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The English Railway Station
The English Railway Station
The railway station is one of England's most distinctive and best-loved building-types. Yet over the past century the nation's stations have often been overlooked or dismissed, and have suffered accordingly.
Today a new interest in railways - fuelled by the need for sustainability, by a growing awareness of the realities of transport economics and the dedication of enthusiastic volunteers at heritage railways across the country - has sparked a renaissance for the historic railway station and a new appreciation of the aesthetic virtues and regeneration potential of imaginitive station architecture. Includes Carlisle Citadel station.
Hardback; 276mm x 219mm
B&W and colour photographs throughout
Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
The English Railway Station by Steven Parissien. English Heritage. £25.
Today there may be just a metal shelter giving little protection from
the wind and rain and a narrow bench to sit and wait. Once each small
town had its railway station with its station master and porter
and ticket collector. It would be a proud building, both domestic and
grand, ornate and practical. There would be first class and second class
waiting rooms on the larger stations and a huge glass canopy to fill
with steam from the panting engines, eager to eat up yet more miles as
they hurried on their busy journeys.
The Victorians built their stations in grand style. They wanted palaces
for steam, buildings to celebrate the glory of the age, the triumph of
British industry and the pride of each railway company. They
were extraordinary buildings. Carlisle's Citadel Station was a wonder of
the age. A vast steel and class canopy arches high above the platforms
which reach out along the rails. The building itself is like a Tudor
palace, a creation of fantasy to soothe the nervous passenger. Those
early trains could appear like monsters, travelling at alarming speeds
and pushing out clouds of steam. There were accidents which
the newspapers thrilled to report. The steam age was an exciting and
frightening time and the men who built the stations built them to tame
William Tite designed Carlisle to be a model of old-fashioned elegance.
Steven Parissien calls it "splendid" and "magnificent". Carlisle was a
"junction" station, a station shared by several railway companies. In
America they were known as "union stations" and found in most cities. In
England competition between the great railway companies was so fierce
that each company wanted its own station and apart from Carlisle and
Bristol, there were very few junction stations.
The citadel Station was to be the meeting point of seven different
companies. The Newcastle, the Maryport, and the Lancaster and Carlisle
Railway Companies and The Caledonian and the Glasgow and South-Western
and the little Port Carlisle Railway were already there. "When the
Midland Railway arrived in the burgeoning city in 1876 via
its spectacular if vastly expensive Settle Carlisle line, it was not
encouraged to build a separate station on a different site, in the usual
muddled British way, but was happily accommodated within an enlarged
Tite built a fine station at Southampton and created a playful Tudor
Gothic fantasy at Windsor and Eton with "a jaunty, stone-capped turret"
strategically placed so that station staff would have sight of Queen
Victoria's carriage as it emerged from the gates of Windsor Castle. The
same grand rectangular Tudor windows that Tite thought appropriate for
the Queen's station, are also to be found in the two flanking gable-end
pavilions at Penrith station."
For Steven Parissien, the Citadel Station, "built in fine, local red
sandstone, its grand five bay buttressed porte-cochere . . .
nicely complemented by a fine, ecclesiastical-looking clock tower
topped by an open-stoned octagon" is Tite's "Tudorist masterpiece".
Half a century ago the great Greek Arch at Euston was demolished. Today
St Pancras has emerged phoenix-like from the wreck of abuilding that
grew increasingly desolate as decade followed decade. Out
railway architecture was the pride of the age, Fortunes were spent on
buildings as vast and spectacular as Newcastle Station. They were
symbols of industrial success.
Steven Parissien reminds us that, although much has been lost, we still
have a magnificent heritage of railway architecture.
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