Trivia - New railway station architecture: The good, the bad, the ugly

Clansman

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2016
Messages
2,323
Can't help but look at new build stations in Scotland and notice a pattern with the architecture. Cheap, cheerful, serves its purpose.

Whilst visual appeal is not a concern for a railway station, that doesn't stop us judging some of the absolute eye sores out there from other designs and interventions that are more appealing.

I can think of a couple examples to refer to.


Edinburgh Park - Seems to have a modern slickness to the basic design elements, which makes it look smart.
Edinburgh Gateway - Grey and soulless, a real shame it couldn't have used a material/colour look akin to Edinburgh Park. Or any colour!
Stirling footbridge refurbishment - Absolute beautiful job at protecting heritage whilst integrating modern necessities in a way that doesn't kill the aesthetic.
Glasgow Queen Street: The columns being restored is again another great example at how modern transformations can keep heritage at the heart of the railway
Kintore and Robroyston - Copy and Paste and off the shelf

Anyone think of any others?
 
Last edited:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

61653 HTAFC

Veteran Member
Joined
18 Dec 2012
Messages
13,211
Location
Another planet...
The new Wakefield Westgate building is pretty ugly, but not as ugly as the old 1950s one.

For more low-key new builds, Low Moor is inoffensive and functional.

Oh, and the obvious one: the Domestic extensions to St Pancras look totally out of place alongside the original building. No attempt to blend the old with the new, but at least they aren't easily visible to inbound tourists!
 

Clansman

Established Member
Joined
4 Jan 2016
Messages
2,323
The new Wakefield Westgate building is pretty ugly
In all fairness at least it's not grey! Black tiles look far better and smarter IMO (see Edinburgh Park) than the bog standard grey paint that seems to be in vogue just now.
 

61653 HTAFC

Veteran Member
Joined
18 Dec 2012
Messages
13,211
Location
Another planet...
In all fairness at least it's not grey! Black tiles look far better and smarter IMO (see Edinburgh Park) than the bog standard grey paint that seems to be in vogue just now.
I just think that in 50 years' time it will look just as dated as the previous one did before it closed, if not more so.

That can sometimes be preferable in heritage terms because it is easier to tell how a building or an area has changed, rather than applying a mere pastiche.
Oh, if they'd tried to imitate the Barlow shed completely that would absolutely have been the wrong call... but a better transition between old and new would have really added something. As it stands, the extensions look like an afterthought.
 

Speed43125

Member
Joined
20 Jul 2019
Messages
755
Location
Dunblane
I just think that in 50 years' time it will look just as dated as the previous one did before it closed, if not more so.


Oh, if they'd tried to imitate the Barlow shed completely that would absolutely have been the wrong call... but a better transition between old and new would have really added something. As it stands, the extensions look like an afterthought.
Incidentally have there been any recent (say post 1950) attempts to enlarge or extend Victorian style trainsheds?
 

J-2739

Established Member
Joined
30 Jul 2016
Messages
1,788
Location
Yorkshire
The new Wakefield Westgate building is pretty ugly, but not as ugly as the old 1950s one.
I'm a fan of this one. The dark colours to me give the impression of being a modern day fortress, protecting it's users from the elements. Very nice on a chilly winters day.

Then on the other hand, you have the basic 'shelters' such as Kirkstall Forge, which I guess were never meant to be advertising great architectural prowess.
 

MikeWM

Established Member
Joined
26 Mar 2010
Messages
2,505
Location
Ely
I'd certainly struggle to find much positive to say about the appearance or architecture of Cambridge North.
 

61653 HTAFC

Veteran Member
Joined
18 Dec 2012
Messages
13,211
Location
Another planet...
Would the domestic platforms used by East Midlands trains at St. Pancras count?
Those were what prompted the question/discussion, they absolutely do not attempt to match the original shed, nor are they a "modern interpretation".

I think the answer to @Speed43125 's question is no, the closest I can think of is Paddington's fourth span from the early 20th century.
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
4,291
Oh, and the obvious one: the Domestic extensions to St Pancras look totally out of place alongside the original building. No attempt to blend the old with the new, but at least they aren't easily visible to inbound tourists!

Incidentally have there been any recent (say post 1950) attempts to enlarge or extend Victorian style trainsheds?

Would the domestic platforms used by East Midlands trains at St. Pancras count?

Those were what prompted the question/discussion, they absolutely do not attempt to match the original shed, nor are they a "modern interpretation".

Apologies, you had already mentioned St. Pancras in post #2. :oops:

As well as the decidedly incongruous architecture, another thing that somewhat 'grinds my gears' with the domestic platforms there, is the longish schlep from the A501 (Euston Road/Pentonville Road) end.
 

zwk500

Established Member
Joined
20 Jan 2020
Messages
2,273
Location
Milton Keynes
To those bemoaning the rather utilitarian style of prefab kits used at the more basic stations around the country, who should pay for the materials and labour needed to fit something better?

On the subject of good modern architecture, personally I don't find much wrong with Wolverton. Yes it's small and basic (especially in comparison to historic Wolverton stations), but actually it's got everything anybody needs from it, with a ticket office, together with a nice little exhibition, and done in a building using a nice mix of brick, wood, steel and glass to give a bright and airy feel to the waiting area. Built in the early 2000s I think.
 

scrapy

Established Member
Joined
15 Dec 2008
Messages
1,605
Horden station is awful (from the train anyway). The sheer amount of security fencing (not sure what it's actually protecting) makes it look like a prison.
 

swt_passenger

Veteran Member
Joined
7 Apr 2010
Messages
25,885
The new Wakefield Westgate building is pretty ugly, but not as ugly as the old 1950s one.

