the station.



London’s railway stations have provided a vital link to the rest of the country since the early 19th century and continue to serve the city and bring people from across the country and the globe to the heart of the capital. From the traditional to the much more modern, the development of London through the ages is reflected in the railway buildings that serve the city.



Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

Follow the Path of the London Marathon

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If you were to ask anyone – visitor or local – the sporting event for which London is most famous, the vast majority would say the London Marathon. Taking place in April each year, the marathon has been run on a course that takes in some of London’s most recognisable sights since the 1980s and this year’s race sees it enter its 22nd year.

The marathon is a colourful event, with large numbers of competitors turning out in fancy dress as part of their pledge to raise money for charities. In fact, the London Marathon currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fundraising event in the world and is expected to raise around £50 million for good causes at this year’s meet.


Get in at the start

Due to the huge number of people who turn out to compete in the marathon, there are three starting points along the length of the circular course. After nearly three miles, giving the runners chance to spread out, the course converges and follows the same route to the finish.

The red start is in the south part of Greenwich Park, which is a great place to go to soak up the marathon atmosphere and enjoy a picnic as the hardy marathon runners go by on their way to completing 26 miles of the course. Of all the starting points it’s probably the best one for enjoying the camaraderie without some of the crush at the other starting points.


london 2012 marathon greenwich park

Just some of the 30,000 participants at the Greenwich Park start of the 2012 London Marathon

The three different starting points come together again in Woolwich, close to the Royal Artillery Barracks. Taking up a spectator spot at this location means you’ll be able to see people coming from every angle to re-join the course with their fellow runners and enjoy cheering the competitors as they race towards their first five kilometre interval.


Getting into the swing

Runners will be getting to the mid-point of their race around Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. During the weekend, when the marathons are always run, Canary Wharf is usually relatively deserted as the business district tends to be busiest during the working week. However, the area comes alive for the marathon, with competitors winding their way around some of the tallest skyscrapers in the country as they make their way towards Poplar for the penultimate stage of the race.


marathon fancy dress

The marathon sees some fantastic fancy dress

In for the finish

By far the most popular place for spectators to congregate is along Embankment, which makes up the last-but-one mile of the marathon course. Along its length, Embankment presents runners with a steady climb that challenges them right at the point when most are really starting to flag. Having the cheers and support of the crowd at this point is hugely welcomed by the runners, and taking a place along this stretch and adding your voice to the cheers can make the difference between someone running to the finish or deciding to give up and walk.

The very last few metres of the course is on The Mall, in the sight of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and gives the opportunity to see some of the tens of thousands of starters make it across the finish line to complete one of the greatest marathon events in the world.



For those taking part in the marathon, London is particularly well-known for being a flat course and as such has led to some extremely fast times and is known for its unpredictable results. Whether you’re interested in watching the professional athletes slug it out for first place or just want to enjoy the atmosphere of the biggest running meet in the country, you’ll find something to enjoy at every point along the marathon’s 26 mile course.



Image Credits: Kim T and Adam G and shimelle

Great London Galleries

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As the capital city of Britain, it’s not unexpected that London has a wide and varied range of museums and galleries. Collectively they house some of the nation’s greatest treasures and provide open  viewing to the general public. The city boasts a number of galleries across its sprawl located in buildings as interesting and historical as the works of art they exhibit.

From Trafalgar Square to the South Bank, much of London’s history can be told through its galleries and the buildings in which they are housed.


National Portrait Gallery

Behind London’s iconic Trafalgar Square you will find the National Portrait Gallery, adjoining the National Gallery on St Martin’s Place. While the National Gallery has a number of pieces of artistic importance on display in its rooms, the National Portrait Gallery has a unique slant on the art it puts on show.

As the title suggests, the gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of artistic portraiture. Selected on the grounds of the significance of the sitter rather than the fame of the artist, the rooms in the gallery are filled by notable figures in British public life through the ages from Shakespeare to the Queen.

While the majority of the portraits in the gallery are painted or sketched, the current temporary exhibition focuses on the boundary-pushing photographic portraiture of Man Ray which runs until the end of May 2013.


Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is a fantastic example of a piece of iconic London architecture that’s been repurposed for the modern age. Formerly a huge power station generating electricity for the city, the great turbine hall of the Tate Modern now houses some of the most grand and spectacular works of art of the modern era.



London’s Tate Modern gallery, in the former Bankside Power Station, is home to some of the world’s finest modern art


While there’s a whole host of fascinating pieces of art on the inside of the gallery, the building itself is a dramatic work of art in its own right. The Art Deco exterior with its central chimney dominates the Bankside section of the Thames and, following its life as a power station for the city, the heavy equipment was removed and instead replaced with contemporary art from across the globe.

Alongside the permanent collection, the gallery has a number of visiting exhibits to showcase famous artists or schools of art. The work of Roy Lichtenstein is currently on show until the end of May 2013.


Victoria and Albert Museum

Set in the heart of the museum quarter in South Kensington, the Victoria and Albert Museum is another gallery with a difference. Exhibiting a collection that’s part-artefact, part artwork, the gallery is dedicated to the development of the decorative arts including interior design, clothing and textiles, throughout the years.

Rather than being dedicated to the worship of fashion, the Victoria and Albert Museum looks at the way in which clothing and textiles have reflected the time when they were developed and the creative expression that they afforded to the designer and the wearer at their time of creation. Amongst some of the most spectacular exhibits is a cape made from the silk of the Golden Orb spider, created by designers Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, which has caused quite a stir.



Made entirely from the undyed silk of the golden orb spider, this exquisitely embroidered piece was exhibited in summer 2012

The gallery has some wonderful Victorian- and Edwardian-style décor in its restaurants and tea rooms, which are well worth a visit between exhibits.



From the deeply historic to much more contemporary, London has a whole host of galleries that are striking from the outside and rich in history. For those that don’t wish to travel, it’s possible to sample London art trends from the comfort of your own home via online art galleries such as



Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 and 2

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