#125: Paddington – 26/08/2021

Paddington Station opened in 1847, and it’s the home of Great Western Railway (GWR), famed for its high arched and glazed roof constructed by the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He is renowned for being one of the 19th-century’s engineering giants and as one of the most significant figures of the Industrial Revolution.

During my travelog to the ends of all Transport for London (TfL) stations, I visited Paddington Station twice as the station had recently started TfL Rail services to Heathrow T4 and Reading. But today, my visit is because the station is the end of the Great Western Railway. And of course, no visit to Paddington Station is complete without a reference to Paddington Bear, who has his own seat along Platform 1. So I thought I’d keep him company for a while. 

Unlike my previous visits where I spent some time exploring the surrounding neighbourhood, today, most of my day is in the immediate surroundings of the station, and I don’t wander too far. To be precise, I probably walk no more than a few hundred metres from the station’s boundary. But don’t let that deter you from reading on, because as ever, there is so much to see and to share.

Network Rail manages the station, and it’s one of twelve within London (I include Clapham Junction here) of its portfolio of 20 stations. I must pass on my thanks to the station’s reception staff for making my visit as a bonafide visitor a simple process too. They were very understanding and happy to sign me in and issue the relevant pass to explore all the station offers.

In addition to having two underground stations, twelve mainline platforms serve Wales and the South West of England, and it’s a station I know well, having travelled through here from Cardiff many times when I first moved to London over 30 years ago. 

GWR Green – One of the railway’s many distinguishing features is its livery colouring which changed in 2015 to Dark Green. I’ve tried establishing the exact name and Red Green Blue (RGB) references to research this further. But to be honest, there are several opinions, and as one commentator says, life is too short to worry too much about such things.

Nevertheless, I have found one source that states it is known as GWR Locomotive Green (RGB 1,54,2; hex: #013602). The source also helpfully explains how colours changed with several varnish applications in the earlier days before paint application became more sophisticated. Have a read of this article for more detail.

Train Names – GWR has a history of naming trains representing inspirational individuals who have shaped its communities. Each named train has its own identity, accompanied by an individual commemorative coin specifically designed to reflect the person. This approach was inspired by GWR’s heritage, where their flagship locomotive King George V bore a set of commemorative coins.

Today, I saw several named GWR Intercity class 800 engines. The first is Johnny Johnson, the last remaining survivor of the RAF Dambusters squadron and had the train named after him in commemoration of 100 years of the RAF and 75 years since the Dambusters raid.

The second train bears the names of Lincoln Callaghan and Henry Cleary. They are the youngest to have their names on the side of trains as GWR celebrated their fundraising heroics during the Covid pandemic in 2020. 

Remembering the fallen On Armistice day 1922, a statue commemorating the loss of  2,524 GWR employees in the Great War was unveiled on platform 1. The figure represents a soldier reading a letter from home whilst standing dressed in a heavy winter coat. 

The memorial was later updated to commemorate the 788 GWR employees who lost their lives in World War II. Standing in front of it, I felt quite moved and contemplative.

Getting around – from the station’s main concourse to the ends of the platforms is over 200 metres long. The station provides an assistance service for those less able passengers via an electrified cart capable of carrying three passengers and their luggage. And it’s nice to see that the station takes ‘Pride’ in how it has bedecked their cart.

The station has laid out easy guides on the floor for those more mobile to get to the underground for connecting services. I think this is a nice touch and one I’ve seen in many stations. The only downside is that they tend to lose their effect after being walked on, so I guess stations must regularly replace them to ensure they are still helpful.

The distance to the taxi rank and westbound underground services to Hammersmith is over 300 metres from the main concourse, but once outside, the covered walkway is airy and bright with plenty of space to manoeuvre.

The Elizabeth LineWork on the new Elizabeth LIne moves apace. Although access to the new station platforms was not open, the new covered concourse to the west of the station at Platform 1 is full of lunchtime workers taking a break. Revised plans indicate the Elizabeth line will open to passenger service ‘as soon as practically possible in the first half of 2022.’ I leave you all to judge the validity of that statement and reflect in a year.

Reading Festival – The station was awash with backpackers headed off to Reading for the music festival. The revellers were excited at the prospect of returning to an open-air concert; an event sadly missed throughout the pandemic.

Without exception, they were in their teens to early 20s, and they were either seasoned campers or, as evidenced, new campers with brand new paraphernalia. Regardless, there is no doubt they were out to enjoy themselves, but who knows what state they would be in on their return?

Platform 1 and beyond – not many will have explored the station beyond platform 1, and indeed why would you? But don’t be afraid to walk as far as you can to the end of the platform and then keep on walking. You’ll discover an underground world where the station’s deliveries arrive from Bishop’s Bridge Road. 

If you keep walking through the covered car park, you’ll emerge in the open part of the car park that’s directly opposite Royal Oak underground station. Royal Oak is the next station on the underground west of Paddington, and you begin to realise how connected London is through its transport links and how close places are, realising it’s sometimes easier and quicker to walk to places than catch ‘the tube’.

The view here is of the rear of houses along Gloucester Terrace. No doubt a fashionable address in the day, but now the grand six-storey properties have, I suspect, been converted into House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). I’ve often seen the rear view of this housing complex as I’ve travelled into Paddington Station, either by underground or mainline and mused at how they represented an unattractive landmark to the station’s approach.

Of course, this is a personal view, but would you pay half a million pounds for the privilege of buying a one-bedroom studio flat here, or up to £2,500 a month in rent?

Outside the station – the station’s entrance sits on Praed Street, a busy thoroughfare running northeast to southwest through to fashionable Bayswater. But retailers are keen not to miss an opportunity with the passing tourists offering everything from theatre tickets, travel money, mobile phones and of course, face masks.

There’s also extensive building works going on around the station too. With the new Elizabeth Line station to the west, and to the east, the modernisation of St Mary’s Hospital with new builds and eye-catching elevations. I don’t know if the sunscreens above each window pane will tilt with the sun or whether they are in a fixed position. Regardless, from a design perspective, I find their symmetry interesting.

Picture of the Day – Rooftop shed

You can only see these dilapidated sheds outside the station as they sit atop the original platform roofs, outside the main train shed. I find them an exciting curiosity and a little quirky, especially given their condition and location as part of a modern train station. I guess they may house the mechanical gubbins for lifts, but if you know differently, I’d love to know.

I’ve captured them in Black & White as I think it adds more character and grittiness to the view of these sheds that are weather-worn and in need of a coat of paint. 

  • Location: Platforms 2&3 Paddington Station as seen from Bishop’s Bridge Road
  • Date/Time: Thursday 26th August 2021 10:16 am
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 200mm; Film Speed – ISO400

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