National Rail Terminals in Central London - Part 1 - North
Created | Updated Oct 23, 2009
There are 14 National Rail Terminals in Central London. This entry deals with the eight stations that primarily serve destinations north of the River Thames. They are detailed here anti-clockwise from Fenchurch Street in the east.
Part 2 of this series details the southern stations.
...you wouldn't believe how bored it is possible to get in the ticket queue at Fenchurch Street Station.
—Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
Fenchurch Street Station is deemed worthy of a square on one version of the Monopoly board, but not its own Underground station. It serves the c2c (formerly London, Tilbury and Southend) line to Shoeburyness via Grays, Barking, Lakeside Shopping Centre (Chafford Hundred Station), Tilbury, Basildon and Southend (Central and East stations).
It originally opened in 1854 to serve the London and Blackwall railway (some of which is now the Docklands Light Railway), replacing the Minories station. It was the first terminal to be opened in the City of London and was also the terminus of the North London Line until Broad Street was opened 11 years later. It also served the Great Eastern Railway until it moved to the purpose-built Liverpool Street. The station is ideally situated for people visiting the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
Now that Tilbury Riverside has closed, the c2c route only has one terminus outside London, so Fenchurch Street has only four platforms. However, it does operate near capacity at peak hours. There are fewer miles of track leading out of Fenchurch Street than from any other London Terminal.
Nearby Tube stations are Tower Hill (Circle Line and District), Aldgate (Circle and Metropolitan) and Aldgate East (Hammersmith and City and District). Tower Gateway DLR station is close. Liverpool Street station is also a short walk away. The Jubilee Line was was going to stop at Fenchurch Street on its way to Lewisham, according to the original extension plan.
Fenchurch Street station sits on Fenchurch Place.
Liverpool Street is one of the busiest railway stations in London and serves Essex, East London and East Anglia via One Railways. It was opened in 1874 by the Great Eastern Railway, to replace Shoreditch station, which was further east. A year later, it was opened to suburban services. It was built next to Broad Street Station.
The station features a very ornate roof high above the train sheds. The Great Eastern Hotel forms one side of the station, which is sited below ground level. At street level, there are entrances on Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate, as well as entry via a small shopping arcade from the huge Broad Gate business centre.
The station was a rather shabby place by the 1980s, when a seven-year rebuilding scheme was instigated. As well as the shopping mall, the refit also brought more shops on a new balcony, a new underground booking hall and a bright and shiny atmosphere.
The station has a rather dark history. It is built on the site of the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem, also known as the Bedlam mental hospital. It also suffered one of the first London bombings of World War II, causing over a hundred deaths. A list of railway workers who died fighting in World War I is embedded into the wall of the hotel.
The station is ideally situated for access to both the East End and the City of London. The Geffrye Museum, Bank of England and Guildhall University are all nearby, as are many of the city churches. Brick Lane and Old Spitalfields markets are close by, as are two of the capital's tallest buildings, 30 St Mary's Axe (the 'Gherkin') and Tower 42 (Natwest Tower).
The station has 18 overground platforms. Platforms 1 - 8 serve trains on the West Anglia and Lee Valley lines through Bethnal Green towards Chingford, Harlow, Stansted Airport, Cambridge and Kings Lynn. Platforms 9 and 10 are generally for the Intercity services to Norwich and Harwich. The remainder serve the Great Eastern lines through Stratford, towards Romford, Brentwood, Chelmsford, Colchester, Witham, Braintree, Clacton, Ipswich, Peterborough, Southminster and Southend Victoria. Two trains run on the c2c lines to Shoeburyness just before midnight.
The Harwich Boat Train runs twice a day to meet the Harwich to Hook of Holland North Sea ferry.
The station is named after the street it is built on, which in turn was named after Lord Liverpool. It is not unknown for passengers to aim for Liverpool and arrive at Liverpool Street and vice versa. These people are generally cited as proof that one is still being born every minute.
Being nice and shiny and normally fairly busy, Liverpool Street has been seen on television screens a number of times. It is not known whether special smaller payphones were installed for Tom Cruise to use in Mission Impossible. It has been used a number of times by documentaries into terrorist attacks as a possible target. In 1996, the Chester rock band Mansun threw a briefcase full of money into the rush hour masses and filmed the result for their music video 'Tax Loss'. Liverpool Street also has its own square on the Monopoly board.
Liverpool Street is on the Central, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City Underground lines. At one point during the refurbishment, it was planned to run the East London Line into platform 18 from Shoreditch. However, this was shelved, as the GLC was disbanded. Moorgate station is only a short walk away.
Crossrail 1, the East-West link route that is currently in construction, is due to stop in a tunnel between Liverpool Street and Moorgate.
