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“There is a great deal more difficulty than would at first be imagined in laying out a railway station; and, perhaps, in every one now in existence, if it had to be entirely built over again, some change would be desirable: there are so many things to be amalgamated, and such various accommodation to be provided, that the business becomes exceedingly complicated.”

The History of the Railway Connecting London and Birmingham, Peter Lecount (1839).


Euston Square Depot. South front of the Propylæum, or entrance gateway, with two Pavilions, or Lodges, on each side, for Offices by John Cooke Bourne, 1838.
The ‘Great Gateway to the North,’ the entrance Portico at Euston Station.

“The Grand Entrance is formed of a majestic Doric portico, similar to the Propylea of the Greek cities, with antæ and two lodges on either side, forming offices for booking parcels, &c. and extending about 300 feet in width, the centre being opposite to a wide opening into Euston-square.  It was erected by Messrs. Cubitt, after the designs of Philip Hardwick, Esq., the successful architect of Goldsmith’s Hall, City Club House, and other first rate edifices.  The proportions of this splendid erection are gigantic, and the portico may be considered the largest in Europe, if not in the world.  The diameter of the columns is eight feet six inches; their height forty-two feet; the intercolumniation twenty-eight feet, forming the carriage entrance; and the total height, to the apex of the pediment, seventy two feet. It is built of Bramley Fall stone; of which, in this erection alone, above 75,000 cubic feet were consumed.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and Lecount (1839).

“When the Great Northern Railway was about to build a London terminus, Sir William Cubitt declared that a good station could be built at King’s Cross for less than the cost [£35,000] of the ornamental archway at Euston Square.

The History of the London and North-Western Railway, Wilfred L. Steel (1914).

The Grand Junction Canal, [1] the Railway’s near neighbour for many miles, has changed little since it was opened at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  Although most of its wharves and docks disappeared with its trade many years ago ― a change spurred on by the opening of the London and Birmingham Railway ― the waterway would be immediately recognisable to Jessop and Barnes, its engineers, were they to return today, despite what to them would surely be an inconceivable change in the character of the traffic it now conveys. [2]

Robert Stephenson, however, would find far less resemblance between the southern section of the West Coast Main Line (as it now is) and the railway that he built.  Although much of the civil engineering depicted in John Cooke Bourne’s idyllic scenes remains, it is festooned with high tension cables and associated paraphernalia, tampered with by track widening schemes [3] and often obscured by modern development.  Another very noticeable change would be to the size and speed of the rolling stock, made possible, in part, by the heavy (around 120 lbs per yard) continuous welded steel rail laid on pre-stressed concrete sleepers in a bed of crushed granite ballast.  Likewise, colour light signals have replaced the top-hatted ‘policeman’ with their flags and signal lamps, stationed in the open at points along the line (they can be sometimes be glimpsed in contemporary scenes by Cooke Bourne and other artists).  And were he to return, Stephenson could not help but notice the remarkable changes that have been made to the Railway’s station architecture ― one wonders what he and Hardwick would make of today’s utilitarian but æsthetically deprived termini.  Almost none of the Railway’s original station architecture survives, its stations being altered, sometimes rebuilt and sometimes relocated within a few years of its opening; and as a coup-de-grâce, the remnants of the great termini at Euston and at New Street succumbed to the demolisher’s wrecking ball, victims of the architectural vandalism of the 1960s (part of Curzon Street ― Grade I. listed ― remains, although it rather looks from its very sorry condition as if the building is being encouraged to fall down!).

The New Euston, 1968.

This chapter draws on contemporary descriptions of some of the London and Birmingham Railway’s principal stations as they existed during its early years.



Stephenson’s first set of deposited plans for the Railway are dated November 1830.  They show its London terminus situated to the north of Hyde park, west of the Edgeware Road and adjacent to the confluence of the Grand Junction and Regent’s canals, an area of west London now known as ‘Little Venice’.

The London Terminus at Paddington as conceived in 1830.

Stephenson’s second set of plans deposited in November 1831, show the London terminus located at a point slightly to the north of Battlebridge Basin on the Regent’s Canal and adjacent to the present day ‘York Way’, a name adopted in 1938 but at that time named ‘Maiden Lane’.

Camden Town - plan dated November 1831.

The area has changed greatly since 1831.  At that time it was populated mainly with market gardens and pasture:

“The line from Kilburn to Camden Town then ran through unbroken country; and not only so, but the advance of the Hampstead Road, considered as a street, had been so limited, that a thin crust of houses, as it were, only lined its course; and with the exception of crossing Park Street and the Hampstead Road itself, hardly a single house of any respectable size was touched by the extension.  To Park Street, the line ran southward through fields of stiff clay pasture; from Park Street to Hampstead Road, its site was chiefly occupied by small and not very well tended market-gardens, and a little colony of firework makers had their cottages or rather huts in this intramural desert.  South of the Hampstead Road, the fields and farm buildings of a great milk purveyor reached nearly to Seymour Street.”

Personal Recollections of English Engineers, Francis Conder (1868).

When applying for an Act of Parliament in the 1833 session, the Company’s intension was by then to locate their London terminus north of the Regent’s Canal at Camden Town, and that is what Parliament authorised:

“V.  And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the said Company and they are hereby empowered to make and maintain a Railway, with all proper Works and Conveniences connected therewith, in the Line or Course, and upon, across, under, or over the Lands delineated on the Plan and described in the Book of Reference deposited with the respective Clerks of the Peace for the Counties of Middlesex, Hertford, Buckingham, Northampton, Warwick, and Worcester, the Liberty of Saint Alban, and the City of Coventry; that is to say commencing on the West Side of the High Road leading from London to Hampstead, at or near to the first Bridge Westward of the Lock on the Regent's Canal at Camden Town in the Parish of Saint Pancras in the County of Middlesex, and terminating at or near to certain Gardens called Novia Scotia Gardens, in the Parishes of Aston juxta Birmingham and Saint Martin Birmingham in the County of Warwick . . . . ”

The Act of 3 Gulielmi IV. Cap. xxxvi. for making a Railway from London to Birmingham. Passed 6th May 1833.

From the outset, the directors would have wished for a terminus nearer the centre of London and of business activity, which would also have permitted the Company’s freight and passenger activities to be separated rather than collocated at Camden.  However, to extend the line further south would have involved acquiring land from Lord Southampton, an implacable opponent of the Railway and a contributor to the parliamentary defeat of the first London and Birmingham Railway Bill.  Hence, the directors considered it prudent to avoid confrontation with the noble lord.  A further reason [4] was to keep the Railway’s construction cost within the parliamentary estimate of £2,500,000, for to extend the Line further south, considerable engineering difficulties would need to be overcome in crossing London’s roads and sewers, and in allowing sufficient clearance over another obstacle that lay in the its path, the Regent’s Canal.

However, following passage of the first London and Birmingham Railway Act, attitudes towards railways in general began to change:

“Scarcely, however, had the line been begun, when Lord Southampton began to entertain different views with regard to railways.  The success of George Stephenson’s lines, the Stockton and Darlington and the Liverpool and Manchester, was admitted to be beyond a doubt.  The value of land adjacent to them had everywhere increased, in some places had increased enormously.  London residents began to see that it would be to their interest to get the London and Birmingham terminus as near them as possible; and Lord Southampton perceived that the extension of the line through his estate would greatly increase its value.”

The Life of Robert Stephenson, J. C. Jeaffreson (1866).

In the light of changing attitudes, Stephenson suggested to the Board that they locate their terminus nearer the centre of London; according to Jeaffreson, this suggestion “was rewarded with an emphatic and almost unanimous snubbing by the gentlemen assembled who feared to take so bold a step.”  But the Board eventually saw sense.  The necessary land was purchased, including a large tract at Euston from the Duke of Bedford, [5] and application was made to Parliament for an Act to authorise the line to be extended southwards from Camden Town:

“The Directors believing that it would be for the interest of the Company that passengers by the railway should have a nearer access to the metropolis than is afforded by the station at Camden Town, caused surveys and estimates to be made of a line, which the Engineer recommended, about a mile in length, without tunnel, from the present termination to Euston Grove.  Having ascertained that no opposition will be offered to the measure, and the terms on which the quantity of Land required for this purpose may be procured from the respective owners, and that no more favourable or less expensive line of approach can be found, the Directors recommended to the Proprietors that this extension of the line should be adopted.”

The Birmingham Gazette, 23rd February 1835.

And here lies a ‘might have been’; how would Euston look today if the Station had become a joint terminus with the Great Western Railway?  For a time this was considered possible, for while the Euston extension was being planned, the Great Western Railway Bill, then before Parliament, had been drawn up to reflect a ban imposed by the Metropolitan Road Commissioners on the line crossing certain highways to the west of London.  The outcome was that the Great Western Railway Act (1835) specified a terminus in the vicinity of today’s Willesden Junction, [6] the intention being that the line would continue from this point over shared track to a terminus adjacent to that of the London and Birmingham Railway at Euston.  Sufficient land was therefore bought on which to construct four tracks into Euston and to accommodate both stations.  Fortuitously, as things turned out, negotiations with the Great Western Railway Company broke down leaving the London and Birmingham with a wider trackbed into Euston and more land on which to site their terminus than the Company would otherwise have acquired, and which their operations soon grew to fill.

The Act authorising what became known as the ‘Euston Extension’ received the Royal Assent in May 1835:

“WHEREAS an Act was passed in the Third Year of the Reign of His present Majesty, intituled An Act for making a Railway from London to Birmingham; and by the said Act several Persons were incorporated, by the Name and Style of ‘The London and Birmingham Railway Company’ for carrying into execution the said Undertaking: And whereas it is expedient that the Line of the said Railway should be extended from its present Commencement near the Hampstead Road in the Parish of Saint Pancras in the County of Middlesex to a certain Place called Euston Grove, on the North Side of Drummond Street near Euston Square, in the same Parish and County . . . . ”

The Act of 5 & 6 Gul. IV. Cap. lvi. [7]. RA 3rd July 1835.

The Act went on to set the character of Euston Station down to the present day, as a passenger-only terminus:

“CXIII. And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful for the said Company to receive at their intended Station in Euston Grove, for the Purpose of Transport, or to deliver out therefrom, any Merchandise, Cattle, or Goods of any Description, save and except Passengers Luggage and small Parcels.”

The Act of 5 & 6 Gul. IV. Cap. lvi. [7]. Passed 3rd July 1835.

And so the site of the London terminus was transferred from Camden Town to Euston Grove:

“At the London end of the line near Camden-town, the company have about thirty-three acres of land, intended as a depot for the buildings, engines, wagons, goods, and various accessories of the carrying department of the railway.  At Euston Grove they have a station of about 7 acres for the passenger traffic, and both stations are connected by the extension line.  Passenger trains are to be moved on this portion of the railway, by a stationary engine in the Camden depot, and locomotive engines are to be employed on every other part of it.  At the Birmingham end of this line, the company have a station of about ten acres, which will serve both for passengers and goods.  The arrangement of these stations, and the plans for the necessary buildings and machinery connected with them, have been maturely considered, and the contractors are under penalties that the various works in London shall be completed by June next (with the exception of the facade of the Euston station for which three months more are allowed) and the works in Birmingham by November next.

The entrance to the London passenger station, opening immediately upon what will necessarily become the grand avenue for travelling between the Metropolis and the Midland and Northern parts of the Kingdom, the directors thought that it should receive some architectural embellishment.  They adopted, accordingly a design of Mr. Hardwick for a grand but simple portico, which they consider well adapted to the national character of the undertaking.”

Directors’ Report to the Proprietors, February 1837.

In December 1835, the contract to build the Extension was let to W. & L. Cubitt at a price of £76,860 (the outturn was £91,528).  Francis Conder, who as Fox’s pupil probably worked on the Extension, referred to the extent of the civil engineering difficulties to be overcome:

“In the two miles (sic) of extension from Camden Town to Euston Square, the engineers had to solve nearly every problem which has subsequently to that time been encountered by the projectors of metropolitan railways.  The canal had to be crossed under heavy penalties for interfering with its traffic.  The alteration of an inch or two of level in the great highways was a matter of keen debate in committee, and the execution of the parliamentary conditions was closely watched by the courteous vigilance of Sir James Mac Adam. [8]  The sewers had to be avoided or provided for.  Nearly half the bridges that were constructed were insisted on in order to provide for future roads, and intended streets and crescents.  The gradients were of, what was at that time considered, unparalleled severity, so much so that the idea of running trains propelled by locomotives from the terminus was laid aside; a powerful winding engine was erected at Camden Town, and a cumbrous but well considered apparatus of ropes and pullies was laid down, in order to draw the trains up the inclines of 1 in 75, and 1 in 66.”

Personal Recollections of English Engineers, Francis Conder (1868).


“Euston Station arrival and departure shed, for sheltering carriages and passengers, on departing from, or arriving at, London”
by John Cooke Bourne, May 1839.

Euston Station opened for business on 20th July 1837 to become London’s first inter-city railway station.  Robert Stephenson planned its layout, the architectural frontispiece ― including the famous ‘Doric Propylæum’, or ‘Portico’, completed in 1840 ― was by Phillip Hardwick (1792-1870), and Charles (later Sir Charles) Fox designed the train sheds. [9]

Apart from the platform coverings and Portico, the original station buildings consisted of a narrow two-storey building adjacent to the departure platform.  This building, which had a single-storey Greek Doric colonnade projecting along its western or entrance front, contained the booking offices.  The departure platform thus became known as the “colonnade platform” ― the colonnade is just visible through the central arch of the Portico in Bourne’s famous drawing.

The Euston Train Shed ― the Colonnade is on the opposite side of the building on the right.

“There are four lines of way at this station, which terminate in as many turning platforms contiguous to the carriage wharf; the whole width of this shed is 80 feet, and the length 200 feet; the roof is constructed of iron rafters, strutts, and ties, and presents a light and pleasing appearance.  At the north end of the shed are four corresponding turn-tables from which the four lines of way pass with a quick curve towards the first bridge, which carries Wriothesley Street over the railway.  A cross line intersects the main lines at a distance of 240 feet from the north end of the passenger shed, furnished with four turn-plates for the purpose of conducting the carriages to or from the carriage-house.”

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described, Francis Wishaw (1842).

Charles Fox’s train shed with the Departure Platform on the left.

Osborne paints an interesting picture of a first-time rail passenger’s experience on arriving at Euston to board a train:

“. . . . the omnibuses and carriages enter under the centre of the portico, and the foot passengers at their right side on the causeway, between the pillar and wall.  Policemen, in the dark green uniform of the company, are stationed about the entrances, and are always ready to give directions to any person needing them.

On passing under the portico, a range of buildings is observable to the right, the upper part of which is used as offices for the secretary, and other functionaries, located at the London end of the line.  Moving onwards, we enter beneath a colonnade, and presently arrive at the booking offices, where a short time previously to the starting of a train, a number of persons will be found waiting to pay their fares.  Behind a large counter are stationed a number of clerks, displaying the usual bustling, but still we may say a rather more methodical appearance, than their professional brethren at the coach offices; this latter semblance, doubtless, results from the system that is adopted; a rail in the office is so constituted as to form with the counter a narrow pass, through which only one individual can pass at a time, and into this the travellers go, and are thus brought, ad seriatim, before the booking clerk.  Into this pass we enter, and wait patiently listening to the utterance of names of stations to which persons are going, such as Coventry, Tring, Birmingham, &c., till those before us are booked to their respective stations; when our turn comes, we mention the place we are going to, and the station nearest it is named, together with the fare to that station; this sum we pay, and receive a ticket which is forthwith stamped for us, on which the number of the seat we are to occupy, and all other necessary directions are printed.

