#131: Euston 19/01/2022

Euston Station

Today is my first visit in 2022, and given ongoing travel restrictions; I don’t wander too far. However, since my last visit here on 24/05/2018, much has changed.

The station entrance has transformed with a new managed taxi rank with easy access off Euston Road. However, the station is surrounded by miles and miles of hoarding up to Mornington Crescent just off Hampstead Road. It’s clear why, as all the hoarding carries information about HS2, which will terminate at Euston Station.

The station has had its architectural critics over the years, and more dissatisfaction reigns over its proposed redesign. I have no doubt this will rumble on for many years, and you may have your view on the station’s redesign and the value and merits of HS2.

The station opened on the 20th of July 1837. It was the first inter-city railway station in London, and reportedly, it is now the busiest inter-city passenger terminal in the UK. The station is managed by Network Rail, providing services to four Train operating Companies (ToCs). They are Avanti West Coast, London Northwestern Railway, Caledonian Sleeper and TfL London Overground.

There are 18 platforms, although two are out of service during the HS2 works. A further five are planned to accommodate the HS2 expansion. The platforms are a level down from the main concourse. All are accessible along wide but fairly steep slopes with ample handrails that allow unrestricted access for passengers alighting from newly arrived trains.

Here’s one view of the cavernous platforms at the station. I’m looking across from platform 18 to platform 14, where a Northwestern Railway train is ready to depart.

And at the other end of the station, here’s the 2:38 pm service to Edinburgh Waverley on platform 1. Sleek, streamlined, and sensual. Overhead lighting highlights the train’s smooth lines.

The train was being prepared and cleaned, so no passengers were on board. But once they started taking their seats, I can only imagine their anticipation of enjoying the countryside and seeing day turn into nighttime as the train reached its destination six hours later. Maybe I’ll do that one day?!

The mezzanine level, now branded ‘The Food Terrace’, is still the place to go for food and drink and watch passengers’ arrivals and departures in front of the main display board. However, some restaurants haven’t survived the absence of passengers during the Covid years. One notable absentee, well, for me anyway, was Gino D’ACampo’s. I remember it well as I had a slight falling out with their manager, who objected to where I was standing to capture the moving crowds below. 

HS2

Whilst walking the length of Platform 18, one of the closed platforms for passenger trains, I shared a moment with another rail enthusiast. He was photographing a pair of push-pull Colas Rail engines about to leave the station. ‘Colas Rail is a leading provider of railway infrastructure services’, so I suspect they were there working as part of the HS2 project?

Anyway, as I was eyeing up a shot, he walked into frame, saw me and posed. Thank you!

I’ll not dwell too much on this project as it is ‘work in progress’. However, the eastern side of the station hides behind hoarding with roadworks all along Cardington Street and Hampstead Road. As you’d expect, it is all very well managed, but it reminds me a little of the BBC dramatisation many, many years ago of Tom Sharpe’s Blot on the Landscape.

I have no doubt the works must be pretty disruptive to nearby residents and businesses. As I passed the old Euston underground station entrance on Cardington Lane, now behind railings, a group of people listened intently to a tour guide’s explanation. I didn’t stay to listen to whether this was an HS2 charm offensive tour, or a London Underground one, as the tour guide gave me the evil eye as if saying, ‘on your way, you’re not part of this group’.

The long view from the platforms

I suspect passengers rarely stop to survey their surroundings when they board or alight from trains as their attention is focused elsewhere. Getting a good seat, finding their seat number or onward travel from the station. So I feel privileged to be afforded the luxury of spending time, largely uninterrupted, exploring the station and platforms. You get to see views and sights that might otherwise not be commonplace or from a different perspective. Here are a few from the ends of Euston’s platforms.

The Tarns, Varndell Street – Just off the main Hampstead Road, view the 11 storeys social housing complex built in the early 1960s as seen from platform 1. The overhead power lines act like fine crosshairs to the vertical facade.

Desolate Sheds – As an infrequent passenger, I doubt you’d ever spot this view. But it’s the overhead concrete and corrugated clad roofline of the shed covering all 18 platforms. You have to be standing on the open part of the platforms to see it.

I’ve filtered this shot to accentuate the structure’s grittiness and visually abandoned state. The roofline carries the old Red Star Parcel logo out of shot and to the station’s east. Red Star Parcels, owned by British Rail, provided station-to-station parcel delivery in 1963 as an experiment in competition with the General Post Office’s parcel delivery service. The service was acquired by Lynx Express in 1999 and later by UPS in 2005. 

Further research reveals the building is now a Royal Mail distribution centre. But I couldn’t determine whether this caged, locked, and inaccessible stairway is emergency access for the distribution centre.

