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The Architecture The Railways Built - Series 2 starts 19 January on Yesterday


Paul.Uni
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5 hours ago, Phil Parker said:

 

For me, a station is a working building that needs to do more than look subjectively nice. One of the alpine stations from the first series notably failed in this respect. Being controversial, the current Euston wins over the much lamented old version, could the vintage and impressive hall have handled modern numbers? And would the famous doric arch have just got in the way of traffic?

I can't remember old Euston even though I must have gone through it quite a few times when I was young but I find the new one terrible, it must be one of the worst stations in London.

I have never liked it and put it on a par with the previous incarnation of Birmingham New St.

The central concourse which gets overcrowded during busy periods and the narrow passageways leading off to the furthest platforms where you can get two opposite flows of passengers pushing past each other are pretty dire.

 

BTW the Doric Arch needn't get in the way if the road access was designed so that it avoids it completely.

 

 

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I was quite taken with Birmingham Moor St, a sympathetic refurbishment of a rare survivor, but “best station” ? Hardly. Birmingham New Street didn’t please me at all externally, it doesn’t seem to be a railway station at all, but its internal layout actually works very well (disregarding discussion elsewhere of XC’s efforts) so on that level, it definitely qualifies. 

 

I’m lukewarm about the actual programme. 

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It was a very interesting programme last week- I used to use Wolvo quite a lot when I lived in the West Mids, and commuted back to Uni in Carlisle from there most holidays.  What with Lockdowns, I haven't been since the rebuild, so it was nice to see them finally replacing the aged concrete nightmare it had been.  Though noticed the clapped-out island platform buildings are still there, is there a plan to replace them too?  When they built the massive new footbridge it didn't half make the station look jumbled, so it would be nice to have it all incorporated into something more cohesive-looking.

 

Wolverhampton Low-Level was alright, but its a shame that so much of the fabric of the building was lost in the refurbishment (I gather most of the canopy ironwork went to preserved lines).  It was interesting to note it was mentioned in passing that it was originally intended to be a museum, but typically its ended up as the more commercial Wedding Venue.

 

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3 hours ago, melmerby said:

I can't remember old Euston even though I must have gone through it quite a few times when I was young but I find the new one terrible, it must be one of the worst stations in London.

I have never liked it and put it on a par with the previous incarnation of Birmingham New St.

The central concourse which gets overcrowded during busy periods and the narrow passageways leading off to the furthest platforms where you can get two opposite flows of passengers pushing past each other are pretty dire.

 

BTW the Doric Arch needn't get in the way if the road access was designed so that it avoids it completely.

 

 

 

If the central concourse of the 1960s station is overcrowded just consider how much more overcrowded the original buildings would have been!

 

Stations exist to help travellers and not act as museums - and that means large circulating spaces, preferably with easy access to all platforms. Where this can be provided in original buildings / structures thats fine but any sane person looking at the layout of the old Euston with its hodge-podge of buildings would have to agree that it was a nightmare for users. So much so in fact that the LMS were actively developing plans to raze the place to the ground anyway had WW2 not intervened!

 

Granted where it being redeveloped today then you might well have seen the arch dismantled and re-erected in a more suitable location where it wouldn't get in the way - but its hard to see how you could accommodate the Great Hall particularly given the desire for longer trains and longer platforms to cope with growth which pushes the buffer stops ever closer to Euston Road.

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46 minutes ago, phil-b259 said:

 

If the central concourse of the 1960s station is overcrowded just consider how much more overcrowded the original buildings would have been!

 

 

I can't comment as I said I can't remember it.

I was just commenting that I find the new one a poor space for travellers.

Not enough room was allowed in the 1960s rebuild for increased numbers of users, such that now it is a truly awful station. (IMHO).

Even if HS2 wasn't coming it needed flattening at the front and starting from new with much more space for circulation, rather in the way New Street has done.

 

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18 hours ago, melmerby said:

The problem with some of the designs is that it's very much subjective.

 

Fair comment.

 

11 hours ago, Phil Parker said:

It's very easy to fall into the trap of saying a design is automatically good because it is old and anything after (pick a date) is rubbish.

 

Also fair comment. I'm sure most people here must have encountered buildings etc, from a range of construction eras and architectural styles, that have worked well and looked stunning.

 

Likewise, we've also come across stuff from the same range of eras that have looked disgusting and never been fit for purpose.

 

Quote

For me, a station is a working building that needs to do more than look subjectively nice.

 

True - but it certainly helps if it looks great.

 

However, some buildings can also "grow" on people - an example for me being the Riverfront Theatre in Newport, which was built during the "noughties". When this building was still being built, there were already calls for its demolition.

 

However, a few years after its completion, I needed to pop into this building (some relatives were due to visit - so I was looking to find out "what was on"). The moment I got inside the building, I liked it.

 

I'd also admit to liking the 1960s railway station at Coventry - but having been rather less keen on the former Birmingham New Street station of the same era.

 

I don't think I've ever had an "old = good; new = bad" mentality - I think I'll leave that nonsense in the pages of "Animal Farm".