Ticket in hand, we proceed forwards through an entrance hall, and emerge beneath the spacious shedding, round which the traveller can scarcely cast a wondering gaze, when he is assailed by a policeman, who in a hurried tone cries ‘number of your ticket, sir;’ having obtained a glance of the ticket, the official immediately points out its owner’s seat in the train and then hastens away to perform similar duty to others.”

Osborne's London & Birmingham Railway Guide, E.C. & W. Osborne (1840).

. . . . and were traveller to arrive at either terminus during hours of darkness, the scene would be lit by gaslight:

“The preparations for lighting the Euston Square, Camden Town, and Birmingham stations, took up considerable time and labour.  These stations are all supplied with gas, by contract, on very fair terms, from Gas Companies whose works are adjacent to them; large mains being laid throughout the whole of them, from one end to the other, in situations which admit of smaller mains being brought into all the various buildings; from these branch off pipes of different sizes, so as to convey the gas into all the various rooms and offices, passenger sheds, engine houses, coke vaults, carriage sheds, &c., as well as generally about the ground, in sufficient numbers to give an efficient light, and at the same time with due regard to economy. It was also found necessary to light up the whole of the extension line between Camden Town and Euston Square, and at the Birmingham end provision is made for the lights to be continued to the end of that noble structure the Lawley-street Viaduct; proper gas meters are fixed in places which ensure the quantity burned being correctly ascertained.  The locomotive goods departments having each separate meters to show their respective consumption.”

The History of the Railway Connecting London and Birmingham, Peter Lecount (1839).

The Ground Plan of Euston Station shows the original layout, including the positions of the Portico, Colonnade, Booking Hall, Departure and Arrival platforms, turntables and the “cross lines”.

The Victoria and Euston hotels face each other across Euston Grove (ca. 1840).

Euston did not remain in the condition depicted by Bourne for long.  A programme of building and extending soon began that was to continue throughout most of the life of the ‘old’ Euston Station.  More land was acquired from Lord Southampton on which to build two hotels.  Opened in 1839, the world’s first railway hotels ― named the Victoria and the Adelaide (later renamed the Euston) ― flanked the approach to the Portico.  The Victoria was merely “a coffee house with dormitories”, [5] but the Euston was intended for use by the gentry and offered a full hotel service:

“These may be regarded as portions of the Station, having being erected by the Railway Company, to afford local accommodation for passengers.  Like all other parts of this gigantic undertaking, these buildings are on a spacious and handsome scale: they were designed by Philip Hardwick, Esq. and have been erected by Messrs. Grissell and Peto, with that rapidity and excellence of execution which at once demonstrates the powers and skill, as well as the modern system, of the London builders.  In the course of nine months, the whole has been executed.  The eastern buildings form the hotel; consisting of commodious coffee-room, sitting-rooms, bed-rooms, with dressing-rooms, baths, and other necessary domestic conveniences.  The corresponding pile, on the western side, is a coffee-house, with apartments for lodgings.  The whole is arranged and fitted up to suit the habits and comforts of different classes of families, and single gentlemen, who may require a residence in London either for a few hours, one night, or for several days.”

Introduction to the Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway by John C. Bourne, John Britton (1839).

When the London and Birmingham Railway Company . . . . extended their line from Camden to Euston Square they built two hotels opposite the terminus ― simple erections as regards architecture, being nothing more than white painted walls, pierced with numerous windows, of which there are no less than 350 on the several frontages.  Many persons were surprised at the boldness of such an investment of capital, in a neighbourhood where few hotel-living visitors take up their abode; but the hotels have proved to be very profitable.  Belonging to the Railway Company, they are leased to other persons, who look (and it seems are justified in looking) to railway passengers as means of amply supporting the two establishments ― between which there is an underground communication.  The charges are altogether beyond the means of third-class passengers (for whom, indeed, railway companies supply far too little accommodation); and nearly so beyond those of the second.  We are bound, however, to say, which we do from experience, that the accommodation and service at either the Euston or Victoria are excellent; and to shew the pressure of traffic, we are told that notwithstanding the vast size of these houses, they cannot insure rooms unless written for in the morning of the day they are required.

About Railways, William Chambers (1865).

The main gates from the Euston facade ― visible on the left in Cooke Bournes drawing ― were designed by Hardwick and cast by J. J. Bramah. 
They are now in the care of the National Railway Museum at York.

In 1846, the London & Birmingham amalgamated with the Grand Junction and Manchester & Birmingham railways to form the London & North Western Railway Company.  The merger coincided with the start of significant new building work at Euston, which included a meeting room, board room, general offices, booking offices and the majestic Great Hall, the latter being the work of Hardwick’s son, Philip Charles Hardwick (1822-92).

An artist’s impression of the Great Hall.  It was brought into public use on the 27th May 1849.
The murals depicted were never painted . . . .

“. . . . its architecture, based on Greek temples, was deemed a fitting gateway to the capital and an introduction to the engineering marvels of the railway beyond . . . . commissioned to celebrate the creation of the London and North Western Railway in 1846, this was to be Euston’s new booking hall.  The room immediately impresses by its great scale.  Added to this are the double-flight stairs, graceful gallery and elaborate mouldings.  Above, the magnificent coffered ceiling, actually built of iron, stretches across the hall’s great width.  This is not what we imagine a booking hall to look like: the porters, laden with heavy trunks, seem most out of place here.  Hardwick’s superb design was executed, apart from the murals above the balconies.  Its demolition, with the rest of Euston (1962), was regarded as one of the greatest acts of Post-War architectural vandalism in Britain, the campaign to save it leading to the foundation of the Victorian Society.”

The Royal Institute of British Architects.

The Great Hall in the 1950s.

The Portico ca. 1938.

Compared with Bourne's spacious scene, the now grimy Doric arch is boxed in by development,
one of its lodges has gone and the others are plastered with advertisements.



“The intermediate stations call for little notice, most of the roadside stations being very modest affairs with no platforms, passengers entering or leaving the trains at both sides.”

History of the London and North Western Railway, W. L. Steel (1914).

Descriptions of the Railway’s intermediate stations during its early years exist in varying degrees.  Several had a short life and were soon rebuilt, sometimes in a new location to cater for the opening of a branch (e.g. the Saint Albans branch at Watford) or a junction (such as that with the Midland Counties Railway at Rugby), for not only was our railway network growing quickly during the 1830s and 40s, but there was very little precedent in station design for their architect, George Aitchison Snr., to work from.  Thus, rebuilding ― with or without relocation ― is hardly surprising.  Peter Lecount explained the problems that the Company faced in siting and designing their intermediate stations:

“There is a great deal more difficulty than would at first be imagined in laying out a railway station.  If those now existing had to be built over again, some change would be desirable: there are so many things to be amalgamated, and such various accommodation to be provided, that the business becomes exceedingly complicated.  An easy approach for the engines and trains, without bad curves ― a convenient situation with regard to the town ― an easy access to and from the engine house, and to the carriage sheds and repairing shops ― a proximity to water ― carriage facilities for getting coke and water ― a convenient situation for the store department: these are a few, among many desiderata, which render it very difficult to make them all fall into the desired arrangement; but it may be said of the London and Birmingham Stations, that as much has been made of the ground as could, by any possibility under the circumstances.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and Lecount (1839).

Despite the design problems, by February 1837 the Chairman was able to report to the General Meeting that:

“The plans and specifications of the buildings at the intermediate stations are in progress, and the whole of this portion of the work will be completed against the opening of the railway.  The greater part of the locomotive-engines required to convey the trains of passengers and goods, and of the necessary carriages of all descriptions are also contracted for, and will be delivered in succession as they are required to meet the wants of the Company.”

Report of the 7th half-yearly General Meeting, Northampton Mercury, 18th February 1837.

The Railway opened with sixteen intermediate stations.  They fell in two classes, first and second, the distinction being that ‘first-class trains’ (comprising just first-class accommodation) and mail trains stopped only at the first-class stations, while ‘mixed trains’ stopped at every station.  The first-class stations together with their distance in miles from Euston, were at Watford (17¾), Tring (31¾), Leighton (41), Wolverton (52½), Blisworth (62½), Weedon (69¾), Rugby (83¼) and Coventry (94).  In the second class came Harrow (11½), Boxmoor (24½), Berkhamsted (28), Bletchley (46¼), Roade (60) ― later redesignated first-class due its important stage coach connections to Northampton, Leicester, Nottingham and further afield ― Crick (75½), Brandon (89¼) and Hampton (103).  To allow for the transfer of passengers following the opening of the Aylesbury Railway in 1839, the Company erected what was probably no more than an interchange platform named ‘Aylesbury Railway Junction’. [10]

In addition to the number of train services they attracted, a further distinction between the two classes of stations lay in their facilities.  In his
Treatise on Railways, Peter Lecount described the general characteristics of railway stations of the period:

“The minor stations along the line may be divided into two classes.  The first might consist of merely one room, serving for office and waiting-room, where nothing but passengers and small parcels are sent either up or down.  Such stations would do for small villages or points where only a limited traffic is expected.  We do not, however, recommend these, although they are used on several railways.  All passengers pay alike, and they are therefore entitled to the same accommodation.  The other class should be a house containing an office, waiting-room in common, or which is better, one for each class of passengers, ladies’ waiting room, and two rooms for the inspector of police to reside in, a small office for the police, and a porters room.  To this would have to be added, if water was required to be pumped, a steam-engine, and the requisite room for the engineer, a locomotive engine-house when necessary, and a covered space for holding spare carriages, trucks, horse-boxes, &c., together with the requisite sheds, and an office for the goods department.”

A Practical Treatise on Railways, Peter Lecount (1839)

Francis Wishaw left a brief description of the London and Birmingham Railway’s second-class stations:

“A second class station on this railway consists usually of a building in the cottage style, in which are the booking-office and waiting room, a front court enclosed with space and pale-fencing, and the usual conveniences, with separate gates for the arrival and departure of passengers.”

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described, Francis Wishaw (1842).



Harrow Station looking South, ca. 1837.
The locomotive travelling wrong line appears to be heading a works train.

Harrow Station, the London and Birmingham Railway’s first stop after Euston, opened on the 20th July 1837:

“The Harrow Station is a neat brick building, with an enclosure in front, where passengers who intend to go by the next train may walk about at leisure, after booking their places; or, should they prefer to repose themselves within doors, commodious waiting rooms are provided.  A similar arrangement is observed here, as well as throughout the whole of the line, in order to prevent confusion amongst passengers, arriving or departing; as separate entrances are provided for each class of passengers, and the utmost order and regularity prevails, even if there be a number of persons going to and from the stations at the same moment.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and LeCount (1839).

As can be seen from the drawing, the station building was of modest single-storey construction.  It was built by Thomas Jackson of No. 1 Wharf, Commercial Road, Pimlico for the sum of £663.  It will come as no surprise that the Headmaster of Harrow School, fearful for what he imagined would be the Railway’s detrimental effect on the discipline of his pupils, asked that the station be built at Wembly, but by the time the Directors had received his complaint the station was a fait accompli.



The original Watford Station booking office.

Watford Station was the first principal station north of Euston, where the locomotives of first-class and mail trains made their first stop for water and coke (second class trains having stopped at the intermediate or ‘second-class’ station at Harrow).  The small brick and slate building shown above was the original station’s booking office, and is one of two surviving examples of the Railway’s early intermediate station architecture, the other being the original Hampton Station, built by the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway.

Built in 1836-37 by William Starie of Houndsditch (for £1,355) to a design by George Aitchison Snr. ― as were the other original intermediate stations ― it was located at street level to the north of Saint Albans Road and on the eastern side of the line:

“Passing onwards through Primrose-hill and Kensal-green tunnels, and Harrow, we arrive at Watford.  At this station tickets are collected from passengers arriving by the up-trains from Birmingham.  The station is fitted up with booking-office, passengers’-room, ladies’ waiting-rooms (elegantly furnished), inspector’s-room, porters’-room, stationary engine-house, with an engine of four-horse power, used to throw up water into the tank above for supplying the locomotive engines (on their requiring it) on their arrival at the station; a repairing-house, fitted up with furnaces, lathes, and all necessaries for that department.  The whole station is covered with a light corrugated iron roof.”

The Bucks Herald, 7th September 1839.

The specification was similar to that for the first station at Harrow.  Materials were to be ‘none but the best’, with ‘none but well seasoned Oak (English)’ and ‘best Duchess slating’ to cover the roof, not only of the offices but also the privies.  Portland stone was specified for the parapet and gables, window sills, and ‘hearth, chimney piece and shelf’ and the entrance was to have steps of York stone.  Finally the woodwork was to be painted with five good coats of oil and colour’.  As at Harrow, there were to be ‘Inscription Tablets’ on which ‘London and Birmingham Railway’ had to be written, although here the size of the lettering was left for later approval.

This sketch appears to date from late in the life of the original station.  It shows the corrugated iron roof referred to in the extract above, together with the chimney of the pumping engine.  By this date, the station has acquired platforms and a footbridge that are not evident in the earlier depictions below.

The “repairing-house” mentioned above is now usually referred to as an engine shed; there was also a carriage shed.

Watford Station, looking south. The booking office to the left of the main building survives.

The original ticket office (shown in the preceding photograph) appears in the above drawing, beneath the tree on the left.  The chimney is probably associated with the stationary engine-house in which the 4hp pumping engine referred to in the Bucks Herald article was installed.

Watford Station looking north towards Watford Tunnel, showing the steps down from street level (no platform).

Following the station’s opening, James Toovey, a local entrepreneur, saw a business opportunity, which he set about exploiting:

London and Birmingham Railway ― In addition to the many great improvements that have recently taken place upon this line of railway, is to be noticed the establishment at the Watford station of a large and commodious inn, by the title of the Clarendon Arms.  The proprietor, Mr. James Toovey, of the Rose and Crown, Watford, has spared no expense in fitting it up for the convenience of the public.  There are meeting rooms and every accommodation for travellers by the railway; and horses and vehicles can be procured at all hours of the day and night.  The public have long required this accommodation, and Mr. Toovey deserves great credit for the spirited manner in which he has established the undertaking.”

Railway Times, 14th December 1839.

When the Watford to Saint Albans line was built, Watford Station was relocated some 150 yards further south, at the junction with the new branch line.  Renamed Watford Junction, the new station opened for business in May 1858, and its predecessor was closed, James Toovey’s large and commodious inn no doubt suffering in consequence.

Watford Junction Station, ca. 1858.


This undated plan of Watford Station seems to be an amendment of an earlier plan, for some of the original station buildings are now ‘blacked out’ — with a track passing through their site — with only the buildings that accommodate the booking office and the engine house remaining.  The plan shows that track widening took place after Watford Junction station came into service.  The position of the Clarendon Arms (viz. above WAT), referred to above, is shown.

Image courtesy of Russell Burridge.




Although there are descriptions of several of the Railway’s original intermediate stations, few images appear to have survived.  Of what there is, the old Berkhamsted Station ― described by John Britton as “built of brick, in the ‘Gothic’ style, with stone dressings” ― is well represented, probably on account of its distinctive appearance.  The station shown here was located some 100 yards to the south of the present station, which, together with additional sidings, was built in 1875 as part of the scheme to increase the line’s capacity with a fourth track.  The old station was then demolished and no trace of it now exists.



A page from a London and Birmingham Railway civil engineering record.