Broad Street Station
Broad Street Station once saw 27 million passengers a year, with trains coming and going every minute. By the end of its life, it was just one sad-looking platform.
It opened in 1864, serving the North London Railway to Watford, Hampstead, Richmond and Poplar. It was also a supplementary terminal of the Great Northern Line. At its peak, only Liverpool Street and Victoria were busier. It expanded from seven platforms to nine in 1913.
As the tube, tram and bus networks expanded, fewer passengers used Broad Street. After suffering heavy bombing in World War II, the main part of the station closed in 1950. The station survived Dr Beeching's Axe due to public support, but later in the decade much of the roof was removed and the tracks to Poplar were removed. By the mid-1980s, it saw only 300 rush-hour passengers per day, so it was decided to close the station and demolition began in 1985. The Richmond trains were all diverted to North Woolwich via Stratford. A single platform remained in use for the Watford rush-hour service until November, 1986, when trains were diverted into Liverpool Street via Hackney.
Nothing remains of the station, as the Broad Gate complex was built over the top of it.
The BBC's Spooks saw Irish terrorists target 'Broad Street' mainline and underground stations. Obviously, the writers were just using the name instead of that of any of the current stations.
Shoreditch Station was originally intended as the terminus of the Eastern Counties railway service to Great Yarmouth. It opened in 1840, taking over from a temporary station in Mile End. The station was up on a viaduct next to the current lines into Liverpool Street. Shoreditch, or Bishopsgate as it was renamed in 1846, was in the middle of the East End and therefore too far out of the City for genteel passengers to find convenient. So Liverpool Street was built. New low-level platforms were built on the lines into Liverpool Street and the station was called Bishopsgate Low Level.
Bishopsgate High Level closed in 1875 as Liverpool Street opened and was rebuilt as a two-level goods station. This closed in 1964 after a fire. Low Level closed in 1916 following a drop in passengers for the local services.
As trains approach Liverpool Street, the trains from Bethnal Green pass underneath a long viaduct. Bishopsgate Station and its track ran on this. The two low-level platforms still exist, one on the cutting side with steps leading up to Quaker Street and the other underneath the viaduct. They can be seen from a passing train on the London side of the bridge through which you can see Shoreditch Underground Station. The High Level station has been demolished to make way for the East London Line extention.
Moorgate sits underground. Accessed from Moorgate, it is the city terminus for two rail companies, West Anglia Great Northern and Thameslink. It opened in 1865 for the Metropolitan line. The Moorgate itself was a gate in the London Wall that, surprisingly, gave access to the moor. Moorfields, as it was known, was unpopulated during the Middle Ages and was popular with winter ice-skaters. All that now remains of the moor is Finsbury Square and Finsbury Circus.
The Thameslink terminal sits next to the Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines in the 'cut and cover' station just below the surface. Trains from here serve suburban stations towards Luton and Bedford.
The West Anglia Great Northern platforms are buried deep in the London clay above the Northern Line. The line, which joins the King's Cross suburban services at Finsbury Park, used to be part of London Underground. It is infamous for a 1975 disaster when a train plunged into the buffers, killing 42 people. The trains from these two platforms serve stations in North London and Hertfordshire towards Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City.
Moorgate is very close to the Barbican complex and visitors can enjoy a day out there, trying to find their way to the exit. The Museum of London and the Guildhall are also nearby.
Kings Cross is home to two generations of childhood heroes. Self-proclaimed megastar and saviour of TV-AM, Roland Rat lived in the station's sewer system. Harry Potter caught his train to Hogwarts from platform 9¾. It should be noted that platforms 9 and 10 share the same platform and author JK Rowling admits to having made a mistake in her books. For a while, it was reported that St John's Ambulance stationed an officer to treat delusional wannabe wizards who ran into the station wall. Currently, there is a section of a luggage trolley amerced in a wall of the corridor between platforms 8 and 9.
Platforms 9, 10 and 11 sit in a separate building to the west and rear of the main station and serve suburban services to Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire on the WAGN line.
The main station was opened in 1852 for the Great Northern Railway with a strikingly bold and elegant design by Lewis Cubbit. It was originally just two platforms at either side of the station, with sidings in the middle. There are now eight platforms serving the WAGN, Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) and Hull Trains. King's Cross is the terminus of the East Coast Main line and was once witness to the Gresley Pacifics: huge steam locomotives such as the Flying Scotsman, Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard that raced to Scotland in competition with the West Coast lines. Trains from here go to Cambridge, Peterborough, York, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.
The rather ugly 1970s extension to the front of the station was built as a temporary measure 30 years ago and is still there, ruining the appearance of the listed building. Kings Cross and its neighbour St Pancras are undergoing a massive refurbishment and the extension is slated to go. Crossrail 2, a north-east to south-west route, is planned to stop at Kings Cross.
The station is on the corner of Euston Road and York Way.