This stairwell is one of five across the platforms, but evidently, they are not to facilitate inter-platform access. I did see two rail workers access one of these, but where to and what for I know not. Any ideas?

BT Tower is one of London’s most recognised and iconic landmarks. The BT Tower, originally the Post Office Tower, is precisely one kilometre from where I stood at the end of platform 1. The gloomy afternoon sky provides a blank canvas against which to showcase the coloured logo at the top of the tower.

The Piazza

Two things will greet you as you emerge out of the station. The first is the smell from the range of pop-up food stalls set out as a street market. The second is the plumes of smoke emanating from those people who are desperate for their last gasp before travelling or their first since being a train captive.

As I stepped into the piazza, I had just missed a downpour, so the wet piazza was glistening in the late afternoon light with Euston Tower, a predominant landmark, the centre of attention.

A few minutes later, at the other end of the piazza, I was taking a moment to swap lenses as the sun was just about to set behind the nearby buildings. I saw the long shadows created by the setting sun, so I decided to see what they looked like through the camera.

North of the Station

It’s time to stretch my legs away from the station, so I head north. First, along Hampstead Road to Mornington Crescent before returning to the station via Eversholt Street. Here are some of my treasured finds:

Exmouth Arms – Surrounded by HS2 hoarding, this pub in Starcross Street is one of six London branded under the PubLove Hostel Pubs banner. It looks a little tired and jaded from the outside, but in fairness, the grey and darkening sky don’t help. I also suspect the building is suffering a little from dust from the surrounding works.

The artwork on one of its doors draws me in. It’s advertising the pub’s Burger Craft menu available for delivery. I wonder if this was a spin-off from Covid lockdown days?

Carreras House – Built for the Carreras Black Cat cigarette company in the 1920s, this art deco building was very much influenced by the Egyptian style popularised by the then recently discovered Tombs of Tutankhamun.

Following the building’s demise, It was refurbished and restored to replicate its original facade, and it’s now the London HQ for Asos. Although you can’t go inside, the view from around the outside is quite stunning.

Amy – It was only whilst researching this artwork on the side of a sports bar in Lidlington Place did I realise it is an image of Amy Winehouse. It’s by the artist MR CENZ. It’s best viewed from across the street.

If you want to discover more #amystreetart, why not have a look at these two sites: London Calling and Camden Town

Eversholt Street – Am I the only one who believes there’s something quite evocative about the eclectic mix of London’s architecture? I don’t think so! And this street, which some have described as grimy, has a rich history.

Owned by the Duke of Bedfordshire, its name derives from the Bedfordshire village, owned mainly by the Duke. The area has undergone many name changes from its original Fig Mead and has been the home to Dickens and the birthplace of the future Mary Shelley.

Euston Road at night

The road was created in the early 18th century as London’s first by-pass for the passage of farming traffic from the west to Smithfield Market. It was named Euston Road after the station was built.

London is a different beast at night as buildings have had creative lighting installed to promote their presence. However, Euston Road remains busy regardless of the time of day as it’s one of the main routes through London these days. It’s also an area I know well as I travelled through Euston Square and Kings Cross underground stations when I worked in Alfred Place and Gower Street. 

I’d often walk past the new Wellcome Collection Gibbs building as it was being built. I’d stare inside once it opened but never took my scientific brain inside to explore. I recall the window displays on Euston Road were always worth stopping to look at. Today, there are neon-lit displays on ‘Antibiotics save lives – so let’s save our antibiotics’.

It references the changing nature of bacteria that evolve and become less susceptible to treatment.

I end my day’s travels across the road at The British Library. The building’s colour and shape make it instantly recognisable. I amuse myself wondering whether to pop in and ask to see my book?

Picture of the Day – Photo-Me

This photo is one of a sequence I took to capture the moment. As I walked through the station’s west entrance leading to Cardington Street, I was overwhelmed by the starburst effect and deep shadows created by the low lying sun. The result was too good an opportunity to resist.

It was also an excellent chance to test out my wide-angle zoom lens. I’m leaning against the Photo-Me booth on the right and aiming directly into the sun with the lens at its widest 10mm setting. But, of course, I’m also using the camera’s flip-up monitor to compose the shot and avoid looking directly into the sun.

I’m delighted with the outcome with the pedestrian just off centre shot haloed by the sun and the contrasting deep dark black shadows and sharp highlighted lighter tones. I think the photo speaks for itself.

  • Location: Euston Station west entrance leading to Cardington Street
  • Date/Time: Wednesday 19/01/2022 3:20 pm
  • Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ5.6; Shutter Speed – 1/100; Focal Length – 10mm; Film Speed – ISO100

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