This page records work done at Tring Station during September and October 1837.  It includes sinking and ‘steining’* a well 31ft 6 ins deep, and excavating 3,802 cubic yards for sidings, 523 yards being laid on blocks** and 200 yards on sleepers. 65 labourers, 8 carpenters and 1 bricklayer were employed, a pump was hired for 10 days with transport to and from London, and timber was obtained for troughs and stages.

* When excavating a well, it is necessary to hold back the loose upper strata until solid rock is reached. It is therefore necessary to line the sides of the well with bricks, stone blocks or flints, a process called ‘steining’.
** The blocks for the sidings are
‘stone block sleepers’.  Following the invention of the wood preservative creosote, stone blocks were soon replaced with cheaper and more effective wooden sleepers.

The Comte d’Harcourt, absentee owner of the Pendley Estate, demanded such an exorbitant price for land on which to build Tring Station, that the Company decided to build the station some 3 miles further north on cheaper land at Pitstone Green.  But local demand for a station nearer the town resulted in its traders offering to make good the difference between Harcourt’s asking price and what the Company was prepared to pay.  The outcome was that Tring got its station, albeit a good mile and a half from the town centre, even after its citizens had built a direct road to link the two.

Tring was designated a first-class station, although at first glance its rural location makes its designation as such difficult to understand.  Part of the answer lies in the town’s east-west road communications.  At a time when our public rail network was in an embryonic state of development, Tring was the nearest railway connection point for travellers ― from as far afield as Oxford to the west and Luton to the east ― who wished to make, by the standards of the time, a quick and comfortable journey to London or Birmingham.  In November 1837, a four-horse coach service commenced between Oxford and Tring Station, arriving in time for its passengers to join the third train of the day for London, and then returning with any Oxford-bound train passengers.

Other less obvious reasons for Tring Station’s status in its early days lay in opportunities for both speculative building and good hunting in the surrounding countryside:

London and Birmingham Railway.―Amongst the many alterations and improvements which have taken place since the formation of the above line, there is no part which has progressed more with the times than the vicinity of Tring.  As soon as the Company had determined upon making it a first class station (where every train stops) the inhabitants came forward in a very spirited manner, and at their own expense formed a new road direct to the town.  Since then other improvements have taken place, and adjoining to the station has been erected the Harcourt Hotel, a very handsome building, capable of affording every accommodation.  The situation of this station is in a very beautiful part of this county, in the centre of the estate of the late General Harcourt; and in consequence of the demand for houses in the neighbourhood, the present possessors have made arrangements for accommodating the public with building ground at a reasonable rate, so that in a short period we may calculate on this spot becoming an important place.  It has also become quite a sporting district, many gentlemen who reside principally in London finding it so extremely convenient to get to and from, that it is treated as almost nothing to ride 40 miles to cover, and have a good day's sport.”

Railway Times, 7th December 1839.

The former Harcourt Arms Hotel, Tring Station (now an apartment block)
― a fine period piece with large courtyard (on r.h.s.) and extensive stables (now mews houses).

The contract to build Tring Station was awarded to W. & L. Cubitt for the sum of £1,885.  Its architect, George Aitchison, must have been particularly pleased with his handiwork, for in the Architecture section of the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1838, the catalogue entry reads; “975. View of the Tring Station of the London and Birmingham Railway, erected in 1838, from the design and under the direction of G Aitchison.  Aitchison’s handiwork is now long gone and even his exhibition “view” of the station buildings cannot now be found (they may have looked like Coventry, also built above a cutting), but Francis Wishaw’s detailed description does survive, even down to the number of steps between platform and road levels:

“TRING (FIRST-CLASS) STATION.―The station at Tring is inconveniently placed in a cutting, as was the original Coventry station.  The offices are on an elevation equal to the depth of the cutting, and are approached from the railway by a flight of 18½ 7-inch steps for foot passengers, and a sloped road for the private carriages to be embarked or disembarked at the carriage-dock.  There is a separate passage from the railway for the departure of persons arriving by the trains, and also a separate staircase for the use of the porters.

The offices consist of booking office and waiting-room in one, with an entrance-lobby next the road, and exit lobby towards the railway. The width of this building, which is constructed of brick, is 32 feet, and the depth 24 feet 5 inches.  A paved yard extends in front of the offices for a length of 58 feet, being 33 feet in depth; the front next the railway is enclosed with iron railings.  The urinals and water-closets are conveniently placed on the north side of the offices, and entered from the paved yard. There is also a porter's lodge, which is detached from the other offices . . .  . Besides the booking-clerk, there are at this station one inspector, three policemen, four porters, and one stationary engine-man.

The carriage-dock is approached by a siding from the main line, furnished with a 12-feet turn-table opposite the entrance to the dock.  This dock is 14 feet in length 9 feet 5½ inches in width, and 3 feet deep.

Some of the ballast-engines are housed in a shed at this station.

One horse-box and carriage-truck are kept at this, as at all the first-class stations.”

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described, Francis Wishaw (1842).

In an age before mains water became generally available, Wishaw describes the well sunk at the Station from which to obtain water for the locomotives, together with the pumping equipment necessary to keep the water tank topped up.  The use of the pumping engine’s exhaust steam to provide feed water heating is interesting:

“The fixed-engine and boiler-house are about 33 feet in length and 18 feet 6 inches in width, and abut on the north side of the paved yard.  The coal-shed, which is contiguous, is 23 feet in length and about 7 feet wide.  The engine has an 8 inch cylinder and 18 inch stroke; the usual working pressure is 31lbs. on the square inch.  There are two boilers, with return tubes.  The water-tank is placed over the engine and boiler-house; the usual depth is 3 feet 6 inches.  The quantity of water which this tank will hold is equal to the supply of eight or nine locomotive engines.  The supply-pipes from the pumps are each of 6 inches diameter.  From the boiler the waste steam is admitted by a 2½-inch pipe into the water-tank, to raise the temperature of the water previously to its being let into the tanks of tenders.

The water used at this station being of excellent quality is taken in by most of the locomotive engines; it is obtained from a depth of 80 feet, the well is of 7 feet diameter.”


An early (pre-1860) plan of Tring Station.  The Booking Office and Station Master’s house lie on the western side of the line.  The plan below is of the section adjacent to that above. Thanks to Russell Burridge for providing copies of the plans.


The circles shown on the plan above are turntables — referred to at the time as turn-plates”.  They were such a novelty that Osborne gave a complete description of the operation of what he described as a “profound contrivance” in his guidebook (1840).  Referring to those serving the goods shed and cattle dock, he had this to say:

“The mode in which heavy goods and carriages are placed upon the trucks, is well worthy of notice.  At the Station there are several turn-plates on the line; they consist of large flat circular iron plates, of twelve feet in diameter, with two lines of railing on them, the one crossing the other at right angles, the plate turning round on iron rollers beneath, and capable of being moved with very little power.  One of the trucks which is to receive a carriage, or heavy goods, or a box for horses, or a pen for sheep or pigs, is pushed on to one of these turn-plates, and being turned to a right angle, is then passed up a short line of rail to an embankment or stand of the same height as the truck, and the animals, goods, or carriage placed on.  The truck is then taken back to the turn-plate, and turned on to the line again.  By this apparently simple, but in reality, profound contrivance, the heaviest and most cumbrous loads are managed with the greatest ease.”

Among the notables to call at Tring Station was Queen Victoria, together with Consort and retinue:

“The train reached Boxmoor station about one minute past ten o’clock.  To the platform of this station several persons had been admitted in order that they might have an opportunity to seeing her Majesty as she travelled on the railroad, but, considering the rapidity with which the train proceeded, it is hardly possible to conceive that their very natural curiosity could have been adequately gratified. It was, however, an unusual sight to see a special train of this kind at all.  In the centre of it was a magnificent carriage surmounted with a Royal crown.  The spectators knew that it contained their Sovereign and her Royal Consort; and this was some gratification, even though they might not be able to distinguish very clearly the illustrious individuals themselves. Indeed, many a labourer and farmer on the railroad side left the labour of the field to look at the Royal special train as it rushed rapidly along.

The drizzling rain which was falling at the time had not deterred a considerable number of persons from collecting together at Tring station.  The station is situated 31¾ miles from London, and was reached at 14 minutes past ten o’clock; and here the train halted for a few minutes, in order that the engine might obtain a fresh supply of water.

Among the persons assembled at this station were the juvenile members of the neighbouring population, boys and girls, who were drawn up in distinct rows, and who strained their tiny voices to be utmost in welcoming their Sovereign.  Her Majesty appeared highly pleased with this specimen of infantine loyalty and enthusiasm.  A sufficient supply of water having been obtained, the train again started on its course, at 18 minutes past ten o’clock . . . . ”

The Illustrated London News, 16th November 1844.

When Tring had a ‘proper’ station — Tring Station looking north, a view that appears to date from the Edwardian era.

Today, Tring Station comprises platform shelters (more appropriate to a bus stop), a ticket office (in the absence of a clerk, travellers have to deal with a fiendish ticket machine) and an infrequent bus service to the town.  By comparison, its southerly neighbour, Berkhamsted, originally a second-class station, now offers travellers waiting room and toilet facilities, a news stand, and a cafe (for those in need of more substantial repast there is a fish and chip restaurant adjacent to the main station entrance).



Wolverton was an important stopping point during the Railway’s early years, where passengers could obtain refreshment, for corridor carriages giving access to on-board catering and toilet facilities lay far in the future.  It was also the point on the journey where locomotives were changed and serviced: [11]

“Every engine with a train from London to Birmingham is changed at the Wolverton station, which answers the double purpose of having it examined, and of easing the driver and stoker.  We consider even fifty miles too great a distance to run an engine without examination; and have seen on other lines the ill consequences arising from the want of this necessary precaution.  We should prefer about thirty miles stages when it can be managed.”

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, Francis Wishaw (1842).

However, the town’s main claim to fame was as host to the Company’s locomotive works.  It acquired this role through its location, approximately midway between London and Birmingham, and retained it until the 1860s when the London and North-Western Railway centralised locomotive construction and overhaul on Crewe.

The interior of Wolverton Works, ca. 1850.

Construction of what became Wolverton Works began in 1838 with the erection of an engine shed where maintenance could be carried out and reserve locomotives kept in steam.  Designed by George Aitchison, the original workshop was a substantial quadrangular brick building, with stone dressings.  It could accommodate up to 36 locomotives, with repairs being carried out in erecting shops located either side of its entrance:

“The erecting shop is on the right of the central gateway, and occupies half of the front part of this building.  It has a line of way down the middle, communicating with a turn-table in the principal entrance, and also the small erecting shop, which is on the left of this entrance.  Powerful cranes are fixed in the erecting-shops for raising and lowering the engines when required.

Contiguous to the small erecting-shop, and occupying the principal portion of the left wing, is the repairing shop, which is entered by the left gateway.  One line runs down the middle of this shop, with nine turn-tables, and as many lines of way at right angles to the central line.  This shop is 131 feet 6 inches long and 90 feet wide, both in the clear, and will hold engines and tenders, or thirty-six engines.  It is lighted by twenty-four windows reaching nearly to the roof.

In the same wing, and next to the repairing-shop, is the tender-wrights’ shop, having the central line of way of the repairing-shop running down its whole length, with a turn-table and cross-line, which runs quite across the quadrangle, and intersects a line from the principal entry to the boiler-shop the rear of the quadrangle.

The remainder of the left wing is occupied by a room for stores on the ground-floor, with a brass foundry and store room over; and the iron-foundry, which extends to the back line of the buildings.”

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, Francis Wishaw (1842).

Around the courtyard were the engine and tender sheds, the joiners’ shop, iron foundry, boiler yard, hooping furnaces, iron warehouse, smithy, turning shops, offices, stores, and a steam engine for powering the machinery and for pumping water into a large tank over the entrance gateway.

Wolverton later added locomotive construction to its maintenance and repair activities, although this probably post-dated the London and Birmingham Railway; the first locomotive is believed to have been turned out ca. 1847. [12]   Nevertheless, it is worth including some extracts from the detailed account of Wolverton Works left by Samuel Sidney, who visited several years later at a time when carriage building ― later to displace locomotive work altogether ― was regarded, as Sidney put it, “as experiments”:

“A few passenger carriages are occasionally built at Wolverton as experiments.  One, the invention of Mr. J. McConnel, the head of the locomotive department, effects several important improvements.  It is a composite carriage of corrugated iron, lined with wood to prevent unpleasant vibration, on six wheels, the centre wheels following the leading wheels round curves by a very ingenious arrangement.  This carriage holds sixty second-class passengers and fifteen first-class, beside a guard’s break, which will hold five more; all in one body.  The saving in weight amounts to thirty-five per cent.  A number of locomotives have lately been built from the designs of the same eminent engineer, to meet the demands of the passenger traffic in excursion trains for July and August, 1851.

It must be understood that although locomotives are built at Wolverton, only a small proportion of the engines used on the line are built by the company, and the chief importance of the factory at Wolverton is as a repairing shop, and school for engine drivers . . . . The history of each engine, from the day of launching, is so kept, that, so long as it remains in use, every separate repair, with its date and the names of the men employed on it, can be traced.  Allowing, therefore, for the disadvantage as regards economy of a company, as compared with private individuals, the system at Wolverton is as effective as anything that could well be imagined.”

Rides on Railways, Samuel Sidney (1851).

Above, a McConnel Wolverton-built ‘Bloomer’ express locomotive, and below,
a McConnel ‘Wolverton Goods’ engine.

Sidney then goes on to describe the offices and workshops, those who worked in them, and the various processes that were typical of the heavy engineering that once occupied Wolverton and other railway works.  The following are some of his impressions:

“At Wolverton may be seen collected together in companies, each under command of its captains or foremen, in separate workshops, some hundreds of the best handicraftsmen that Europe can produce, all steadily at work, not without noise, yet without confusion . . . . the drawing office, where the rough designs of the locomotive engineer are worked out in detail by a staff of draughtsmen, and the carpenters’ shop and wood-turners, where the models and cores for castings are prepared . . . . the casting of a mass of metal of from five to twenty tons on a dark night is a fine sight.  The tap being withdrawn the molten liquor spouts forth in an arched fiery continuous stream, casting a red glow on the half dressed muscular figures busy around . . . . we hasten to the steam hammer to see scraps of tough iron, the size of a crown piece, welded into a huge piston, or other instrument requiring the utmost strength . . . . after seeing the operations of forging or of casting, we may take a walk round the shops of the turners and smiths.  In some Whitworth’s beautiful self acting machines are planing or polishing or boring holes . . . . solid masses of cast or forged metal are carved by the keen powerful lathe tools like so much box-wood, and long shavings of iron and steel sweep off as easily as deal shavings from a carpenter's plane.  At the long row of vices the smiths are hammering and filing away with careful dexterity . . . . It is not mere strength, dexterity, and obedience, upon which the locomotive builder calculates for the success of his design, but also upon the separate and combined intelligence of his army of mechanics.”

Rides on Railways, Samuel Sidney (1851).


Locomotive construction at Wolverton was short-lived.  Some 160 locomotives are believed to have been built at the Works, the last in 1863, after which new construction was transferred to Crewe.  Locomotive repairs continued at Wolverton until 1872, the Works then switching entirely to the construction and maintenance of carriages, eventually becoming the largest carriage works in Britain.

