timeline item
Here is the information we have
on the item you selected
More like this
© 2020 Engineering Timelines
engineering timelines
explore ... how   explore ... why   explore ... where   explore ... who  
home  •  NEWS  •  search  •  FAQs  •  references  •  about  •  sponsors + links
Paddington Station
Praed Street, Paddington, London, UK
Paddington Station
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Walter Armstrong
date  opened 16th January 1854
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Building  |  reference  TQ265814
ICE reference number  HEW 301
photo  Institution of Civil Engineers
Brunel's magnificent station of cast and wrought iron and glass, designed to serve his broad gauge railway. He was the engineer for the Great Western Railway, for which Paddington was the London terminus. The picture shows the bomb-damaged station in 1944. In the 20th century, the train shed was enlarged and a series of remedial works carried out to conserve and strengthen the structure. It is still in constant use as a mainline station.
Before the construction of the present station building, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) set up a temporary timber structure for the Great Western Railway (GWR) located just north-west of the current terminus. It had opened on 4th June 1838.
The rail lines are in a cutting at this point, and Brunel had been required to construct a series of road bridges to span the cutting. The most easterly bridge was a 25-span brick viaduct, which included Brunel's first cast iron bridge spans for the crossing of what is now the Grand Union Canal. Known as Bishop's Road Bridge (1838-39), this was the predecessor of the present bridge. In 2004, it was discovered that the two unequal iron spans had survived buried inside later brickwork. They were dismantled in 2004 during works to widen the viaduct (completed 2006), and have been placed in storage by English Heritage.
In 1838, GWR services from Paddington ran as far as Maidenhead. The broad gauge (2.14m, 7ft 0.25in) line had been completed in stages, eventually opening through to Bristol on 30th June 1841. Over the next five years, the railway expanded its operations over the lines it acquired from other companies, as well as extending its own network, including a line to Birmingham. On 18th August 1846, the Gauge Regulation Act was passed in favour of the more-widely used narrow standard gauge (1.435m, 4ft 8.5in). The first standard gauge trains arrived in Paddington in 1861. Broad gauge lines were phased out, disappearing altogether in 1892.
As the GWR continued to expand, increasing rail traffic into London led to extensions of the temporary terminus. By 1850, services were operating to Oxford, Exeter, Gloucester, Hungerford, Basingstoke, Plymouth and Windsor, as well as Bristol, and more lines were being acquired. The railway had outgrown its original Paddington station and the company agreed Brunel should design a permanent terminus.
Brunel intended to make a grand statement and showcase technical innovation, as well as out-do the Great Northern Railway's London terminus at Euston, and create a 'Gateway to the West'. The new site lay between Bishop's Bridge Road and Praed Street, a site part occupied previously by the original goods depot.
On 18th December 1850, Brunel presented his work to the GWR board. The scheme included a central concourse 41.1m wide, entered from Praed Street, with platforms either side. However, the board decided that a grand hotel would front the station along Praed Street. In the last days of 1850, he came up with the graceful soaring train shed design we see today. It is thought that Brunel was influenced by Joseph Paxton's (1803-65) Crystal Palace, perhaps not surprisingly as he served on the building committee of the 1851 Great Exhibition for which it was commissioned.
Brunel had collaborators for the Paddington scheme. Additional structural input was provided by contractor and ironwork fabricator Fox, Henderson & Co. The architectural detailing is by architect Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-77, knighted 1869) and the Moorish decoration by Owen Jones (1809-74). Wyatt and Fox, Henderson & Co were also involved in the realisation of the Crystal Palace.
At the time of its construction, the Paddington train shed was the world's largest. From the south west to the north east, the roof's three parallel semi-elliptical spans are: 21.2m, 31.2m and 20.7m. The covered area is some 213m long and includes two 15.2m wide transepts across the three spans. The rib arch framing is of wrought iron, supported on slender hexagonal columns of cast iron. The original cladding was corrugated iron sheeting, with ridge-and-furrow glazing along the ridge. Using the corrugated iron as a structural spanning material allowed Brunel to dispense with roof purlins.
The arch ribs are pierced by star and planet-shaped holes: eye-catching but also serving to reduce the overall weight of the members and facilitate temporary works fixings such as scaffolding. The arches at the ends of the spans are closed with glazed end-screens ornamented with ironwork trellises. It's a spare and elegant design, with embellishments that generally served two purposes — structural and aesthetic.