It shares its underground station with St Pancras and is on the Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City, Victoria and Northern (Bank Branch) Lines. To get from here to Euston via tube, you can go south on the Victoria, north on the Northern or west on the Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City. Don't worry if that confuses you, as Euston is a quarter-mile walk down the road!
Kings Cross Thameslink is situated on Pentonville Road on the site of the old Metropolitan station. It is due to close soon, with a new station opening under the refurbishment plans.
The area was originally called Battlesbridge, named after the place where Boudicca battled the Romans at a bridge over the river Fleet (also called the Holborn). It was renamed Kings Cross after a memorial to King George IV, which was placed at the crossroads outside. It should be noted that while officially the station is known as Kings Cross, the Underground station is King's Cross. Railway maps have been known to show both, but the area has no apostrophe.
The area around Kings Cross was synonymous with seedy dwellings and low-rate prostitutes. Much of the area has been cleared for the arrival of the Eurostar service in 2007.
Kings Cross has its own square on the standard monopoly board.
The robbery in the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers took place at Kings Cross station, on Cheney Road which runs between Kings Cross and St Pancras. Mrs Wilberforce's house sits on Frederica Street on the line out of Kings Cross by Caledonian Road.
St Pancras is probably the most recognisable of the London terminals, but it is in no way one of the busiest. The Midland Railway used to run trains into both Euston and Kings Cross, but needed a terminal of their own. In 1862, work started on their new terminal at St Pancras.
The slums of Somers Town and Agar Town were cleared and Regents Canal was crossed. By October 1868, the station was opened. The first train, which went to Manchester, ran non-stop from Kentish Town to Leicester, the furthest any train had gone directly.
Every railway company had to be seen to be bettering its opposition in every area, so with the functionally elegant Kings Cross and the imposing, ornate Euston Station with its arch on either side, St Pancras was going to have to look special. Nobody will deny that it is an architectural and engineering masterpiece. The vast vaulted arch of its train shed, while not as eye-catching, was a magnificent engineering achievement. Spanning 213 feet, the roof was much larger than anything anybody else had tried, though the train shed roof has been removed while work is carried out on the station. The Midland Hotel that provides the frontage for the station is one of the finest examples of a Victorian Gothic building anywhere in the country. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott, although his original design was redrawn to fit in budget constraints. It opened for business in 1875. While extensions and renovations have scarred the frontage of its two neighbours, St Pancras still retains its former glory. While the hotel retains its exterior, it closed for business in 1935.
Until the Thameslink service opened, St Pancras served the Bed-Pan suburban services, but it is now only for Midland Mainline trains to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield.
With the arrival of Channel Tunnel trains planned in 2007, the station is undergoing a massive refurbishment. Currently, the entrance is halfway down the train shed and on a bridge over the platforms. When fully open, the station will serve the Midland Mainline, Eurostar services and commuter services from Kent. There will also be a new Thameslink station underneath the main station, replacing Kings Cross Thameslink. There are also plans to run trains via the Channel Tunnel link from the Great Northern line, removing some pressure from Kings Cross. Trains will also run from here to Stratford for the Olympic Games in 2012.
The raised taxi ramp up to the station entrance was often used in films and TV, but its greatest screen role, aside from being used instead of Kings Cross in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was in The Ladykillers. It sits in the background of many of the scenes. The view out of Mrs Wilberforce's front door is down Argyle Street, north towards the station. It should be noted that this is about a mile from the house on Frederica Street above the railway lines.
The British Library is next door to the station, as is Kings Cross. Euston Station is only a short walk away.
The former borough of St Pancras, after which this station is named, derives its name from the church dedicated to the boy martyr St Pancras. The church, which was one of the first built in the area surrounding the city, has now been restored and sits behind the station. The manor of St Pancras was originally granted to St Paul's Cathedral by King Ethelbert in the 860s. The site of the camp for the Roman army that met Boudicca was underneath St Pancras station. More recently the undercroft of the station was used to store beer barrels from Burton1.
St Pancras sits on Euston Road between Pancras Road and Midland Road.
The modern Euston Station is an ugly desecration of a formerly impressive building. When George Stephenson's London and Birmingham Railway built the first central London terminal in 1837, architect Philip Hardwick and engineer Charles Fox produced Euston, with its wrought-iron roof and imposing arch at the entrance. Euston's Great Hall was built in 1849 from the plans of Philip Charles Hardwick, the architect's son.
In the 1960s, British Rail got rid of everything, including the arch, to massive public outcry. The resulting low-rise grey block benefits from being hidden behind the two large office blocks which are currently the headquarters of National Rail. The train shed was replaced by a lower, more claustrophobic version.