When the railway first came to Wolverton, there was nothing there to accommodate the large labour force that the workshops would require and provide the usual infrastructure of shops, school, utilities, etc.  Thus, as a matter of necessity, the Company had to build around the Works what was to become the country’s first railway town:

“The population entirely consists of men employed in the Company’s service, as mechanics, guards, enginemen, stokers, porters, labourers, their wives and children, their superintendents, a clergyman, schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, the ladies engaged on the refreshment establishment, and the tradesmen attracted to Wolverton by the demand of the population.  This railway colony is well worth the attention of those who devote themselves to an investigation of the social condition of the labouring classes.  We have here a body of mechanics of intelligence above average, regularly employed for ten and a half hours during five days, and for eight hours during the sixth day of the week, well paid, well housed, with schools for their children, a reading-room and mechanics institution at their disposal, gardens for their leisure hours, and a church and clergyman exclusively devoted to them.”

Rides on Railways, Samuel Sidney (1851).

“. . . . it is a little red-brick town composed of 242 little red-brick houses — all running either this way or that way at right angles — three or four tall red-brick engine-chimneys, a number of very large red-brick workshops, six red houses for officers — one red beer-shop, two red public-houses, and, we are glad to add, a substantial red school-room and a neat stone church, the whole lately built by order of a Railway Board, at a railway station, by a railway contractor, for railway men, railway women, and railway children; in short, the round cast-iron plate over the door of every house, bearing the letters L.N.W.R., is the generic symbol of the town . . . . All, however, whether whole or mutilated, look for support to ‘the Company,’ and not only their services and their thoughts but their parts of speech are more or less devoted to it: —for instance, the pronoun ‘she’ almost invariably alludes to some locomotive engine; ‘He’ to ‘the chairman,’ ‘it’ to the London Board.  At Wolverton the progress of time itself is marked by the hissing of the various arrival and departure trains.  The driver’s wife, with a sleeping infant at her side, lies watchful in her bed until she has blessed the passing whistle of ‘the down mail.’  With equal anxiety her daughter, long before daylight, listens for the rumbling of ‘the 3½ A.M. goods up,’ on the tender of which lives the ruddy but smutty-faced young fireman to whom she is engaged.  The blacksmith as he plies at his anvil, the turner as he works at his lathe, as well as their children at school, listen with pleasure to certain well-known sounds on the rails which tell them of approaching rest.“

Stokers and Pokers, Sir Francis Bond Head (1849).

Not only did the Company house and educate its workforce, it extended its paternalism to their spiritual welfare, the directors making a contribution of £1,000 from shareholder funds towards a church “for the use of the Company’s servants”:

“. . . . So extensive is the establishment in this place, that a considerable village, composed of the men in the company's service and their families, has sprung up where formerly there was not a single habitation.  The company has erected houses for the men, and allotted gardens to them, and some time since voted a grant of money for the erection of schools for the infant and adult population, but there was still no means of supplying them with religious instruction.  The trustees of the Radcliffe Estate, through which this part of the railway is made, thereupon offered to build and endow a church, and to provide a fund for future repairs, if the railway company would contribute £1,000 towards this desirable object.  Accordingly, at the last meeting a proposal that such a contribution be made was brought forward by a gentleman named Jones, who, it is worthy of notice, is himself a Dissenter, and was carried with but one dissentient voice.”

Company General Meeting, reported in The Morning Post, 13th February 1841.


Wolverton in 1850 - courtesy Milton Keynes Museum

Even in an age predating multiculturalism, questions concerning religious belief at times awakened warm debate and censure ―  as indeed reference in the preceding extract to “a Dissenter” might suggest.  It is therefore unsurprising that the Company’s proposal to contribute towards an Anglican church should arouse the ire of its Quaker shareholders, who:

“. . . . contended that, however desirous they might be of promoting the moral and religious instruction of the company’s servants, it was not right that they should be compelled to the support of the Church of England, from which they conscientiously differed.  They proposed, therefore, that the resolution of the previous meeting be rescinded, and that the amount required should be raised by voluntary subscription.”

General Meeting, reported in The Morning Post, 13th February 1841.

After “a very long discussion” a compromise was reached; the objectors’ proportion of the £1,000 ― about 4½d a share ― was refunded to them, and the “company’s servants” got their church, although whether they really wanted it is unrecorded.  Opened in 1843 for the special, but not exclusive use of railway workers, Saint George’s Church claims the distinction of being the first church in the world to be built by a railway company.



The new church and school about to  be erected at Stantonbury, near Wolverton.

 Illustrated London News, 19th June 1858.

The church was to accommodate between seven and eight hundred people, the school one hundred each of boys, girls and infants, with residential accommodation for the teachers.



Turning next to Wolverton Station, the first building to be built was located to the north of the Grand Junction Canal (see plan).  Opened in 1838, the volume of passengers using it soon outgrew its capacity and in 1840 a new and larger station was opened.  Located slightly to the south of the first station, it offered travellers waiting rooms, toilet facilities, a restaurant and refreshment rooms.  The colonnaded platform canopies shown below are somewhat reminiscent of Hardwick’s colonnaded frontage to the booking office at Euston.

The first Wolverton Station with the Grand Junction Canal in the foreground.



The second Wolverton station.

Many sentiments ― mostly uncomplimentary ― have been expressed about railway refreshment rooms down the years, particularly about those at Wolverton.  Trains once paused there to change locomotives, which created a ten-minute interval during which there was a stampede to the refreshment rooms, for the journey in either direction was long (2½ hours or more) and uncomfortable.  Among other things, travellers complained about the difficulty in getting served.  However, contrary to the general flow of opinion, Sir Francis Bond Head in his account of the London and North Western Railway (published in 1849) devotes an entire chapter in praise of Wolverton’s refreshment facilities.  His views, together with those of others on the subject of railway catering, are reproduced in the Addenda ― they provide amusing reading.

Head Barmaid. “These tarts are quite stale, Miss Hunt ― been on the counter for a fortnight! Would you mind taking then into the second-class refreshment room?” (Punch).

In other areas Wolverton Station also appears to have fallen short of the ideal, at least in the opinion of one member of the travelling public.  To those of a nervous disposition the roar of escaping steam warranted complaint, as did the limited stopping time in an age when the gentry and their ladies travelled with their carriages, sometimes in them: [13]

“Frequently (he says) on the stopping of a train at a station, the engines are stopped close to the windows of the opposite train, and during this time these boilers are allowed to play off their steam, which causes so frightful a noise as easily to bring on illness with a nervous person.  These engines might easily be sent 200 or 300 yards until the trains are ready, and not to terrify the passengers for five minutes and more, to so great an extent as I have been witness to frequently.  The second point, although a minor one, is the great want of attention on the part of some one when the train arrives, and stops for ten minutes at Wolverton, where ladies have wished to alight from their carriages which are of necessity perched upon a truck; but no one can be found with a ladder until it is generally time to start off again, when on hearing the bell ringing and the steam puffing off, the poor ladies are seen running about in all directions almost frightened out of their lives at being left behind.”

Letter to the Editor of the Railway Times, 31st August 1839.

As the century progressed, Bletchley’s importance grew, helped by the opening of the now defunct Oxford to Cambridge rail link.  And as locomotives became faster and capable of longer journeys without servicing, express trains ceased to call at Wolverton and its importance diminished.  The refreshment rooms are long gone and today Wolverton is a minor station on the line.  At the time of writing (2013), much of Wolverton Works lies derelict.



In former days there were several stations between Wolverton, Rugby and Coventry, all part of the line’s original complement, which have since disappeared.  All were victims of the mass station closures of the 1950s and 60s.

1911 Railway Clearing House map of railways in the vicinity of Roade.

The most northerly of the group was Brandon, the only station between Coventry and Rugby.  It was replaced in 1879 by a new station nearby named Brandon and Wolston, but the station never generated much income and was closed in 1960.  The most southerly closure was Castlethorpe, a late addition to the line that opened in 1882, and closed in 1964.  Then came Roade (closed 1964), Blisworth (closed 1960), Weedon (closed 1958) and Crick (renamed Welton in 1881; closed to passengers in 1958 and entirely in 1964).

Roade was originally the jumping off point for Northampton, a town that the Railway bypassed:

As the line neared completion the Duke’s [of Grafton] officials, the railway company and other interested parties discussed whether a station to serve Northampton should be built at Roade, where the line crossed the road from Northampton to London, or Blisworth, where it crossed the Northampton-Towcester turnpike not far from Watling Street and also ran close to the Grand Junction Canal.  In both cases, the site would be acquired from the Grafton estate.  At first, Blisworth was preferred as ‘the great depot for the county’, although first-class stations were also provided at Roade and Weedon.  For a few years Roade, where the station was built in the cutting immediately south of the bridge carrying the main London road over the line, prospered as the most convenient of the three for Northampton, but after the opening of the line from Blisworth to Peterborough through Northampton in 1845 it was reduced to a third-class station.  By 1862 the refreshment room had been removed and there were only seven stopping trains a day.  In 1875 the London & North Western Railway obtained powers to quadruple the main line between Bletchley and Roade and build a loop which left the main line about a mile north of Roade station to serve Northampton.  Once again land was acquired from the Grafton estate and in 1882 Roade station was rebuilt on a larger scale with three platforms and four running faces.

From: ‘Roade’, A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 5: pp. 345-374.

Why the Railway bypassed Northampton remains a vexed question.  Take, for example, Ernest Carter, writing about the Blisworth to Peterborough branch line:

“This extensive branch followed the line of the Grand Junction Canal as far as Northampton, which town had been by-passed by the original London and Birmingham main line, and thence followed the valley of the River Nene via Wellingborough, Higham Ferrers, Thrapstone, and Oundle to Peterborough.  Incidentally, the opposition of Northampton, which the town afterwards wholeheartedly repented, was the cause of much industrial difficulty and expenditure, for it involved the construction of the mile-and-a-half-long Kilsby Tunnel on the London and Birmingham main line.  In the construction of this entirely unnecessary work no less than two and a half years were expended, over thirty-six million bricks being used to line its 30 ft. high by 30 ft. broad bore.  The construction of the rest of the 126-mile main line was child’s play compared with the grappling with Kilsby Tunnel, in the building of which Robert Stephenson had not a moment free from anxiety due to striking quicksands and an underground reservoir.”

An Historic Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Ernest Carter (1952).

This account suggests that the townsfolk opposed the line being routed through Northampton, a decision they were later to regret, for they had to await the Northampton Loop, completed in 1875, before they received direct connections to London and Birmingham.  Furthermore, had they not opposed the Railway, the immense engineering problems at Kilsby would never have arisen.  This version of events possibly originated from Roscoe and Lecount’s railway guide:

The original line of the London and Birmingham railway, as marked out by Mr. Stephenson, was through Northampton; so great, however, was the opposition that certain parties in authority entertained to it, that the bill was consequently lost.

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and Lecount (1839).

However, as a member of Stephenson’s engineering team, Lecount is likely to have been well informed about the route followed by the Railway and why it was chosen.  It is interesting to note on the opening page of his history of the Railway, that he warns the reader about information inserted in the Roscoe and Lecount Guide by “other parties”.  Lecount then goes on to state that “I am accountable for nothing which it [the Roscoe and Lecount Guide] contains, unless found in this work also”, and Lecount does not refer to Northampton in his history.  Whether the extract quoted above stems from Roscoe having picked up a local rumour may never be known, but the evidence suggests that there is no more than a germ of truth in it.

Although there was opposition from local landed gentry, the townsfolk and traders of Northampton were generally in favour of the line.  But despite this, there is little evidence to suggest that the Company ever intended routing the line through Northampton, preferring instead to maintain the ruling gradient (1:330) by following the higher ground through Blisworth and Weedon, thereby avoiding the steep descent into the Nene Valley. [14]  Objections from influential landowners together with the higher cost of land likely to prevail in an urban area were other possible factors, while a further incentive in routing the line through Weedon was its close proximity to the extensive Royal Military Depot.  With Blisworth Station only 4 miles from the town, the railway was, for the time, near at hand, for when the station was reached the rail journey it offered was far quicker than anything previously possible.  Thus, the topography of the situation was probably the main reason why Northampton was bypassed, with several lesser factors reducing the business case still further.




The second Rugby Station (ca. 1854).

“A train consisting of five carriages, arrived at the Coventry Station about half-past two o’clock on Monday last, on a trip from Birmingham to Rugby.  This is the first time that the entire line so far has been traversed . . . . We understand that the London and Birmingham Railway Company have given notice to Messrs. Chaplin and Co., (who are to convey passengers by coaches and carriages between Denbigh Hall and Rugby) to have their horses and carriages in readiness on the 9th April; but that it is more probable that the day of opening will be Easter Monday, the 16th of April.”

The Coventry Herald, 23rd March 1838.

And so the Railway reached Rugby, which shares with Wolverton the fate of having once been an important railway town that, as such, has suffered an eclipse.  Although Rugby remains a busy and important railway junction, its station is much less busy than in bygone years, particularly with regard to inter-city services.

Derby Mercury, 6th May 1840.

Until the London and Birmingham Railway arrived in 1838 and the Midland Counties Railway two years later, Rugby had been a small rural town with a population of around 2,500.  Railways were to prove a major factor in its development.  The proliferation of railway yards and workshops attracted workers to the town, and by the 1880’s its population exceeded 10,000.  In the following decades heavy engineering industries were set up, and Rugby became a major industrial centre.  By the 1940s its population had reached 40,000; today (2013) it exceeds 60,000.

Rugby’s present mainline station is the third to serve the town. [15]  The earliest was located on an embankment, about half a mile to the west of the present station at the point where the former Leamington branch left the main line.  Today’s traveller approaching the site could be forgiven for failing to recognise any aspect of the landscape depicted in Roscoe’s Guide:

In the space of a minute the train passes over the road from Rugby to Lutterworth, and arrives at the Rugby Station, distant from London eighty-three, and from Birmingham twenty-nine miles.  The landscape on all sides is remarkable for the diversified site of the ground, the rich succession of red fallows and green meadows, with the uplands clothed with majestic woods of the most luxuriant foliage.  The embankment on which this station is situated is one mile long, and varies from thirty to forty feet in height ― it contains 105,000 cubic yards of earth.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and Lecount (1839).


Bridge over the Lutterworth Road, Rugby (from Osborne’s Guide).

Roscoe and Lecount (probably the latter) then go on to described the ornate bridge over the Lutterworth road, just to the south of the original Station:

“The bridge which crosses the Lutterworth road is an elegant structure, erected in the style of architecture of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  It consists of a flat gothic arch of cast iron, with ornamented spandrils abutting upon octangular towers of brick, with stone dressings, beyond which on either side are three smaller arches of brick, with buttresses between them, and the whole is surmounted with a parapet wall standing upon a bold stone moulding, which is carried through the whole length of the bridge.”

The Trustees of Rugby School contributed £1,000 towards the cost of the bridge to ensure that it would harmonize with Rugby School.

The same bridge depicted by  John Cooke Bourne in June 1839.

Opened in April 1838, the first Rugby Station (1838-40) was intended to be temporary, probably because the exact location of the junction with the planned Midland Counties Railway had yet to be decided.  Despite its status, the Station’s architect was sufficiently proud of his creation to exhibit a drawing of it ― which can’t now be traced ― at the Royal Academy Exhibition held in London in 1838.  The catalogue entry reads:

1064. View of the temporary Rugby Station now building for the London and Birmingham Railway Company. G. Aitchison.”

Roscoe and Lecount provide a brief description:

“Close to the bridge, on the east side of the Railway, is a lofty chimney belonging to the pumping engine, which supplies the tank with water for the locomotive engines; and on the opposite side is the station house and booking offices.  This building is erected in the Swiss style, with a large projecting roof, and is arranged so as to afford accommodation to passengers both arriving and departing.  The booking offices are on the ground floor, and a staircase leads to the waiting rooms above on the level of the Railway, to gain which a large covered enclosure is passed under, while parties wishing to leave the Railway descend from the line by a separate staircase, so that all confusion is avoided.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and Lecount (1839).

