They are among Britain’s most majestic architectural monuments having been in place for nearly two centuries in some cases, but most people rushing to catch a train would never think to pause and study their grandeur.
And now a stunning set of photographs taken for a book over the past couple of years when the stations across London were very quiet due to lockdowns has revealed just what commuters are missing if they fail to look up.
From William Barlow’s magnificent roof over St Pancras built in the 1860s to the £550million modernist King’s Cross redesign finished in 2012, ‘London’s Great Railway Stations’ covers a wide breadth of different styles.
The earliest London terminals opened in the 1830s amid the first railway boom, with London Bridge becoming the capital’s first passenger terminus in December 1836, six months before Queen Victoria came to the throne.
The last main line to London, the Great Central to Marylebone, was opened in 1899, two years before Victoria died – and the most recent development, the much-delayed Crossrail, is due to open in full by the end of 2022.
The stations featured in the book are Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Euston, Fenchurch Street, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Marylebone, Paddington, St Pancras, Victoria and Waterloo.
The photos were taken by Benjamin Graham, who is a club-circuit lecturer, international photo-tour leader and residential course photography tutor, and the book was written by public transport history expert Oliver Green.
Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy, who wrote a forward, said: ‘Benjamin’s newly commissioned photographs will remind you of just how fabulous many of these stations are, and how much we should treasure them.’
He added: ‘The architecture of the great railway era has for the most part aged extraordinarily well, and the country, and particularly London, is all the richer for our great stations.’
- London’s Great Railway Stations by Oliver Green and Benjamin Graham is published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group. The book was released on December 7 and is available for £35 in hardback
PADDINGTON — The glorious interior of London Paddington in West London, with Great Western Railway’s newly introduced bi-mode Intercity Express Trains, built by Hitachi. Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s triple-span iron-and-glass roof built when the station was opened in 1854 remains among the most magnificent architectural structures in the world for any transport hub
ST PANCRAS — Eurostar trains prepare for departure under William Henry Barlow’s roof at St Pancras – the world’s tallest and widest single span structure at the time. It has been in place since the station opened in 1868. The cast-iron trainshed was designed to be 700ft long and reach 100ft above the first floor level of the tracks, tied into the brick piers of the side walls
WATERLOO — The former Waterloo International terminal for Eurostar trains, which opened in 1994 but closed in 2007 when High Speed 1 opened to St Pancras. It lay unused for 12 years until the platforms could be converted back for domestic rail, re-opening in 2019. The book’s authors say the ‘brilliant design was a shocking waste of public money through poor planning’
VICTORIA — Railway lines exit from London Victoria, up the bank to Grosvenor Bridge and over the River Thames then past the shell of Battersea Power Station, now being restored to offices and apartments. Train sheds are pictured on the left, with the main line seen on the right. The station was built in 1860 as two separate stations next to each other, later combined into one
LIVERPOOL STREET — A nearly-empty main concourse at London Liverpool Street station which was expanded, opened up and part-reconstructed in the 1980s, with decorative features such as the Great Eastern Railway Company war memorial (top right, above the Underground sign) repositioned. The station, which is located in the City of London, opened in 1874
LONDON BRIDGE — A wet winter’s night at the new London Bridge station, which stands on the site of the first passenger railway terminus in London, which opened on December 14, 1836. The station was comprehensively redeveloped by Network Rail between 2009 and 2017 with the rebuilding of all 15 platforms and the addition of two major new street-level entrances
CHARING CROSS — The bulk of post-modern Charing Cross, seen looking west over Waterloo Bridge. The rear of the station is seen on the right. Charing Cross is the only main-line terminus conveniently serving the West End of London, and opened in 1864 as a result of the South Eastern Railway’s determination to compete with its London, Chatham and Dover Railway rival
ST PANCRAS The original vehicle entrance to St Pancras at ground level, fully restored in 2012 but now pedestrianised. The ground-floor vaults below the first floor platforms were built with cast-iron pillars and girders to support the station floor deck above. They were divided into a grid based on the dimensions of the brewery warehouses in Burton-upon-Trent
KING’S CROSS — King’s Cross station, which first opened in 1852, was redeveloped by Network Rail in a project completed in 2012 which restored and reglazed the original arched roof and removed the 1970s extension at the front. This meant the area between the station façade and Euston Road could be cleared to create an open air plaza named King’s Cross Square
PADDINGTON — One of architect Matthew Digby Wyatt’s Moorish window designs in 1854 for the original Great Western Railway offices, overlooking platform one at Paddington station. Less than a decade later, the world’s first urban underground railway opened in January 1863 between Paddington and Farringdon Street, giving GWR a direct onward link to the City
WATERLOO — A beautiful-decorated window over the former cab entrance at Waterloo station, which is now visible close up for the first time from the balcony around the concourse that opened in 2012. Today, Waterloo is the busiest railway station in Britain, used by more than 80 million passengers in a normal year and linking the capital with much of the South West
LONDON BRIDGE — A wider pedestrian route at London Bridge station was created below the platforms through the Western Arcade to Joiner Street and the Underground station during the major £1billion redevelopment between 2009 and 2017. This change meant relocating the existing shops into renovated barrel vaults set back from the arcade on either side
LIVERPOOL STREET The west side of Liverpool Street railway station, which was restored and reconstructed in the 1980s. As part of the six-year redevelopment, four new brick towers in Victorian style – which were inspired by the design of the famed Great Eastern Hotel – were installed in pairs to mark the station entrances on Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate
VICTORIA — The listed roof of the former London, Chatham and Dover Railway part of London Victoria station was designed by John Fowler, engineer of the Metropolitan Railway. This side of the station was once run entirely separately from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and there was no physical connection between them, to the confusion of travellers
KING’S CROSS — The new departures concourse building on the west side of King’s Cross station, with its spectacular roof support structure, opened in 2012. The area around King’s Cross and St Pancras, which are a short walk away from each other, is known as London’s most complex transport hub because three surface and six Underground lines meet in the same area
London’s Great Railway Stations is by Oliver Green and Benjamin Graham. Pictured is the cover image of Paddington station