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.
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.
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.