As at Wolverton, the Company had to build accommodation for their workforce:

“Owing to the difficulty of gaining lodgings for the servants of the Company, a number of small wooden cottages were erected on the left of the station, at the far side of the area, where the omnibuses and coaches used to collect to take the passengers on from here to Denbigh Hall, prior to the completion of the intervening portion of the line.”

Osborne's London & Birmingham Railway Guide, E.C. and W. Osborne  (1840).

Rugby’s second station (1840-1885), also to the west of the present station, but nearer, was built at the junction with the Midland Counties Railway. [16]  Francis Wishaw gives a detailed description:

“RUGBY STATION. ― The station at Rugby is situate on the west side of the railway, which at this place is on embankment.  The station-house is set back from the railway about 30 feet, with a fore-court intervening about 34 feet in width.  The building is 26 feet in front, and 31 feet 6 inches in depth.  On the upper floor, which is on a level with the fore-court, is a waiting-room, the descent from which to the booking-office below by a flight of twenty steps.  The police-inspectors’ house is contiguous to offices; and the conveniences are placed in the cellars underneath the fore-court.

The passengers leaving by a train pass through the booking-office up the stairs into the waiting-room, and from thence across the fore-court to the platform; while those arriving leave the station by a flight nineteen wooden steps, 6 feet in width, and on the right side of the fore-court.

The station platform is of wood, 8 feet 10 inches wide; and between the ways is a second platform of wood, 2 feet 9 inches wide, and 7 inches high above the rails.  The whole width of way from the platform to the top of the slope on the opposite side is 26 feet 5 inches.

The stationary engine-house is on the opposite side of the way; and besides the engine and boiler-rooms, there are under the same roof the porter’s lodge, oil-room, &c.

The pumping-engine has a 6-inch cylinder and 2-feet stroke; the usual working pressure is about 34 lbs.  The water is derived from the river Avon, and let into a large tank built for the purpose.

At a distance from the station of about a quarter of a mile is a locomotive engine house, which will hold three engines and tenders shed at this station.  There is also a carriage-shed at this station.

The persons employed at this station are, one ticket-collector, one inspector, four police, five porters, one stationary engine-man, three engine -drivers, two firemen, two smiths, one stoker, three fitters, two cleaners, two coke-men, and two carpenters.

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, Francis Wishaw (1842).

The new Station, which was jointly managed, gained a reputation for its haphazard development:

“The general state of the railway does not call for any more minute observation.  Such of the stations and other works as were not in a perfect finished state at the time of the last annual meeting, have since been completed, and the directors believe, that, in all the arrangements, and in the working of the line, the expectations and requirements of the public have been most satisfactorily answered.  The only exception of which the directors are aware, is the Rugby station, where, notwithstanding the large sums that have been expended in providing amply for the convenience of the public, and in adopting the precise mode of communication pointed out by the London and Birmingham Company, at this important place of junction, complaints are still made of the insufficiency of the arrangements.  This has been a source of great disappointment to the directors, after the unlooked for expense which has already been incurred, but alterations are in progress by which they hope to remedy every reasonable ground of dissatisfaction.”

The Derby Mercury, 18th August 1841.

The third Rugby Station (ca. 1910).

The opening of the Grand Junction Railway in 1837 created a rail link between Birmingham and the North West, which was soon extended to Rugby, while the opening of the Midland Counties Railway to Rugby in 1840 created a rail route to the North East.  The outcome was that Rugby became an extremely busy transport node through which passed most of the rail traffic between London and the Midlands, the north of England, Scotland and North Wales.  The Station and its Junction were to retain this position for the next 25 years, during which time the town also grew in size and importance:

“RUGBY RAILWAY STATION.―The rise and progress of Rugby station is thus given by the Morning Chronicle: When the London and Birmingham Railway was opened, the little village of Rugby was known only as the locale of a celebrated Grammar School.  Now it bids fair to become a large, bustling market town, and the great centre of the principal Railway traffic in the heart of England.  The station on the line when first opened, and for a good many years after, was not 40 yards in length.  Now it is about 150; and looking from one end to the other it appears as if it had been laid down for some splendid promenade.  Since the traffic on the Midland Railway was diverted towards it, and the Midland Company got a joint interest in the station, notwithstanding its vast accommodation, it is now found to be greatly too small.  To remedy this and to provide for the traffic on the Trent Valley line, now in progress at the Rugby terminus, as well as for the traffic to the Rugby, Warwick, and Leamington Railway, which is also to use this station as a central depot for goods, and for the conveyance of passengers from the East to the West of England and to Wales, plans have been drawn of such additions and alterations as will serve to make the station at once the most extensive and magnificent in the kingdom.  The Midland Counties and the Trent Valley Companies will mostly confine themselves to the North side, while the London and Birmingham and the Rugby, Warwick and Leamington Companies will chiefly occupy the South.  At present, the London and Birmingham have got a spacious fitting and engine establishment on the Rugby side, attached to which, for the accommodation of the fitters and their families, two rows of handsome and commodious cottages have been erected, and with their neat and tidy plots of garden ground, constitute quite a picture along the line.  In a straight line from these cottages, a new road has been laid out, and nearly all built upon by handsome houses, constituting what is styled ‘railway Terrace,’ the upper end of which joins the village, which now boasts double the population it contained only ten years ago. ”

The Coventry Herald, 12th June 1846.

Charles Newmarch, returning to Rugby after some years absence, remarked on the change to the station architecture that had occurred, describing the original station as being of timber construction:

“But when we at length stopped at the station, a great change was indeed perceptible. We remembered nothing of the long range of building, with its engine houses and immense establishment; when we left Rugby, a little wooden station of very moderate dimensions was found sufficient for all the traffic that then existed, whereas now we have a platform of some hundred feet in length, and even more accommodation is still required.”

Recollections of Rugby, C. H. Newmarch (1848).

Other lines to Stamford (1850) and to Leamington (1851) added to the traffic, to the extent that Rugby Station eventually became so congested that on occasions trains had to wait hours to pass through, leading to much frustration and anger among travellers (and to Charles Dickens’ satirical tales of Mugby Junction):

“At about this time the attention of the shareholders was first seriously directed to some new railway schemes that were in contemplation; one of which came eventually to exercise an important influence on the destinies of the Midland Company.  This was a proposal for a new line to connect the Midland system with the metropolis.  Many complaints had been made that the only access for Midland passengers to London was by the circuitous and uncertain route of Rugby — uncertain because the arrangements for the meeting of trains so frequently broke down.  One gentleman, for instance, declared at a public meeting at Leicester, that he had three times in succession been detained three hours at Rugby; and it was declared that many persons ‘hated the name of Rugby.’”

The Midland Railway: its rise and progress, F. S. Williams (1876).

The position was alleviated to some extent when, in 1857, the Midland Railway negotiated an agreement with the Great Northern to run trains into Kings Cross via Hitchin, and in 1859 when the London and North Western opened a third track between Willesden and Bletchley. [17]  Nevertheless, congestion remained serious due, in great part, to the heavy London-bound Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfield traffic, which disgorged from the former Midland Counties line:

“The embarrassment of the Midland Company, too, may be imagined when they received such messages as, ‘Stop all coals from Butterley colliery for Acton, Hammersmith, and Kew, for three days, as Willesden sidings are blocked up.’  ‘The North London are blocked with Poplar coals for all the dealers; Camden cannot receive any more for Poplar.’  ‘You must stop the whole till London is clear.’  ‘Rugby is blocked so as not to be able to shunt any more.’  ‘Camden and the North London are blocked with coals.’”

The Midland Railway: its rise and progress, F. S. Williams (1876).

“On one occasion the North Western was so blocked with traffic that it was forced to give notice to the Midland that it could not for some time take on any coal traffic from Rugby, and that in consequence ‘five miles’ of coal trains accumulated at Rugby waiting for conveyance to London . . . . It was under these circumstances that the Midland directors promoted a line to London . . . .

History of the London and North Western Railway, W. L. Steel (1914).

The Midland Railways own line into London was completed in 1868 with the opening of the Saint Pancras passenger terminus, to be followed five years later by the prestigious (and recently restored) Midland Grand Hotel.

Despite losing most of its traffic from the former Midland Counties Railway, Rugby continued to remain inadequate for the freight traffic it carried.  In other respects, the station was poorly constructed and a constant source of irritation to travellers, its particularly low platforms ― which enabled tyre examination ― being a perennial source of complaint.  Eventually, in 1882 . . . .

“. . . . the London and North-Western Railway voted a sum of £70,000 for the erection of a new station.  The traffic had become so heavy that in the present incommodious station it is worked with much difficulty and many delays . . . . More than 120 passenger trains, only one of which does not stop, pass through the station daily, and as there is no separate line for goods and mineral trains, the stress of a proportionate number of these is added . . . . a goods or mineral train is despatched every nine minutes during the night time.  Then there is the fact that coal trains for the South are made up at Rugby of trucks coming from the Lancashire, South Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Cannock Chase, and other coalfields.  About two years ago an adequate goods station and large cattle sidings were built; but the usefulness of these must to a very appreciable extent be counteracted, so long as the present arrangement of metals is used.  What shortcomings of the station are that present themselves to the notice of passengers is tolerably well known.”

Birmingham Daily Post, 1st March 1884.

Rugby, in the days when railway stations were exciting places.

Rugby’s third station was opened in July 1885. [18]  It consisted of an exceptionally large  island platform (437 yards long by 37 yards wide), on each side of which were two pairs of tracks to accommodate passenger and goods traffic, [19] with bay platforms at each end.  Mid-way along each side of the island were ‘scissor junctions’, which allowed two trains to use one platform at the same time. [20]  Considerable re-engineering was also carried out to the south of the Station to construct flyovers to keep the main line clear of traffic from Northampton and Peterborough.

Rugby ― a railway junction diagram, 1909.

Following completion of the Midland main line into London, the former Midland Counties Railway to Rugby lost its importance ― by 1884, the service had diminished to five trains daily in each direction ― but a service continued until the line was closed in December 1961.  Elsewhere, the 1960s marked the start of Rugby’s decline as a railway town, in part due to Dr. Beeching and his axe.  Its locomotive sheds were closed in 1960 and in 1965, as did the Locomotive Testing Station and the Great Central goods yard.  Of the railways that once converged on Rugby from nine directions, the line to Leamington closed in 1965, followed in 1966 by the line to Peterborough and the Great Central Railway south of Rugby.  The section of the Great Central Railway to Nottingham survived until 1969.



Coventry Station ca. 1839.

“The most beautiful town, or rather city, on the whole line is, however, Coventry.  The spires of St. Michael’s church, 300 feet high, of the Holy Trinity, and of the Grey Friars, are the great ornament of the neighbourhood, and are seen to great advantage from the road.  There is a splendid station here, whole staircases of stone, and every accommodation for the landing and departure of travellers.  Taking this line of road as a whole, it is one of the most stupendous undertakings of modern times, and will ultimately lead to results of which it is difficult to foretell the extent.”

The Standard, 18th September 1838.

Initially, Coventry was regarded as the most important intermediate station on the line.  Situated a short distance to the south of the City, the earliest record of a train reaching Coventry Station appears in the Coventry Standard:

“We understand that a steamer, with four travelling carriages, arrived at the Coventry Station of the London and Birmingham railway yesterday from Birmingham, about twelve o'clock, and immediately returned.  Some of the Directors and their friends occupied the carriages.”

The Coventry Standard, 26th February 1838.

Judging from the surviving images, Coventry’s first railway station was probably not dissimilar to those at Watford and at Tring.  Each was built above a cutting and adjacent to a road bridge, their passengers descending flights of stairs to the track, for platforms were not at first provided.  Eliezer Edwards recalls arriving at Coventry Station late one night in 1839:

“I arrived at Coventry station at midnight.  A solitary porter with a lantern was in attendance.  There was no lamp about the place.  The guard clambered to the roof of the carriage in which I had travelled, and the porter brought a long board, having raised edges, down which my luggage came sliding to the ground.  The train passed on, and I made inquiry for some vehicle to convey me to ‘The Craven Arms,’ half a mile away.  None were in attendance, nor was there any one who would carry my ‘traps.’  I had about a hundred-weight of patterns, besides my portmanteau.  I ‘might leave my patterns in his room,’ the porter said, and I ‘had better carry my things myself.’  There was no help for it, so, shouldering the portmanteau, I carried it up a narrow brick stair to the roadway.

The Station then consisted of the small house by the side of the bridge which crosses the railway, and the only means of entrance or exit to the line was by this steep stair, which was about three feet wide.  The booking office was on the level of the road, by the side of the bridge, where Tennyson ‘Hung with grooms and porters,’ while he ‘Waited for the train at Coventry.’

Carrying a heavy portmanteau half a mile on a hot night, when you are tired, is not a pleasant job.  When I arrived, hot and thirsty, at the inn, I looked upon the night porter as my best friend, when, after a little parley, he was able to get me a little something, ‘out of a bottle o‘ my own, you know, sir,’ with which I endeavoured, successfully, to repair the waste of tissue.”

Recollections of Birmingham, Eliezer Edwards (1877).


The original Coventry Station ca. 1839.

The original station soon proved too small for the number of passengers that the Railway attracted, added to which the narrow staircases down to the track proved to be obstacles to moving luggage while the absence of platforms led to difficulty in boarding/descending from trains.  In 1840, the Station was enlarged, the original station building becoming the stationmaster’s house:

“The Coventry station, the next in succession, is considered to be the best on the line for passengers and goods; but, not possessing sufficient accommodation, the company are going to erect a new one on a much more extensive and commodious plan.  The front elevation, as shown in ground plan, will extend about 200 feet.  Here, as at Watford, the tickets are collected from the passengers by the down trains.”

The Bucks Herald, 7th September 1839.

Two platforms were built standing back from the main line and about 100 yards further east, and ramps were provided up to street level.  Two loop lines diverged from the main line, one to each platform, where they arrived under canopies, an arrangement that left the main line free for passing traffic.  Francis Wishaw left his usual detailed description of the new Station, referring to the platform canopies as sheds, which suggests that the platform lines at this time might have been fully enclosed:

“COVENTRY STATION. ― The new Coventry station, which is one of the principal intermediate stopping-places, is situate on the right side of the way going from London, at a distance of about one hundred yards from the bridge which carries the Warwick turnpike-road over the railway.  The original station was very inconveniently located, being at a considerable elevation above the railway, causing thereby much additional labour in carrying the passengers’ luggage up and down a long flight of steps, besides the annoyance in bad weather to passengers, who had to pass from the booking-office to the railway without any protection from the elements.

The new station is, in all respects, free from such annoyance, and appears to be altogether well arranged.  The level of the passenger-platforms is 2 feet above the rails, whereby stepping up to the carriages is altogether avoided.