Lateral stability for the train shed is provided by the masonry station buildings along the south west side. The structure is also propped back to the road embankment to the north east. Longitudinal stability is provided by cross bracing between arches, and wrought iron bracing between the column heads. The arches are spaced at 3.05m centres and columns at 9.15m. The two floating arches between each column are supported on the cross braces. Timber bosses sit beneath the ends of the floating arches. They are non-functional but give visual termination.
The main entrance to the departure platforms was on the south west side, adjacent to Eastbourne Terrace. The buildings on this elevation housed royal, first and second class passenger waiting rooms, a booking office, refreshment rooms and offices for the railway's board of directors. Three oriel windows in the range overlook Platform 1.
The new station opened on 16th January 1854, though construction continued for several years afterwards. By 1862, the cost of the terminus, including goods depot and engine shed, had reached £650,000. The south east elevation is hidden behind the Praed Street frontage of the Great Western Royal Hotel (now the Hilton London Paddington), built 1851-4 to the design of Philip Charles Hardwick (1822-92).
In 1863, the world's first underground rail line — the Metropolitan Railway, first line for what is now the London Underground — was completed. It ran from its own Bishop's Bridge Station to Farringdon Street. The station was enlarged in 1876 and later incorporated into Paddington Station.
In 1879, the GWR tracks to Slough were quadrupled, and in 1880, Paddington became London’s first major public building to be lit by electricity. Around 1881, more offices were built along the south west elevation. From 1886, the station’s lighting was powered by the GWR's own power station at Park Royal.
Beginning in 1904, the station was enlarged substantially and extra platforms added, and the range of buildings along Eastbourne Terrace extended. The area between the south east end of the train shed and the hotel — once the stationmaster's garden — was converted into a more-defined access to the station, appropriately called The Lawn. Ten overbridges carrying the station approaches were all rebuilt as steel spans, completed in 1914.
Around 1906, work began to replace the cast iron columns with steel ones of similar design but the process was interrupted by World War I (1914-8) and not completed until 1924. One or two of the originals remain in place. At the same time, Brunel’s originally un-tied roof arches were reinforced with curved wrought iron ties.
In 1913-6, a fourth semi-elliptical span, 33.2m wide, was added on the north east side of the train shed, adjacent to London Street and parallel with the other spans. Its construction required a large structural deck of reinforced concrete to cover the London Underground platforms below and support the raised section of London Street above.
The outer wall of the new section is of riveted steel plate. The roof framing and columns are also of steel. The original roof cladding was a patent tiling system with four glazed lights along the ridge. The south east end of the span tapers inwards to the west to merge with the older three spans, whereas the arch of the north west end has a glazed end plate carried on a steel lattice girder. The crown of the end plate carries the GWR coat of arms. Brunel’s three spans cover Platforms 1-8, and the larger fourth span Platforms 9-12 (now 9-16).
The structure was designed by the GWR's new works manager Walter Armstrong (c.1853-1934) to complement the existing roof, and erected by the Cleveland Bridge Company. When Armstrong retired in 1916, William Wylie Grierson (1863-1935) took over as the company's chief engineer.
Between 1930 and 1936, further major works were carried out. All the platforms were extended to the north west, in concrete, and covered by island canopies of steel. Two office blocks were built on Eastbourne Terrace and another on London Street, and the Great Western Royal Hotel was enlarged. In 1933, The Lawn was covered and remodelled into a passenger concourse. All the works were designed by Percy Emerson Culverhouse (1871-1953), the railway's chief architect.
In the second half of the 20th century, successive replacements of the cladding and glazing were undertaken using modern materials sympathetic to the original design, including corrugated steel sheeting, translucent corrugated glass-reinforced plastic and glass.
The station was Grade I listed in January 1961 (listing amended December 2009). It was so designated principally for its connections with Brunel, Wyatt and Sir Charles Fox (1810-74). The citation notes it is "one of the earliest major railway termini to survive in Britain, and an important component of the history of the Great Western Railway" and an "historically significant exercise in large-scale wrought-iron construction" with "outstanding architectural quality, a landmark in railway architecture".
Steam traction was phased out in the 1960s in favour of diesel-powered locomotives and Paddington was cleaned of soot. The concourse was enlarged in 1968-9 and during the 1970s.
In 1990s, extensive renovation works included conservation and strengthening of the structural framework. Tracks approaching the station were relaid and equipped with new signalling. Platforms 3-12 were electrified, Platforms 6, 7 and 8 refurbished, and the footbridge between Platforms 6 and 10 reconstructed. The train shed spans, glazed end screens and ornamental tracery were repaired, restored and redecorated by architect Aukett Associates (now Aukett Swanke). The glass in Brunel's roof was replaced with polycarbonate glazing panels.
