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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1 (April 1, 1935)

Famous English Railway Stations

page 49

Famous English Railway Stations

Temperaments of London Termini

There is nothing in the world more individual, more emphatically itself, than a great railway terminus. Think but a moment of Charing Cross, Paddington, and Waterloo. Picture them as they may be seen week by week and month by month; and if nothing comes into your head but a confused medley of loud voices, dingy waiting-rooms, and hurrying crowds, you do not deserve the name of an observer.

A railway station, like a house, takes its name from the people who occupy it, and every station has distinct types of its own. Similarly, we may say that a terminus is a kind of summing-up of all the stations along the route. If the railroad passes chiefly through business towns, the terminus will swarm with business people; if it goes to the southern coast of England, it will be crowded with holiday-seekers.

As I think over the names of the great London termini, I am surprised to find how rapidly my emotions change. For instance, there is Victoria—all sunshine and fresh air. Instinctively the visitor repeats the word “holiday.” Then there is Charing Cross—that means the Continent. And then St. Pancras—another name for Scotland. Sure enough it has a misty atmosphere!

For Charing Cross, though somewhat small and grimy, I have the deepest regard. Not only does it imply the Continent, but it has a peculiarly cosmopolitan temperament; it bears the name which the whole world associates with London.

Paddington is an essentially English station where a foreigner would be entirely out of place.

There is a distinct air of polish about the name Euston. It rings with elegance and early Victorian quality. The great arch at the entrance gives the keynote—a little severe, perhaps, but still in harmony with stately, old-fashioned good breeding. It has a classical, a Roman flavour, the columns are of Doric simplicity, and there is just the one word “Euston” blazoned in gold letters at the top.

Then we come down from aristocracy to upper middle-class—to Waterloo, in fact, whither come trains from a number of decidedly nice suburbs. This is the station you go to if you want to be a genuine tourist, but are unwilling to leave England for another country.

Waterloo is lively, but its liveliness is rather the bustling kind than the more Gallic and spirited activity of Charing Cross. There is none of the grandeur of Paddington or the elegance of Euston. It is a large, comfortable station. Yes, Waterloo is decidedly upper middle-class.

Then there is Fenwick Street. The atmosphere is usually smoky and foggy, for the sum rarely shines in Fenwick Street.

What a contrast is Victoria! Here everything is sunny and pleasant. The light red brickwork, the clean granite columns, the freshly painted woodwork all fit in with the holiday mood of the crowds inside.

From Victoria all classes travel, from Royalty downwards—for all classes combine on holidays. Certainly there is a gaiety, a lightness about this station that is very distinct from any other.

Every one of these stations has, to my mind, a most distinct temperament. There are people to whom they bear a decided resemblance. Charing Cross seems like a foreigner, cosmopolitan, and yet provincial at the same time; Paddington is like Louis Phillipe, or some other old-fashioned, early Victorian king; Euston is like—no, not like, but it reminds me of Major Pendennis. Take Fagin for Fen-church Street, and for Victoria you have Robert Louis Stephenson!

The old Metropolitan railway stations have some personality, but they are the good old battered-up type. King's Cross, Liverpool Street, St. Pancras, Cannon Street are not without their characteristics, but they do not stand forth like the Great Five among the stations of the world.

An Appreciation.

Writing to the Chairman of the Government Railways Board, Mr. H. H. Sterling, C.M.G., Mr. Garth Hail, Koromatua, commends the services rendered by the stationmaster at Eltham, in the following appreciative terms:—

I am prompted to write this letter to you personally, commending the action of one of your responsible òfficers. My small son, aged five years, had been spending the summer holidays with relations near Patea, Tara-naki, and was to have come home with friends by car. The arrangements that these parties made over the telephone was that the boy be put on the train at Patea and met at Eltham. However, the boy was put off at Eltham by a passenger (who apparently was asked to do this) and no one was there to meet him. The stationmaster, Mr. A. W. Jackson, seeing the boy alone, took it on his shoulders (fortunately) to find an owner for him. Just what trouble this entailed may be gathered from the fact that the boy did not know at which station he was put on the train, could not give any information as to who put him on the train (other than Aunty), and did not know who was to meet him. The station-master was kept busy for two hours ringing up, finally ascertaining (through the guard of the train) that the boy entrained at Patea, and then, with the co-operation of the Patea Post Office, the telephone call was traced and our friends arrived at Eltham for the boy three hours after the train.

Without the kind consideration shown by the station-master of Eltham anything may have happened, as it was 6.30 p.m. when the boy arrived.

The lad is now home and quite innocent of the trouble that was made over him. The action of the station-master concerned is appreciated and serves in still another manner to demonstrate what thoughtfulness is now given to the users of the New Zealand Railways.