There are two sheds, each 226 feet 6 inches in length and 19 feet 6 inches in clear width; that on the left from London being for the down trains, and that on the right for the up trains.  Through each shed a single way is laid from the main double way, which passes between the sheds.  This arrangement admits of free passage on the main way during the stoppage of the trains at this station.  Abutting on the inner side of each shed is a range of buildings, 92 feet 6 inches in length and 22 feet 8 inches in depth, containing a parcels-office, booking-office, general waiting-room, and ladies’ waiting-room, with convenient water-closets and urinals.  In front of this building is a paved platform 10 feet wide and 2 feet above the rails.  The glass-doors, nine in number, in front of the station-buildings, remind us of some of the Belgian railway stations; and the same plan has been adopted in the Edmonton station of the Northern and Eastern Railway.  In the rear of each shed is a covered way for common road-carriages, with a platform 6 feet wide next to the building.  Apart from the buildings are two water-columns with engine-races 20 feet 6 inches in length, as also carriage-docks, with turning platforms conveniently arranged.

The whole station is enclosed with stone walls, and is approached from Coventry by gates at about seventy yards from the station-building.

The establishment, in August 1839, at the Coventry station consisted of the superintendent and two clerks, two ticket-collectors, one inspector, one policeman, ten porters, two switchmen, one gas-man, and one pumping-engine man.

There are usually kept at this station two first-class and two second-class carriages.  There is a 6-horse pumping-engine on the west side. In the building containing this engine are also rooms for the police and porters.  The well is about 30 feet deep, and 4 feet in diameter; and the water-tank is 20 feet 9 inches long, 14 feet 9 inches wide, and 4 feet deep.

There is also a locomotive engine-house to hold one engine and tender, with folding-gates at the entrance; within there are a smith’s forge, anvil, and bench.  On the siding at the entrance is a 12-feet turn-table.  The urinals are enclosed with close boarding, and covered over with a shallow rain-water tank 8 inches in depth, a pipe from which conducts the water to the trough for the purpose of cleansing it. In front of this enclosure the name of the station is painted in conspicuous letters.  The rates and tolls are painted on a large board at this station . . . .”


Rates and Tolls.

Dung, compost, manure, &c., 1d per ton per mile.

Coals, coke, culm, &c., l½d.

Sugar, grain, corn, timber, metals (except iron), nails, anvils, and chains, 2d. Cotton, and other wools, drugs, hides, merchandise, &c., 3d.

Every person in or upon any carriage, 2d.

Horse, mule, ass, or other beast of draught or burthen, conveyed in or upon any carriage, l½d.

Every calf, pig, sheep, lamb, or other small animal, in or upon any carriage ¼d

Any carriage other than a railway-carriage conveyed on a truck or platform, 4d. per ton per mile.

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, Francis Wishaw (1842).



On Monday last, this line, connecting Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington, and Warwick, by means of the London & Birmingham Railway, with the Metropolis, was opened.  The line is about nine miles long, and 10 from town, being within four hours’ journey of the Metropolis.  It has been constructed under the superintendence of Mr. Robert Stephenson, is what is technically termed a single line, has cost £170,000, and has taken eighteen months to complete.  On Monday week, the Directors of the London and Birmingham made an experimental trip over it, accompanied by Major-General Pasley, the Government Inspector of railways, starting by the six o’clock A.M. train from London, and after examining the most important points upon the line, reached Leamington at twelve, and partook of a cold collation.  They returned by special train to town, General Pasley expressing himself highly satisfied with the works and general engineering.  One of the main advantages of this extension will be the facilities it will confer on the inhabitants of the southern districts of Warwickshire for the economical supply of coals.  The line is of a singular construction, being a continued series of ascents and descents, forming an undulating surface from terminus to terminus.  Kenilworth, the only station between Coventry and Leamington, is five miles from the former, and three and three quarters from the latter, is situated on the outskirts of the town.  The Leamington station is elegantly constructed in the Roman Doric style, and is situated in the main road between Leamington and Warwick, in the parish of Milverton, near to Emscote.  A continued series of cuttings and embankments occur throughout the distance.  The branch diverges, by a sharp curve, out of the main line at Coventry, and preserves an undulating course to Leamington, a perpetual impetus being kept up between the ascents and descents.  One of the principal works is that of the Milburn viaduct, prettily situated in the middle of a valley, and composed of seventeen arches of red brick, faced with stone.  Then following a timber bridge of fifty feet span, uniting the roads of Leek Wooton, Hill Wooton, and Stoneleigh, with Guy’s Cliffe ― so named after the celebrated Earl of Warwick.  The Avon viaduct, a beautiful structure, is composed of nine arches of sixty feet span, in the neighbourhood of the Hon. B. G. Percy.  The Leamington station is somewhat inconveniently placed at a distance of one mile from both Leamington and Warwick, and the fact of its being only a single line is probably attributable to the high price of land in this neighbourhood, which in some instances had to be purchased at £700 and £800 per acre.

The Coventry Herald, 13th December 1844.

As the Company’s business strategy was aimed initially at the passenger trade, it is, perhaps, unsurprising that  facilities for handling goods at the Station were initially poor or non-existent:

“We stated last week, that the Directors of the London and Birmingham Railway, had given instructions for the necessary erections of sheds at Coventry, for the reception and deposit of goods to be transferred direct to and from this City per Railway.  This week we are enabled to add, that a contract has been entered into for building the new Station for the Carrying Trade, to be completed in three months.  This arrangement will be highly acceptable to our Tradespeople and Manufacturers, who have been greatly unconvinced, and subjected to charges much more excessive than those of other principal manufacturing towns, for the want of such accommodation.”

The Coventry Herald, 28th August 1840.

However, it was not for some years that a proper goods depot was established:

Goods routed to and from Coventry were, for some years after 1838, sent via Birmingham, but by 1863 there was a goods station west of Warwick Road Bridge.”

A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8: ‘The City of Coventry: Communications’.

What industry there was developed to the north of the City, away from the railway, but its connections with vehicle and cycle manufacturing did not at any rate result in a large volume of railway goods traffic.

In addition to the main line, two further lines later entered Coventry Station.  The Coventry to Leamington railway, which entered from the east, was opened in 1844, initially linking the City with Milverton, but in 1851 the line was extended into Leamington Spa.  In September 1850, a line was opened to Nuneaton, which entered the Station from its western end, and over which the Midland railway had freight running rights. [21]  Plans are currently in place to upgrade both the Leamington (including electrification) and Nuneaton lines. [22]  In 1914, the Coventry Loop Line around the north-east of the City (linking the Nuneaton and Rugby lines) was opened for freight traffic to avoid Coventry Station and serve the City’s industrial areas ― it was closed 1982.

Coventry Station, ca. 1865, showing the through and loops lines.  The chimney of the pump-engine boiler can be seen to  the left of the footbridge, and to the right, the gables and chimneys of the original station building are just visible.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Coventry History Centre.

Scope for further enlarging passenger-handling facilities at Coventry was constrained by road bridges on either side of the Station (Stoney Road to the south, Warwick Road to the north) and its location in a cutting; together, these restricted it to two main lines and prevented the platforms from being extended to any great extent.  Nevertheless, some changes were made.  The Station acquired ― probably during the late 1840s ― an engine shed, water column, turntable, and a footbridge to connect its two platforms, with further alterations being made at various times thereafter. [23]  In this form the Station lasted until 1960, then to be demolished and replaced two years later by an entirely new four-platform structure (surprisingly, Grade-II listed) at the time of electrification.

A photograph dating from the 1870s/80s.  The station building shown in the earlier photograph has been extended and the awning projecting over the platform loop replaced with one of conventional design.  The louvered roof suggests toilet facilities.  The locomotives are a Ramsbottom DX Goods and a rebuilt 7ft Bloomer, No. 851 ‘Apollo’.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Coventry History Centre.



Derby Junction station, Hampton, looking towards Birmingham.

Opened in April 1838, the London and Birmingham Railway station at Hampton was one of the Railway’s original structures.  It stood facing the station shown above (i.e. off the left of the picture), which strictly speaking should not be included here, for it was built by the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway as part of a short-lived scheme to provide their passengers with services to Birmingham and London via the London and Birmingham Railway.  However, because so few images of the early stations on the line, and even fewer of its buildings, survive, it is worth including.

In this early sketch of ‘Derby Junction’ station at Hampton, the double track line curving off to the right is the Stonebridge Railway, a branch of the B&DJR.  It ran from Whitacre Junction to Derby Junction, with one intermediate station at Coleshill (renamed Maxstoke in 1923).  From 1839 until 1840 it was a double track main line, forming a junction with the London and Birmingham Railway as shown, but in 1843, following the opening of the B&DJR’s Leicester to Rugby line, its role diminished substantially and was it was reduced to a single track.  From then on the line was of minor importance, losing its passenger service in 1917 and (following a bridge failure) being closed in 1935.


The B&DJR station at Hampton following closure ― the building survives.



The Grand Junction Railway
following later mergers.

From Hampton the line continues for another 10 miles to its first northern terminus at Curzon Street, the remains of which is the only significant building to survive from the original Railway (despite its Grade I. listing, at the time of writing it is falling into rack and ruin).

Designed by Phillip Hardwick Snr., the London and Birmingham Railway’s side of Curzon Street Station ― the other side being the province of the Grand Junction Railway ― was, to some extent, a reflection of its southern counterpart, but not on the scale nor possessing the splendour bestowed on Euston by its Doric Arch.  In common with the Railway’s first London terminus at Camden Town, Curzon Street Station was also short-lived as a passenger terminus.  In 1854, the appropriately named ‘Grand Central Station’ ― soon to become the more mundane ‘New Street Station’ ― was opened in the City Centre, and although continuing to be used for some years by excursion traffic, Curzon Street Station became a goods depot.  As with Euston, the old New Street Station was to fall victim to the railway modernisation programme of the 1960s, when obliteration, rather than preservation and restoration, was much in vogue.

The Grand Junction Railway was the first to commence operations into Birmingham.  It derived the ‘Junction’ part of its name from an ambition to form a connection between the Liverpool and Manchester, and the London and Birmingham railways; or put another way, to form the northern section of a railway between London and the manufacturing districts of Lancashire.  On 6th May 1833, its proprietors obtained an Act [24] authorising the construction of a line between Birmingham and Warrington (78 miles), later to become the U.K.’s first trunk railway.  Two years later, the Company obtained a further Act [25] authorising the purchase of the 4½-mile line linking Warrington with Newton Junction (now Earlestown Station) on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, thus clearing the way for the Grand Junction Railway to form direct connections with Liverpool and Manchester.

From the outset it was considered desirable that the London and Birmingham and the Grand Junction railways should meet near to the centre of Birmingham.   An end-on connection in Birmingham would provide the quickest means for passengers and goods to progress between the two companies’ lines, while a centrally located terminus would be most convenient for passengers traffic to and from the City.  But locating land on which to build a terminus that met these criteria posed significant problems.

In the survey undertaken by John Rennie in 1824-25, John and Edward Grantham, his surveyors, examined various routes into Birmingham, but these were rejected for reasons of topography and/or the need to avoid the estates of influential landowners likely to oppose the scheme in Parliament.  Rennie’s report make no specific recommendation for the location of a Birmingham terminus, merely concluding with the proposed line negotiating a short inclined plane (gradient of 1:10) and then “crossing the Worcester Canal to the Ilchington road where it unites with the proposed Birmingham and Liverpool Railway”, an early name for the Grand Junction Railway.

In his survey of 1830, Francis Giles identified Broad Street as an appropriate location for the termini of both railways.  He identified two routes by which it might be reached . . . .

“. . . . to enter Birmingham on the south side by a tunnel, so as to gain a central terminus.  Another plan was to pass up the Tame Valley from Stone Bridge, and join the Grand Junction Railway at Wednesbury, having a branch line to Birmingham; this was done with a view to the advantages of the whole line from London to Liverpool.  Both companies were to have stations in Broad-street the Grand Junction on the north-west side, on a piece of ground of about seven and a half acres; and the London and Birmingham on the south-east side, containing about nine acres, with another station at the Bell Barn Road.”

The London and Birmingham Railway, Roscoe and Lecount (1839).

Both of Giles’s proposals met the desirable objective of an end-on connections between the two railways.  That via a tunnel formed a direct route into the City Centre, but it would have been expensive to build and would most likely have met strong opposition from property owners.  On the other hand, his bypass solution took the line clear of the built-up areas, thereby offering cheaper land for station development, but interchange to a City Centre branch line would have been inconvenient and its construction would also have met with the problems of high land cost and opposition from property owners.

In October 1830, the Stephensons were commissioned to review the proposals put forward by Rennie and Giles and recommend which to accept.  They chose the latter.  At some stage during their review they appear to have identified the plot of land called ‘Nova Scotia Gardens’, about a ½-mile to the north-east of the City Centre, as a potential terminus, for in the plans deposited in November 1831 it is shown as the Railway’s northern extremity . . . .

The section of the London and Birmingham Railway crossing the Rea Valley and terminating at Nova Scotia Gardens
(dated 30th November 1831).

Nova Scotia Gardens was as far as the line could be taken into Birmingham without the need to tunnel under the high ground that separated it from the City Centre, and it was possibly the location from which Giles’ tunnelling option would have commenced.  Owned by Earl Howe (Richard Curzon-Howe), it was sparsely developed with cottages, gardens and vegetable plots and was, presumably, available to buy at a reasonable price.  Thus, the first London and Birmingham Railway Act authorised a line . . . .

“. . . . commencing on the West Side of the High Road leading from London to Hampstead at or near to the first Bridge Westward of the Lock on the Regent's Canal at Camden Town in the Parish of Saint Pancras in the County of Middlesex and terminating at or near to certain Gardens called Novia Scotia Gardens in the Parishes of Aston juxta Birmingham and Saint Martin Birmingham in the County of Warwick . . . .”

3 Gulielmi IV. Cap. xxxvi., (RA 6th May 1833).

The Grand Junction Railway also received its Act on the 6th May, 1833.  Several attempts to build a line from Birmingham towards Lancashire had already failed:

1824. Petition to parliament for permission to make a railroad between Birmingham and a point opposite to Liverpool in Cheshire.  The usual interests of canal and landed proprietors strenuously opposed this bill, and it was lost, on standing orders, in the Commons.

1826. A similar application was also thrown out.

1830. Application for a line from Birmingham to Chorlton, in Cheshire, lost by the dissolution of parliament, as was also one for a line from Liverpool to Chorlton.”

Osborne's Guide to the Grand Junction, E.C. and W. Osborne (1838).

Thus, when applying for an Act in 1832, the proprietors of the Grand Junction Railway trod cautiously, the Company’s chequebook probably being much in evidence in clearing their way:

One main object was to conciliate the various landed and canal proprietors on the line.  This was principally accomplished through the unwearied perseverance of Mr Swift of Liverpool, the solicitor to the bill, and the directors, by personal applications and equitable pecuniary remunerations to the parties, whose interests were affected by the projected line.  The measure thus released from its formidable oppositions, rapidly passed through both Houses of Parliament, and the Grand Junction Railway Bill received the Royal Assent on the 6th of May, 1833.”

The Book of the Grand Junction Railway, Thomas Roscoe (1839).

Aston Viaduct, on the Grand Junction Railway deviation.
The towers of Aston Hall, the residence of James Watt Jnr., are to the left of the church spire.

Part of the conciliation referred to had been to site the Grand Junction’s terminus north of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. [26]  While this was clear of the built-up City Centre, it also left the line a mile short of the planned London and Birmingham terminus at Nova Scotia Gardens and the ambition of forming an end-on connection.  Thus, having obtained an Act covering the main section of the line from Warrington to Birmingham, the Directors returned to the fray determined . . . .

“. . . . to remove the intended terminus, by means of a tunnel, under the town to the station of the London and Birmingham Railway in Nova Scotia Gardens . . . . In 1834 application was accordingly made to Parliament to carry into effect such alterations and extensions; and the act for this purpose was obtained and received the Royal Assent on the 16th of June, in that year.” [27]

The Book of the Grand Junction Railway, Thomas Roscoe (1839).