 

To be brutally honest, I suspect there might be another factor here - the same factor which probably "informs" my liking for classical music:

 

In a lot of eras, there's been a lot of both good and bad stuff created. The biggest difference between the old gems and more recent stuff is probably that, with the old stuff, there's been chance for a lot of the rubbish to be eliminated and forgotten about.

 

Unfortunately, some good stuff has also fallen by the wayside.

 

 

Huw.

 

 

Edited by Huw Griffiths
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2 hours ago, Huw Griffiths said:

 

 

I'd also admit to liking the 1960s railway station at Coventry - but having been rather less keen on the former Birmingham New Street station of the same era.

 

Huw.

 

I have always thought the "new" Coventry Station was a nicer station than the "new" BNS

IMHO even the "old" BNS was not a particularly nice station either, Snow Hill was far better.

The post-war patch up at BNS probably didn't help it's "aura", where the bomb damaged LNWR side overall roof was replaced by utilitarian platform shelters.

The station was very down at heel, which for it's importance as part of the overall network was unfortunate and even without the impending electrification triggering a rebuild, would have to have had something done to it to bring it into the "modern era" of rail travel.

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8 hours ago, melmerby said:

BTW the Doric Arch needn't get in the way if the road access was designed so that it avoids it completely.

I believe the Doric Arch was actually roughly where the ramps down to the platforms now are, so would have been very much in the way and also impossible to see if kept in position.  It could perhaps have been relocated near Euston Road.  

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6 hours ago, AY Mod said:

A view of the platform side of the preservation may have provided more comfort.

 

DX4B4074_PS-Large.jpg?resize=770,499&ssl

 

That's a nice shot, and very informative- I'd had the impression most of the canopies had got the chop, it's nice to see a decent length of it was retained.  Would have made a nice museum nonetheless :)

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I think with all this talk of 'modern' stations, I think Leeds has got to be one of the best of the big stations about at the moment, particularly now the main entrance has been rebuilt.  There's a nice section of light, airy historical building retained, and a lot of nicely modern brushed steel for the rest.

 

What does it for me though is the big, airy trainshed (because when it was rebuilt last a couple of decades ago, they withstood the temptation to build atop the tracks and turn it into a shopping centre with an inconveniently large train set in the cellar... looking your way, New Street).  It has a modern take on the sort of atmosphere of somewhere historical like Carlisle, with its massive trainshed high overhead.  Though they're already needing to extend the station for extra capacity at Leeds, and I've heard talk they want to rebuild it again, and go down the shopping centre option, which would be a shame.  That big train shed doesn't half make a difference compared to the subterranean hell of New Street or Euston, the windswept Stafford, or the higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of Crewe, in my opinion.

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Nice as the Leeds might now appear the new footbridges add considerably to the time taken changing platforms - no more sub minute connections using the old subway. Platform environs at New Street and Wolverhampton are appalling and a fancy new booking hall is hardly going to change than nor could much be done due to the cramped sites.

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On 30/01/2021 at 04:06, Phil Parker said:

 

 

And would the famous doric arch have just got in the way of traffic?

It would be right where present platform access is from the main concourse, around platform 8 & 9!

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=18&lat=51.52863&lon=-0.13390&layers=168&right=BingHyb

 

Definitely in the way.

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On 29/01/2021 at 16:26, dibber25 said:

Didn't watch it but if what I hear about the account of building the Royal Albert Bridge is true then it falls woefully short on accurate historical research. The spans were not 'winched' into position. I doubt there were winches in existence capable of lifting them. The actual means by which they were positioned is far more interesting and very easy to find out by reading any Brunel biography. More invented TV history. (CJL)

Just watched this programme (recorded) and bearing in mind Chris's  (dibber25) comments paid particular attention to the raising of the Royal Albert Bridge section. It was the Operations Manager of Network Rail who stated that " the books say they were winched into place with huge chains" . Presumably the producers of the programme assumed he knew what he was talking about!

 

 

Nevertheless I enjoyed the programme immensely and as I said last week it is a pleasure to have something to watch that takes your mind off your daily woes for an hour or so. As a subscriber to Model Rail I have a great respect for Chris's knowledge and experience but I did find his condemnation of an entire programme that he had not seen a bit disappointing.

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Frond said:

Just watched this programme (recorded) and bearing in mind Chris's  (dibber25) comments paid particular attention to the raising of the Royal Albert Bridge section. It was the Operations Manager of Network Rail who stated that " the books say they were winched into place with huge chains" . Presumably the producers of the programme assumed he knew what he was talking about!

 

 

Nevertheless I enjoyed the programme immensely and as I said last week it is a pleasure to have something to watch that takes your mind off your daily woes for an hour or so. As a subscriber to Model Rail I have a great respect for Chris's knowledge and experience but I did find his condemnation of an entire programme that he had not seen a bit disappointing.