The main concourse is fairly spacious. However, aside from the food court and a small Perspex cage, there is little seated waiting room. Waiting passengers are regular targets for the homeless people and beggars who congregate on the square outside. There is a pub upstairs which features seating on a balcony that overlooks the concourse. Pub customers can use their toilets for free, rather than paying for the toilets in the main station.
In 2001 a purse-snatcher attempted to steal the bag of a woman seated in the food court. The victim gave chase and was run over by the fleeing criminals. Since then, the corner of the food court where the crimes took place has been converted into a Marks and Spencer's. It can be entered from the station, but there is no exit back into Euston.
Originally the trains from Euston had to be winched up to Camden, as the gradient was too steep. Over time, the station has been the London end of the London and Northwestern Railway and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway before nationalisation. Now the 18 platforms serve as the terminal for Silverlink, Virgin West Coast and First ScotRail. The Silverlink trains which generally operate from the middle platforms are the local and suburban services to Watford Junction, Milton Keynes and Northampton. Virgin trains run to Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Holyhead, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. ScotRail run a few sleeper trains to the Highlands. Euston also used to run Motorail services to the north, where you could load your car onto the train and drive off at the other end.
Euston is set back from Euston Road between Evershot Street and Melton Street. A few of the colleges of The University of London are nearby.
The name Euston comes from Euston Hall in Suffolk, the country seat of the Duke of Grafton, who owned much of the land around here.
Euston is on both the City and Charing Cross branches of the Northern Line and the Victoria tube lines. Euston Square Underground station is a short walk away, as are Warren Street, King's Cross St Pancras and Russell Square.
Marylebone rivals Fenchurch Street as the least-frequented and least-well-known of the stations detailed here. Both have their own squares on the Monopoly board, but whereas Fenchurch Street has the Douglas Adams connection, Marylebone features in The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night.
The Great Central Railway was the last train service to enter London in 1899. Their terminal at Marylebone was envisioned as a ten-platform complex, but with the company risking bankruptcy, the plans were scaled back to four platforms.
The GCR ran trains from Marylebone to Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester. Dr Beeching closed all the lines north of Aylesbury, reasoning that between Euston and St Pancras other stations could handle the traffic. With only local trains, the station was very quiet, underused and increasingly run down and plans were made in the 1980s to transfer all the traffic to Paddington. The lack of traffic on the lines meant that steam train enthusiasts used the line to run excursions.
In the late 1980s, it was decided that Paddington was overcrowded, so some trains were diverted to Marylebone. After privatisation, the station started running Chiltern Trains services into Bicester, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and Kidderminster. The lines from Marylebone cross to the north of the Euston lines, before crossing south of them again.
The district of Marylebone was originally called Tyburn, after the area where public executions where held. By the 1450s, the residents thought that it was a bit of a morbid name and so renamed their parish after the church of St Mary-by-the-Bourn. It was first recorded as Maryburne in 1453, with the le being added later on.
Marylebone station sits on Melcombe Place near Lisson Grove, Marylebone Road and Gloucester Place in the City of Westminster. It is served by the Bakerloo tube line and is walking distance from both Edgware Road and Baker Street. The Metropolitan Line was already operating by the time Marylebone was built, so it doesn't sit on the Circle and Hammersmith and City lines. Regent's Park and Madame Tussaud's are both nearby.
Two names are linked with this terminal. The first is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great British engineer who designed the terminal for his Great Western Railway. The other is Paddington, the bear from deepest, darkest Peru who was found in the station.
The station was opened in 1854 to replace the temporary station next door2. Brunel designed the station with Matthew Digby Wyatt doing the detailing. Philip Charles Hardwick designed the Great Western Hotel at the end of the station. The roof originally consisted of three spans and was extended to four in 1906.
Paddington was one of only two London termini3 to be designed for broad-gauge4. It also had the world's first public telegraph installed between the station and West Drayton.
The Great Western Railway served destinations from Cornwall through Wales, Birmingham and Birkenhead. Today the station is the terminus for First Great Western and the Heathrow services. First Great Western serves Cardiff and Swansea, Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Truro, Penzance, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Oxford, Worcester and Hereford as well as occasional trains to the Cornish Riviera and North Wales. The 'Night Riviera' sleeper service to Penzance is currently also the country's only Motorail train. Great Western Link is the suburban stopping service. There are two services to Heathrow Airport from the station: Express is a fast service straight to the airport, while Connect stops at individual stations. Paddington is due to be on the Crossrail 1 route that runs from East London.
The station takes its name from the district that was originally recorded in 959 as Padintune, or 'Farm of Padda', a local Anglo-Saxon chieftain.
Paddington is situated on the corner of Praed Street and Eastbourne Terrace. St Mary's Hospital is close by to the north and Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are a short walk away to the south.
Paddington is on the Hammersmith and City, Circle, District and Bakerloo tube lines.