However, in his account (above) Roscoe fails to mention strong opposition to the planned extension:

“The Grand Junction Railway Company are applying to Parliament for several alterations in, and for an extension of the line granted them by Parliament last year; and we understand that a strong opposition will be given to the bill by Lord Willoughby de Broke, Mr. Watt of Aston Hall, the Proprietors of the Park, and other influential parties.”

The Birmingham Gazette, 24th February 1834.


Joseph Locke FRS, Civil Engineer (1805-60).

The Company now found in James Watt Jnr., son of the famous developer of the steam engine, a new and implacable opponent to its planned extension.  Although the necessary Parliamentary authority to make the end-on connection with the London and Birmingham had been obtained, it was at the expense of a caveat in the Act that prevented the Aston Hall estate being entered by the railway company without the written approval of Watt (the leaseholder) or its owners, and this was not forthcoming:

“The tunnel under the town of Birmingham is abandoned, in consequence of the opposition of Mr. Watt of Aston Hall, which has compelled the Directors to change the route and to enter that town by another route.  It is irregular that the son of the great inventor of the steam engine, should have been the principal opponent.”

Sheffield Independent, 30th August 1834.

An end-on connection no longer being possible, Joseph Locke, one of the line’s two engineers, [28] was instructed to find alternative means to rendezvous with the London and Birmingham Railway:

“In the act to amend the line, lately sanctioned by Parliament, that part of the road which was intended to pass through Aston Park, belonging to Mr. Watt, and which was dependent upon the permission being granted by that gentleman, [29] has been refused by him, which rendered it necessary to make a fresh survey of ground in that neighbourhood; the result however has been highly favourable, for by a short detour of about half a mile, a junction with the London and Birmingham Railway may be effected, without the necessity of passing through a tunnel under the town, as previously arranged.”

Northampton Mercury, 30th August 1834.

Grand Junction Railway (bold black), showing the deviation from Perry Barr into Curzon Street.


The Lawley Street viaduct, Grand Junction Railway, designed by Joseph Locke.

Locke’s plan was for a deviation from the original line at Perry Barr, which would arch around the eastern side of Aston Park, then pass through Vauxhall to enter the London and Birmingham terminus at Nova Scotia Gardens from the south-east, the final approach being in parallel with the London and Birmingham Railway over a viaduct across the Birmingham Canal.  The diversion required the hasty design and construction of several extra bridges, embankments and viaducts, including, in the approach to Nova Scotia Gardens, a substantial 28-arch viaduct built on a curve of 60-chains (appox. 1200m) radius across Lawley Street and the River Rea.

The Grand Junction Railway commenced public services on 4th July, 1837, their trains terminating at a temporary terminus at Vauxhall while work on the Lawley Street viaduct and the Nova Scotia Gardens terminus was completed.  In the intervening period, passengers completed their journey by omnibus:

“On arriving at the Temporary Station we find a tolerably spacious engine-house for the conservation, reparation and preparation of the engines, a spacious shed for the Trains where they depart and arrive, offices for booking and other business, and sheds for the reception of heavy goods . . . . The Temporary Station is at Vauxhall, which is about a mile and a half from the centre of the town.  Omnibuses leave the principal Inns and Coach Offices about half an hour previously to the departure of the several trains, for the purpose of conveying passengers to the Station, and of bringing back others who may have arrived.  Cars also are in waiting for the same purpose.  The fare to or from the Station Yard is 1s., in case you have luggage sufficient to render it necessary to employ a porter, and 6d. when such is not the case.”

Osborne's Guide to the Grand Junction, E. C. and W. Osborne (1838).

The Engine House.

Services were eventually extended into Nova Scotia Gardens on 19th November 1838, following which Vauxhall became a goods depot.  From about this time ‘Nova Scotia Gardens’ disappears from the literature, to be replaced by either ‘Birmingham Station’ or ‘Curzon Street’ as the name of the Birmingham terminus. [30]

The Grand Junction Railway’s temporary Birmingham terminus at Vauxhall.

Lines converging on New Street and Curzon Street in 1910.

“Entrance to the Terminus”, depicted by John Cooke Bourne, October 1838.  The Station frontage (now a Grade I. listed building), in the Ionic style, was designed by
 Philip Hardwick to match his impressive Doric Arch at Euston Square.  It was built by Grissell and Peto of London.

“The Birmingham Station, Curzon-street, of which the entrance forms the Queen's Hotel (from London 112½ miles) consists of an establishment occupying several acres of ground.  The Repository for Heavy Goods, is an extensive area, excavated out of the new red sand rock, to the left of Curzon street
[facing the Station].  On the right is the splendid Façade, adorned with four magnificent Ionic columns.  The buildings, of which this is the front, contains the board-room of the directors; the secretary’s offices; the offices of the financial and correspondence departments, a refreshment saloon, &c.  To the left of this building, while looking from the front, is the entrance to the booking offices, through which we pass to the London end, and emerge upon the departure parade, under the iron shedding, which covers a space of 217 feet long, and 113 wide; and is admitted to be the first structure of the kind that has ever been erected.  At one end of the shedding may be seen the windows of the refreshment saloon; the entrance to which is on the arrival side, and at a little distance from the other end is the engine house, a large sixteen-sided building.  Closely adjacent [to the left of this view], is the Grand Junction Station, to which the policemen are ready to conduct passengers, if required.  From the arrival parade there are numerous conveyances to all parts of the town.”

History and general directory of the borough of Birmingham, White, Francis & Co. (1849).

Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809-89), civil engineer and railway contractor, built Curzon Street Station.
He also built Nelson’s Column and the new Houses of Parliament.

The London and Birmingham and Grand Junction railways converging on Curzon Street . . . .

This view that has changed considerably since the drawing was made.  In his description of the Grand Junction Railway, Francis Wishaw describes the viaduct on the right thus:

“The Lawley Street viaduct, leaving the Birmingham Station, is built of brick, with stone quoins and dressings, and consists of twenty-eight segmental arches, of 30 and 30 feet span respectively, the length extending to about 1000 feet, the height being about 20 feet, and the extreme width about 32 feet; the parapets are 3 feet 6 inches high and 18 inches in thickness: the whole is built on a curve of three quarters of a mile radius.”

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, Francis Wishaw (1842).

According to Roscoe and Lecount, the London and Birmingham viaduct on the left was “of ten arches, being segments of circles, each of fifty feet span.”   Osborne describes this last section of the railway journey into Curzon Street thus:

“Immediately to our right is the Grand Junction Railway, carried on a magnificent Viaduct, at the far end of which may be seen the Vauxhall Station for heavy goods . . . . From the end of the embankment, the line is carried on a series of splendid arches over the Tame and Lawley street, and the traveller in the train can look down upon the housetops from this elevated viaduct, at the end of which is a small embankment, and then a bridge over the canal, across which the London and Birmingham and Grand Junction lines run side by side, and then curving away from each other, enter their separate stations.  We now pass the Engine House, a large sixteen-sided building, on the left, and after sundry joltings, resulting from the crossing of different lines of rails, enter beneath the spacious shedding of the Birmingham Terminus, and stop at the Arrival Parade, which is on our left side, and from which there are numerous conveyances to all parts of the town.”

Osborne’s London & Birmingham Railway Guide, E.C. and W. Osborne (1840).

Having crossed the viaduct, entry to the Station was then over a short embankment and, according to Roscoe and Lecount, “a massive stone bridge of sufficient width to admit also of the Railway from Liverpool and Manchester to pass over”.  The lines then split in three directions: to the left gave entry to the London and Birmingham Railway’s platforms; to the right gave entry to the Grand Junction Railway’s platforms; and those that led straight ahead crossed Curzon Street on the level to enter the Company’s goods depot.  Here, at the behest of Birmingham’s ‘Commissioners of the Streets’, the 1837 Act laid down conditions governing the Company’s use of the road crossing:

  •     it was not to be used by passenger trains, which in effect prevented any future plan of extending through Curzon Street and into central Birmingham;

  •     it was not to be used more than twelve times each day;

  •     and at no time was the road to be obstructed for more than five minutes.

The last two conditions attracted a fine of £5 for each occasion either was infringed (Appendix), although with regard to the second condition, Lecount had this to say:

“This latter clause is rather amusing; because, by unhooking the carriages, they may be crossing it all day long, as it requires at least two carriages, of some sort or other, to constitute a train.”

The History of the Railway Connecting London and Birmingham, Peter Lecount (1839).

Curzon Street; the London and Birmingham Railway’s arrival and departure platforms.
Note the gentleman’s carriage conveyed on a flatbed wagon to the left of the picture.

“The Company’s works in Birmingham are generally known in that town.  The buildings in course of erection, where the Grand Junction and the London and Birmingham lines meet, are on a most extensive scale, occupying several acres of ground.  The general office in front of the station is of a magnificent character, and is intended for the meetings of the Directors and the offices of their Secretary.  The ground floor, when completed, will be appropriated to refreshments for passengers, to be supplied by Mr. Dee, of the Royal Hotel.  On each side of the building there are carriage entrances to the station yard.  The roof, which is on a similar plan, but considerably wider that the Euston-grove station, is light and elegant, and is constructed from a plan by Mr. Bramah, architect.  It is erected after the same plan as that at the Euston Grove terminus, and is capable of containing sixty carriages.  The offices are capacious and well disposed for the facility of business; they form a splendid colonnade in the street, and are bounded within by a broad terrace walk, on a level with the floor of the carriages.  At the south end of the station yard is a very spacious engine-house, in which there is accommodation for sixteen engines with their tenders, or thirty-two engines without tenders.  Above this is a tank capable of holding two hundred tons of water, which is supplied from the Birmingham Water Works Company.  The plan for supplying the engine-house with coke is extremely well arranged, being effected by means of a vaulted subterranean communication.― To work the seventy miles of road now open, the Company have already at their command twenty-six powerful engines.”

Birmingham Gazette, 16th April 1838.

According to Roscoe and Lecount, the London and Birmingham Railway booking office, waiting room and parcels office was located on the Departure Platform (on the right in the picture above), which also had a colonnade frontage, presumably similar to that at Euston.  A comparison of the illustrations reveals that the train shed shown above followed the Euston model designed by Charles Fox:

“The roof of the passenger-shed, which is of neat and light appearance, and well constructed, is in two spans, each of 58 feet, supported on two lines of cast-iron columns, each twelve in number, and on the front wall of the offices.  The length of the shed and offices is 233 feet.  The arrival and departure platforms are each 20 feet in width, and on a level with the floors of the carriages.  The lines of way under the roof are six in number, the intermediate being each 8 feet.  At either end, and without the shed, are six 12 feet turn-tables; towards the carriage entrance from Canal Street there is an engine-dock 30 feet in length and 8 feet wide, and at the end of the down line.  This affords room for a very long train to be altogether under cover at the time, and also allows the turn-tables to be immediately used on the arrival of a train, which could not otherwise be done.“

The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland, Francis Wishaw (1842).

Although both lines were still incomplete, by April 1838 Curzon Street was being used by travellers between Manchester and London.  Writing in the Preston Chronicle, one prospective traveller, presumably influenced by the London and Birmingham Company’s literature, praised their provision of a Refreshment Room . . . .

“At the Birmingham Station an elegant and commodious suite of rooms has been appointed for refreshment rooms, wherein, from eight o’clock in the morning until five in the afternoon, breakfast or lunch may be had for two shillings, provided by Mr. Dee, of the Royal Hotel, who will also supply sandwiches, soups, ices, or other refreshments (not included in the ordinary collation) at fixed moderate charges.  Ladies’ rooms and female attendants are also comprised in this arrangement.”

Preston Chronicle, 14th April 1838.

. . . . but having later attempted to breakfast at the ‘Queen Victoria Hotel’ (known simply as the ‘Queen’), he became less favourably disposed towards the ‘sort of hotel’ that he found ― a portend for railway catering:

“We left Manchester by the train, at half-past six o'clock in the morning, and reached Birmingham at five minutes past eleven; and as the London train did not start until half-past one, we walked up to the Albion, in Birmingham, for breakfast.  There is a sort of hotel at the London and Birmingham station; but when we applied for breakfast, we were told that their arrangements were not yet sufficiently complete to enable them to give tea and coffee.  I suppose they would rather give people a little cold meat, and charge them 2s. for a lunch, than give them a comfortable breakfast for that money.  This is one of the things that must be amended.  At least a score of passengers walked into the town for breakfast.  The station is exceedingly fine, not extravagant, I should say, but every thing very good, and well adapted for the purpose, it is intended to serve; and certainly I do not feel inclined to grudge the people of Birmingham the embellishment which it gives the town.”

Preston Chronicle, 5th May 1838.

Nevertheless the hotel was successful and was enlarged shortly after the station opened by the addition of the accommodation block on the left of Hardwick’s attractive station house ― just visible in the photograph below ―  which must have unbalanceded the facade depicted by Cooke Bourne.   It was at the Queen’s Hotel, on  27th January 1847, that George Stephenson founded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the body that represents mechanical Engineers in the United Kingdom. [31]

Following completion of New Street Station in 1854, the Victoria Hotel closed. Although Curzon Street handled excursion traffic for many years thereafter, it was used mainly as a goods depot, the station house and hotel (now demolished) becoming goods offices.

The elegant frontage of Curzon Street Station, which survives.  The former Queen’s Hotel is the building, now demolished, on its left.

The screen frontage of the Grand Junction Railway terminus, designed by
Liverpool architect, Joseph Franklin.

The railways had an enormous impact on the town (Birmingham did not become a city until 1889).  Economic growth was stimulated hugely, and during the following decade Birmingham’s population increased to over 140,000; by the 1860s it exceeded a quarter of a million.

The railways reached Birmingham before the town had extended much beyond the limits of the ancient parish, and the companies built their termini on the edge of the built-up area.  This was due in part to the topography, the four earliest lines (Grand Junction, 1837; London and Birmingham, 1838; Birmingham and Derby, 1839; Birmingham and Gloucester, 1841 [32]) approaching via the Rea valley, but the cost of land and of tunnelling, and the desire to avoid confrontation with influential landowners when applying for parliamentary sanction, played their part.  Thus, the Curzon Street and Lawley Street stations were sited inconveniently far from the Centre, and especially so when the volume of road traffic between them and the Centre increased following their opening.  Moreover, the lines themselves limited the way in which the eastern edge of the town could develop.

But within several years it was clearly evident that a larger terminus was needed nearer the City Centre and one that could provide, where needed, end-on connections between the various railways converging or planned to converge on Birmingham (excluding those of the broad gauge).  On the 8th September 1845, the Birmingham Gazette announced the formation of the ‘Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stour Valley Railway Company’ and its plans to connect the existing London and Birmingham terminus with a new station in the centre of the town:


THE Lines of the above-mentioned Railways will be laid out under the superintendence of Robert Stephenson, Esq., the eminent Civil Engineer, with the view of affording the greatest possible amount of accommodation to the Inhabitants of the important Mineral and Manufacturing Districts of South Staffordshire and East Worcestershire, and such Extensions and Branches will be made from the Trunk Lines as may be necessary to effect the object in the most convenient manner.

The Trunk Line of the Birmingham and Wolverhampton Railway will commence at the Station of the London and Birmingham Railway, and after passing through the town of Birmingham, will be taken along or near the banks of the Birmingham Canal, in the most direct line to Wolverhampton . . . .