 

 

 

Wasn't intending to condemn an entire programme but I do think that something which tells how a structure was erected should tell it correctly. (CJL)

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46 minutes ago, Frond said:

Just watched this programme (recorded) and bearing in mind Chris's  (dibber25) comments paid particular attention to the raising of the Royal Albert Bridge section. It was the Operations Manager of Network Rail who stated that " the books say they were winched into place with huge chains" . Presumably the producers of the programme assumed he knew what he was talking about!

 

 

Nevertheless I enjoyed the programme immensely and as I said last week it is a pleasure to have something to watch that takes your mind off your daily woes for an hour or so. As a subscriber to Model Rail I have a great respect for Chris's knowledge and experience but I did find his condemnation of an entire programme that he had not seen a bit disappointing.

Let's perhaps not be too critical of my friend and (former, I'm now retired) colleague Craig.

 

It is possible that he may not have known what questions he was going to be asked, before attending the filming on the day and it seems like an honest mistake to me. I couldn't fault anything else he said.

 

It's actually quite stressful when you're out there in front of the camera and then, like at the flick of a switch, you instantly have to be in 'performance mode' and get all your words right etc.

 

And yes, I doubt that any of the TV company bunnies would have known anything about the history of the bridge.

 

Full marks to Craig for agreeing to appear, but please be clear that had the suits at Network Rail Regional HQ cared enough, they could have provided him with some back-up history or even fielded the individual with the actual 'buck-stops-here' engineering safety responsibility for the structure (that person will probably still be known as an 'Asset Manager' and almost certainly based in Swindon, the local office was dispensed with many years ago).

 

The highlight for me was seeing the restoration of Saltash station building by the local community and funded by GWR. Full marks to the latter for providing the funding and the result is a credit to all concerned. I remember discussing the on-going problem of owner indifference with Richard Bickford on several occasions during the years prior to my retirement. The then owner even had notions of demolishing the structure and building flats on the site, something that I would have ensured NR would have objected to (as would the local councillors, probably). I'm so glad that the council finally persuaded him to sell the building to them. They appear to have done a lot of work in quite a short time.

 

All in all, like the previous programme in this series, I thought this one was fab.

 

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48 minutes ago, Captain Kernow said:

Let's perhaps not be too critical of my friend and (former, I'm now retired) colleague Craig.

 

He's a good figure for telly in my view, even if a recent different programme called him a signalman (perhaps Craig fancied hiding that day).

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The railways are still producing innovative architecture. I’m much taken with the new concourse at Kings X which is a considerable achievement technically, resolves the quite hideous congestion and at times, complete disorder which afflicted the former concourse AND provides a proper access to those forlorn, neglected platforms previously separated in the gap between KX and St Pancras. 

 

The new St Pancras is a quite dramatic complex, and (whatever you might think of the thinking which led to its construction and subsequent career) Waterloo International’s sinuously curved trainshed is a great achievement in its own right. 

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1 hour ago, timdunn said:

but I do take exception to the phrase "And yes, I doubt that any of the TV company bunnies would have known anything about the history of the bridge."

As the person who made that comment, may I first clarify that I did not intend to include your good self in that description, Tim, as you clearly come across as a very enthusiastic and committed railway  enthusiast and presenter. I have very much enjoyed all your programmes in this series. So I do apologise for any unintended offence.

 

I spoke from personal experience in the past, in dealing with some of the more superficial 'media types' as part of my job. Perhaps that was just my experience but it has made me a bit cynical, although I should probably not have allowed those experiences to colour my judgement in this instance.

 

I will freely admit that I might well have made a similar error myself, had I been in front of the camera instead of Craig. But is the average lay person (ie. non-railway enthusiast) watching the programme even bothered about the precise method used, I wonder? What is quite clear to any viewer, is the fact that the achievement of raising those enormous girders, with the technology of the time, was a superb engineering achievement, regardless of how they were lifted up.

 

I assume that with your limited time on site for filming, there would not have been much time for repeated 'takes' of the same individual pieces, so even if a minor error like that had been spotted, would you have had time to re-do any particular piece?

 

Whilst I would agree with Andy Y that Craig is excellent on camera (something I am most definitely not) I will admit, however, to being slightly surprised that Network Rail did not choose to provide someone from the Route Structural Engineer's team to support him. Given that the bridge was only recently refurbished and repainted from top to bottom (work was finished about 8 years ago, from memory), there should have been a wealth of knowledge and information on that project available for your programme.

 

Thinking back to the show, one other minor fact is that I believe that Brunel did actually manage to visit the completed bridge before he died, but had to be wheeled across on a trolley?

 

The bridge is the subject of enormous local affection, so much so that when we (in NR) managed a total of three public walk events over the bridge together with the local Community Rail team and other local community organisations (two about 10 years ago and one in 2015), all the tickets were sold out!

 

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Just to say that I missed the first series but was able to download each episode and binge watched them this past weekend.  

 

Absolutely wonderful stuff.  
 

It was interesting to contrast the section on Metroland with the John Betjeman programme from 1972 (which I watched when first broadcast and have on dvd) and the revisited areas almost 50 years later - fantastic.

 

In no way “disappointed” about the odd factual error - I don’t care what they say.

 

Cheers

 

Darius

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