Travelling by train from Devon to London invariably means arriving at Paddington, and so I thought it was about time I put on my anorak and take a closer look at the history and working operations of this iconic station.
It was originally designed by the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the London terminus for his Great Western Railway (GWR) from Bristol, and although the line was opened in 1838 it wasn’t until 1854 that Brunel’s station actually came into use.
Inspired by the design of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, and with the help of Matthew Digby Wyatt, he created a station that had four platforms protected by a glass roof. This roof had three spans and was supported by wrought iron arches and cast-iron pillars.
Although the original station has been enlarged since, principally by the adding of a fourth span, Brunel would still recognise his creation if he was to come back tomorrow.
In 1863 the station’s status as a major transport hub was given an extra boost when the Metropolitan Railway started running the world’s first underground railway between Paddington and Farringdon using a cut and cover system, and if you want to see how it was done there are some old pictures near to the Hammersmith & City (H&C) underground station.
I’m sure somebody out there may well tell me that I’m wrong, but I reckon there are thirteen stations in London that can be regarded as a main line terminus.
London’s railway network has evolved over many years and is more complicated than you might think – but I’m sticking to thirteen.
Four of those appear on the original Monopoly board, and Liverpool St is one of them. (If you can’t remember the other three, they were King’s Cross, Marylebone and Fenchurch St).
It’s the terminus for train companies that operate mainly to the north-east of the capital to counties such as Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and is the third busiest in the UK after Waterloo and Victoria.
The statistics for 2015/16 show that sixty six and a half million entries/exits were recorded, and that doesn’t include the underground which has four lines converging underneath the main line station (The Circle, Hammersmith & City, Central and Metropolitan Lines).
It was originally built in 1875 as the terminus for the Great Eastern Railway and extended in 1895.
During an air raid on 13th June 1917 the station was hit by three bombs, two of which exploded, killing 162 people and injuring more than 400. It was the deadliest single raid in Britain during the First World War.
The Looe Valley Line is one of those scenic branch lines that used to exist all over the country until Dr. Richard Beeching got his hands on them.
The less said about that the better, but at least here in the West Country we still have several that are still in use including the one that runs from Liskeard to Looe.
At Liskeard it’s necessary to leave the main line platform and cross over to the separate station that exists purely for the train to Looe. The train times are a bit haphazard but they run on average every hour to an hour and a quarter, and the seven-mile journey takes about half an hour.
There are any number of things that will make a great day out in South Devon, but in my opinion, one of the best has to be the ‘RoundRobin’. It comprises of different modes of transport linking Paignton, Dartmouth, and Totnes and can be done in any order, and in any direction.
An Open Top Bus will take you from Paignton to Totnes, where you can spend some time in the town before catching the boat which sails down the River Dart to Dartmouth. You can then have another wander around before catching the ferry across to Kingswear, and then the steam train back to Paignton. It’s all very civilized and the Round Robin ticket covers everything.
You don’t have to do the whole trip in one go of course, and to describe it all in one article wouldn’t really do it justice, and so I’ve decided to just talk about the steam train journey for now.