A GRAND STATION will be formed in the CENTRE OF THE TOWN OF BIRMINGHAM, by which these Railways will communicate with the London and Birmingham, the Birmingham and Derby, the Birmingham and Gloucester, and the Grand Junction Railways of that Town . . . .

Birmingham, 1st September, 1845.

The new company was incorporated on the 3rd August 1846 under the ‘Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stour Valley Railway Act; Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Lines’. [33]  Birmingham’s Street Commissioners were quick to size up the traffic implications of the planned railway:

It is intended to form a communication between the present London station
[Curzon Street] and the proposed new station near New-street, where it will meet the Stour Valley Railway, the two companies having a joint interest in the Station.  In its progress it intersects Banbury-street, New Canal-street, Fazely-street, Bartholomew-street, Park-street, Moor-street, High-street, and Worcester-street.  The three first-named streets will be passed over by a viaduct, having arches across the respective streets of 60 feet span.  It is proposed to stop up Bartholomew-street, and to substitute a new street, parallel with the railway, in lieu thereof, as detailed in the former plan, to which your Committee refer your board.  The remainder of the line will pass by tunnel under the other streets, the greatest attention will be required to the sewerage and drainage.”

Birmingham Gazette, 12th January 1846.

This is a similar same range of problems to those the Company encountered when it was decided to build the Euston Extension, and it makes it is easier to understand why the line was originally terminated at Nova Scotia Gardens.

In 1847, control of the Stour Valley Company passed to the London and North Western Railway, an acquisition designed to prevent the Great Western Railway from acquiring the Stour Valley line as a means of extending its network ―  and the broad gauge ― northwards.  Robert Stephenson and William Baker were appointed engineers for the extension, the construction of which began in 1847 from the Birmingham end, with an 845-yard tunnel into New Street Station.  Work was completed in 1851:

“A trial trip was made on the Stour Valley line of Railway on Tuesday last, the party consisting of Captain C. R. Moorsom and Mr. R Benson, directors; Captain Huish, general manager, and Mr. Eborall, of the London and North Western Company; Mr. W. Baker, Mr. Lee, engineer, Mr. H. Morgan, secretary, Mr. Brogden, Mr. McLean, and Mr. J. D. Payne, of the South Staffordshire Company; Mr. Branson, Mr. Pickering, and Mr. Hill, the contractors, Mr. J. Cheshire and other gentlemen.  Two first-class carriages and a break left the junction with the London line in Duddeston-row, and passed through the tunnel commencing at Moor-street, passing under High-street and Worcester-street, to the Central Station, and that which proceeds from Hill-street and emerges at the Crescent bridge, and thence down the line, calling at Smethwick . . . . to Wolverhampton.  After partaking of refreshment, the party returned to this town.― As it has been found impossible to complete the Central Station by the end of December next, it has been resolved to erect a temporary station on the site, to accommodate the Stour Valley traffic.”

Birmingham Gazette, 25th August 1851.

London and North Western freight traffic began using the line in February 1852, followed by passengers in March 1853.   However, it was not until June 1854 that the Station ― initially called ‘Grand Central Station’, or ‘Navigation Street’ ― was formally opened:

“. . . . the London and North-Western Company, as the proprietors of the largest railway in the kingdom, have just added to their buildings a station of corresponding magnitude; erected for the accommodation of their own immense traffic and that of the Midland, Stour Valley, and the North Staffordshire lines.  This grand Central Station, which was opened on Thursday last, June 1st, is situated in New Street, Birmingham . . . . Entering the Station by an arcade, we arrive at the booking offices for the respective railways; and, passing through these, emerge on a magnificent corridor or gallery, guarded by a light railing, and open to the Station (but enclosed by the immense glass and iron roof), from whence broad stone staircases, with bronze rails, afford access to the departure platform.  We then stand on a level with a long series of offices, appropriated to the officials of the Companies; and a superb refreshment-room, about eighty feet long by forty broad, divided into three portions by rows of massive pillars.”

Illustrated London News, 3rd June 1854.


The 1st June 1854 also marked the opening of the Queen’s Hotel.  Designed by William Livock to meet passenger demand for accommodation in the town, the new 60-room (as built) hotel comprised the whole of the left wing, the centre (excepting the ground floor) and the third story of the right wing of the station building.

The much-extended Queen’s Hotel in later years.

New Street Station was designed by Edward Alfred Cowper and constructed by Messrs. Fox, Henderson & Co, who also built Paddington Station and the Crystal Palace. [34]  The Station had the largest single span arched roof in the world, being 212ft wide and 840ft long and covering four through platforms and four turntable roads for marshalling trains.  Because of the station’s size and location in the town centre, a footbridge was built to provide public access from one side of Birmingham to the other.  The Gazette’s journalist goes on to describe the Station’s interior:

“We must ask the reader to imagine that he stands on a stone platform, a quarter of a mile long; that behind him is a range of forty-five massive pillars projecting from the station wall; and that in front of him are ten lines of rails, four platforms, and a broad carriage-way, bounded by another range of forty-five massive iron pillars; and above all this there stretches, from pillar to pillar, a semi-circular roof, 1100 feet long, 205 feet wide, and 80 feet high, composed of iron and glass, without the slightest support except that afforded by the pillars on either side.  Let him add to this, that he stands on a stone platform a quarter of a mile long, amidst the noise of half a dozen trains arriving or departing, the trampling crowds of passengers, the transport of luggage, the ringing of bells, the noise of two or three hundred porters and workmen, and he will have a faint idea of the scene witnessed daily at the Birmingham Central Railway Station.”

The Birmingham Gazette, 6th March 1854.



The Station was extended by the Midland Railway in 1885.  The original station’s magnificent roof sustained heavy damage from bombing during World War II., and was demolished shortly afterwards to be replaced with temporary canopies over the platforms. These remained in use until the Station and the Queen’s Hotel were demolished to make way for the present structure during the 1960s.

New Street Station ca. 1870.





Cap. lxiv.
An Act to amend the Acts relating to the London and Birmingham Railway.
RA 30th June 1837.
Regulations as to Trains crossing Curzon-street Birmingham.

“XXIV. And be it further enacted, That where the said Railway is intended to cross a certain street in the Town of Birmingham called Curzon Street, the said Company shall, whenever thereto required by the Commissioners of the Streets acting for the Time being for the said Town, erect and for ever thereafter repair and maintain a Bridge over the said Railway for Foot Passengers along the said Street, which Bridge shall be of such Width and shall be formed and constructed by and at the Expence of the said Company in such Way and Manner as shall be required by and satisfactory to the said Commissioners, and that the said Company shall not carry upon the said Railway any Passengers across Curzon Street aforesaid, but shall take up and land all Passengers on the Southern Side of the said Street; nor shall the said Company allow their Trains of Carriages to cross the said Street more than Twelve Times in any one Day, nor shall the Passage be obstructed by any Train in crossing for a longer Time than Five Minutes; and in case the said Company shall allow their Trains of Carriages to pass across the said Street oftener than Twelve Times in each Day, the said Company shall forfeit and pay a Sum of Five Pounds for each Time over and above the said Twelve Times; and in case the said Passage shall be obstructed by any Train for any Space of Time longer than Five Minutes the said Company shall forfeit and pay the Sum of Five Pounds for each Time the said Passage shall be obstructed during a longer Time; and such Penalties shall be recoverable and applicable in the same Manner as the Penalties the Recovery of which are not herein specially provided for are by the first herein before recited Act directed to be recovered and applied.”





Since 1929, the southern section of the Grand Union Canal.


A bonus enjoyed by canal historians, to a much greater extent than their railway counterparts, is the facility to inspect the state of things from the close proximity to the towing path.


South of Rugby, the track was quadrupled during the 1870s and 80s, resulting in a much wider Tring Cutting than depicted by Bourne.  During this widening scheme, Northampton, which had been bypassed by Stephenson, received its branch connection (the Northampton Loop), which delivered the bonus of avoiding the need to widen the Kilsby Tunnel.  There has also been much alteration to the southern-most end of the line.


Cited in John Britton’s introduction to Drawings of the London and Birmingham Railway by John C. Bourne (1839).


Referred to in Old Euston by G. Royde Smith, Country Life Ltd., London, 1938.


The GWR was incorporated by the Great Western Railway Act, 1835 (5 & 6 Wm. 4, c. 107, RA 1835).  The Act empowered the Company to construct and run a railway between a field called ‘Temple Mead’ in the Parish of Temple (otherwise Holy Cross), in the City and County of Bristol, to a junction with the London and Birmingham Railway at a field sited between the Paddington Canal and the turnpike road between London and Harrow, in the Parish or Township of Hammersmith, with branches to Trowbridge and Bradford (Wiltshire).


“An Act to enable the London and Birmingham Railway Company to extend and alter the Line of such Railway and for other Purposes relating thereto.”


Possibly Sir James Nicoll McAdam (1786-1852), son of John Loudon McAdam, the “macadamiser” of roads.  Chief trustee and surveyor of the metropolitan turnpike roads, he received his knighthood in 1834.


In 1962, the Portico, a Grade II-listed building, was pulled down together with the Great Hall as part of the tasteless station redevelopment seen today.  The Architectural Review described the Portico’s demolition of the as an act of “official apathy and philistinism.”  But it must be said that by the 1930s, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company was at any rate planning to rebuild the Station and demolish the Portico, which was by then partly obscured by later building.  The late Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, became the driving force to ensure that later mainline station redevelopments in London preserved and restored rather than obliterated our railway heritage structures.


Now Cheddington Station.


On board toilet facilities had to await the introduction of corridor carriages, which did not come into widespread use until well into the 20th century.


. . . . built under the supervision of James McConnell. James Edward McConnell (1815-1883) was Locomotive Superintendent of the L&NWR’s Southern Division at Wolverton railway works from 1847 to 1862, and was a founder member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  While at Wolverton he supervised the design of the ‘Bloomer’ and ‘Patent’ class locomotives.  McConnell resigned following a disagreement with the Company Chairman, Richard Moon (1814–1899), and spent the remainder of his career as a consulting engineer.  Both McConnell and Moon are reputed to have been autocratic and disagreeable.


Carriages were loaded onto flatbed trucks ― an early form of Motorail ― some travellers even electing to remain within them.


Present day northbound rail travellers cannot fail to notice the marked descent in the steep-walled and cross-braced section of the Roade Cutting taken by the Northampton Loop as it veers off the main line towards the town.


Excluding Rugby Central.  The Great Central line crossed the L&NWR at Rugby on a bridge, making no connection with it.


Engineered by Charles Blacker Vignoles (1793-1875), the Midland Counties line to Rugby opened in May 1840, linking the town with Leicester, Loughborough, Derby, Nottingham and the North East.  In 1844, the MCR, the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway and the North Midland Railway merged to form the Midland Railway.


The second tunnel was opened in 1874.  By 1876, two fast and two slow lines extended from Bletchley to Willesden and, by 1879, to London.


The Midland Railway retained one platform of the old station, separate from the new station, which was used by local trains from the Leicester branch.


The quadruple track extended to Trent Valley junction, where it separated, thus enabling traffic for Birmingham and the North of England to leave the Station at the same time.


A scissor junction was X-shaped.  It enabled one train to pass another, already in the platform, and pull in ahead of it; it also allowed the train at the rear to pull out of the station.


In January 1857, the viaduct at Spon End on the outskirts of Coventry collapsed.  Rebuilding took until October 1860 to complete.


The upgrades (as at April, 2013) are part of £37.5bn plan to develop the UK’s railway infrastructure over the next five years announced by Network Rail.


The drawing lists held by the L&NWR Society include many plans, apparently produced for additions or alterations to Coventry Station from 1850 onwards.


3 Gulielmi IV. c. xxxiv: An Act for making a Railway from the Warrington and Newton Railway at Warrington in the County of Lancaster to Birmingham in the County of Warwick to be called ‘The Grand Junction Railway’ (RA 6th May 1833).


5 & 6 Gulielmi IV. c. viii: An Act for incorporating the Warrington and Newton Railway with the Grand Junction Railway, and for extending to the said first-mentioned Railway the Provisions of the several Acts of Parliament relating to the said last mentioned Railway: and for other Purposes relating thereto (RA 12th June 1835).


II. . . . and terminating in certain grounds or Gardens belonging to the Governors of the Free Grammar School of King Edward the Sixth in Birmingham, near to New John Street and Blews Street in Birmingham aforesaid. ― 3 Gulielmi IV. c. xxxiv.


4 Gulielmi IV. c. lv: An Act to enable the Grand Junction Railway Company to alter and extend the Line of such Railway, and to make a Branch therefrom to Wolverhampton in the County of Stafford; and for other Purposes relating thereto (R.A. 16th June 1834).


George Stephenson was the line’s Engineer-in-chief, assisted by his former pupil Joseph Locke (1805-60) and by John Rastrick.  Both Stephenson and Rastrick were established civil engineers with other commitments, which resulted in their involvement with the project being less than Locke’s.  Friction with the Grand Junction Railway directors eventually led first to Rastrick and then to Stephenson resigning their positions with the Company, leaving Locke in sole control, which, for a time, resulted in strained relations between Locke and Robert Stephenson.  Locke eventually became a notable railway engineer, with extensive projects to his credit in the U.K. and in Europe. Like others of his contemporaries ― Brunel and Robert Stephenson, for example ― Lock died at the comparatively early age of 55.


4 Gulielmi IV. c. lv: IV. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall authorize or empower the said Company, their Successors or Assigns, or any other Persons, to enter upon or into, take, injure, or damage, for the Purposes of this Act or the said recited Act, any Part of a certain Park lying within the Parish of Aston-juxta-Birmingham in the County of Warwick, and Handsworth in the County of Stafford, known by the Name of Aston Park, the Estate of Kelynge Greenway, John Greaves, and John Whitehead Lowe, Esquires, without the Consent in Writing of the Owners for the Time being of the said Park, and also of James Watt Esquire, Lessee of Aston Hall and Part of the said Park, first had and obtained.


The Station’s fine Ionic frontage actually stands on New Canal Street rather than Curzon Street.


The founding of the Institution is said to have been spurred by outrage that George Stephenson, the most famous mechanical engineer of the age, had been refused admission to the Institution of Civil Engineers unless he sent in “a probationary essay as proof of his capacity as an engineer”.  Interesting though it is, the story is probably apocryphal.


The Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway opened in August 1839, its line forming a junction with the London and Birmingham at Hampton from where the trains would reverse into Curzon Street.  This unsatisfactory arrangement ceased in 1842, when the company opened a line to a new terminus at Lawley Street.  In 1844, the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway, the Midland Counties and the North Midland Railway merged to form the Midland Railway.

The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway ― famous for its steeply graded Lickey Incline, average gradient of 1:37.7, or 2.65%  ―  merged with the Bristol and Gloucester Railway in 1845 to form the Birmingham and Bristol Railway, which in 1846 became a further constituent of the Midland Railway.  An Act of Parliament had given the Birmingham and Gloucester the right to use any future London and Birmingham terminus in Birmingham, which meant that the later Midland Railway had the right to share Birmingham New Street Station when it was built by the LNWR.


9 & 10 Vict. - Sess 1846.  An Act for Making a Railway from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, and to the Grand Junction Railway, in the Parish of Bushbury, with a Branch to Dudley.


The ‘Fox’ in the partnership was Charles Fox, a member of Stephenson’s original London and Birmingham Railway project team, to whom, working under Stephenson, the design of the Euston train sheds and the iron bowstring bridge across the Regent’s Canal are credited.