From the mid 1990s, Armstrong’s fourth span was hidden from public view by a false ceiling and canvas awning, as the roof (replaced in 1961) had deteriorated and begun to shred. The ceiling and awning were designed by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners (now Grimshaw).
In 1998, services began running on the Heathrow Express. The line operates frequent high speed passenger trains between Paddington and Heathrow Airport.
In works completed in 2000, The Lawn building was demolished and replaced with a double height structure of glass and concrete, also designed by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners. The 1930s stone facades were restored and enclosure provided by a lightweight roof of steel and glass. The concourse includes a new customer information system and a retail plaza.
In 2001, Crossrail Limited was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London, sponsored jointly by TfL and the UK's Department for Transport. The first element of Crossrail is a new railway, the Elizabeth Line, running from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through 21km of twin bore tunnels under central London, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Part of the scheme requires greater capacity at Paddington.
A controversial plan to demolish the fourth span in favour of further station redevelopment and Crossrail facilities was abandoned in August 2006. Instead, under the Paddington Integrated Project, a new station and concourse for London Underground's Hammersmith & City Line were constructed (completed 2012) on the north east side of the fourth span, together with a new taxi rank. Crossrail will operate from a new subterranean station to be constructed below the south corner of Paddington Station.
In 2009-11, the fourth span was refurbished by Network Rail with lead consultant WSP and architectural design and heritage consultancy by Oxford Architects. The contractor was a joint venture between Morgan Est and Morgan Ashurst (Morgan Sindall from 2010) with metalwork repair and fabrication by McNealy Brown.
Light transmission through the roof had been reduced by diesel exhaust and exterior weathering. Failed gaskets on the glazing bars had resulted in water ingress. The cladding and glazing were replaced with a modular system of twin-walled polycarbonate sheets held in place by pre-drilled glazing bars with stainless steel fixings and gaskets. The works contract included refurbishment of the parcels deck over Platforms 9-12, repair of the structures supporting London Street, bridge repairs and platform surfacing, construction of new footbridges and walkways, and installation of new mechanical, electrical, communication and fire systems.
In 2016, the same team refurbished the other spans similarly. The work included roof cladding and glazing replacement, steelwork strengthening and repairs, decorative ironwork renovation, increasing the drainage capacity, painting, and installation of new lighting and an uninterrupted power supply. At that time, Paddington was the seventh busiest railway station in London, serving some 50-60 million passengers a year.
Meanwhile, between 2011 and 2018, work was underway on the new three-level Elizabeth Line station, directly below Eastbourne Terrace and Departures Road. It is accessed via two entrances from a pedestrianised area, with escalators and lifts. The project was led by Crossrail and Transport for London, designed by architect WestonWilliamson+Partners with architectural detailing by a consortium of Atkins, Grimshaw, GIA Equation and Maynard. The consulting engineers were WSP and Ramboll, and the contractor a joint venture between Costain and Skanska.
The station occupies a box 260m long, 25m wide and 23m deep (some sources quote 250m long, 30m wide and 30m deep), which was excavated from the surface using the top-down technique. Eastbourne Terrace was closed for two years (2012-4) to enable construction of the box.
The interior of the new station is lined with sound-absorbing brick slip. Pedestrian tunnels between the 208m of platforms are lined with sprayed concrete and glass fibre-reinforced cladding. Eight elliptical reinforced concrete columns, each weighing about 100 tonnes, rise from platform level to support the existing station complex above. The columns are clad in bronze to head height and feature elongated flared heads.
Natural daylighting and ventilation are provided by a 90m street level entrance, covered by a steel and glass canopy, 120m long and 23m wide, mounted 8m above ground. Solar glare through the canopy is reduced by its artwork — Cloud Index by Spencer Finch. Ventilation shafts, fans and cooling equipment provide additional air conditioning. Crossrail began running services to Heathrow in May 2018 and to Reading in November 2019.
The rail services into mainline Paddington Station include the modern Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express lines. The London Underground platforms serve the Bakerloo, Circle, District and Hammersmith & City lines.
Architect (detailing): Matthew Digby Wyatt
Architect (decoration): Owen Jones
Contractor (train shed): Fox, Henderson & Co
Research: ECPK
"I.K. Brunel — Exploding the Myth" by Michael R. Bailey, Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 78:1, pp.1-10, 2008
"I.K. Brunel in London" by David Perrett, Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 78:1, pp.47-52, 2008
reference sources   CEH LonIKBcatIKBOSHBDCE2

Paddington Station