Christian Wolmar: Cathedrals of Steam

Christian Wolmar, incomparable historian of railways, entertained us on 10th June with snippets from his book, Cathedrals of Steam: how London’s great stations were built – and how they transformed the city.

Ever ask yourself why the stations were built where they are? To avoid too much demolition, the stations had to be built outside the circle of the Circle Line. The main driver (no pun intended) was not, as one might suppose, Planning, but Competition between the private companies, all of which wanted to be as close as possible to the West End.

Another aim was to build beautiful. The first proper station was Euston, which, his illustrations showed, had a beautiful entrance and an amazing staircase; Brunel designed Paddington as a Cathedral, with a transept, Bishopsgate had an Italianate balustrade, Charing Cross was built in the French Beaux Arts Style. He praised Betjeman for saving St Pancras.

The talk was so stimulating we are going to go and have a look.

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