For more low-key new builds, Low Moor is inoffensive and functional.

Oh, and the obvious one: the Domestic extensions to St Pancras look totally out of place alongside the original building. No attempt to blend the old with the new, but at least they aren't easily visible to inbound tourists!
The planners were not allowed to blend old and new and were required to retain the view of the original from Hampstead Heath. They could do little else than a flat roof. I think this has been noted a few times here since it was built.
 

Tomos y Tanc

Member
Joined
1 Jul 2019
Messages
503
Easily the worst modern station design has to be Newport. Not only is it hideous but it lets in the rain, which is a slight problem in Wales!
 

181

Member
Joined
12 Feb 2013
Messages
499
Incidentally have there been any recent (say post 1950) attempts to enlarge or extend Victorian style trainsheds?
I could be wrong, but I think the late 1980s rebuilding of Liverpool Street involved extending the western part of the trainshed southwards, as the platforms were extended to create a common barrier line. Presumably it was paid for by sacrificing the eastern trainshed to build over the platforms.
 

och aye

Member
Joined
21 Jan 2012
Messages
577
Can't help but look at new build stations in Scotland and notice a pattern with the architecture. Cheap, cheerful, serves its purpose.

Whilst visual appeal is not a concern for a railway station, that doesn't stop us judging some of the absolute eye sores out there from other designs and interventions that are more appealing.

I can think of a couple examples to refer to.


Edinburgh Park - Seems to have a modern slickness to the basic design elements, which makes it look smart.
Edinburgh Gateway - Grey and soulless, a real shame it couldn't have used a material/colour look akin to Edinburgh Park. Or any colour!
Stirling footbridge refurbishment - Absolute beautiful job at protecting heritage whilst integrating modern necessities in a way that doesn't kill the aesthetic.
Glasgow Queen Street: The columns being restored is again another great example at how modern transformations can keep heritage at the heart of the railway
Kintore and Robroyston - Copy and Paste and off the shelf

Anyone think of any others?
Edinburgh Gateway, while no doubt functional, aesthetically looks poor. I think I may be right in saying that Edinburgh Gateway is the largest "new" station in terms of footprint i.e. not a reopening to be built in Scotland post-Beeching?

While not a "new build" as such, while the inside of Haymarket extension is generally fine, its a shame they couldn't have made a bit more effort with the grey frontage adjoining the original building:


I blame the Victorians, if they hadn't built such architectural gems I doubt would we be having such discussions. Its not like we discuss the architectural merits of bus stations such as Buchanan Street. :lol:

I do hope when Network Rail (or I guess Great British Railways as it will be called) get round to the Waverley masterplan they go for something ambitious akin to Kings Cross.
 

zwk500

Established Member
Joined
20 Jan 2020
Messages
2,273
Location
Milton Keynes
While not a "new build" as such, while the inside of Haymarket extension is generally fine, its a shame they couldn't have made a bit more effort with the grey frontage adjoining the original building:
Would you have been willing to contribute towards the cost of the Granite and Bricklayers?
 

mark-h

Member
Joined
14 Jan 2015
Messages
365

urbophile

Member
Joined
8 Nov 2019
Messages
346
Location
Liverpool
Whilst visual appeal is not a concern for a railway station,
Even on purely commercial terms, a well-designed and beautiful station is going to be more attractive to passengers than an ugly and inconvenient one. The utilitarian approach to civic design that had its nadir in Britain in the 1970s is a continuing disaster, and contributes to so many of our towns and cities feeling like 'no-go' areas. Fortunately the railways seem to be recovering from that, and the appalling 'bus shelter' stations of which there are still too many. Merseyrail is a case in point. 1970s/80s stations like Kirkby, Fazakerley, Hunts Cross (none of which is a particularly bad example of the genre) are outclassed by more recent buildings like Brunswick, Bootle Oriel Road and possibly others.
 

MarkyT

Established Member
Joined
20 May 2012
Messages
5,081
Location
Torbay
Easily the worst modern station design has to be Newport. Not only is it hideous but it lets in the rain, which is a slight problem in Wales!
The 'design' also moved the pedestrian entrance further away from the city centre and main bus station. They really didn't have to do that to improve car access from the other side. Insane.
 
Joined
29 Sep 2010
Messages
105
Can't help but look at new build stations in Scotland and notice a pattern with the architecture. Cheap, cheerful, serves its purpose.

Whilst visual appeal is not a concern for a railway station, that doesn't stop us judging some of the absolute eye sores out there from other designs and interventions that are more appealing.

I can think of a couple examples to refer to.


Edinburgh Park - Seems to have a modern slickness to the basic design elements, which makes it look smart.
Edinburgh Gateway - Grey and soulless, a real shame it couldn't have used a material/colour look akin to Edinburgh Park. Or any colour!
Stirling footbridge refurbishment - Absolute beautiful job at protecting heritage whilst integrating modern necessities in a way that doesn't kill the aesthetic.
Glasgow Queen Street: The columns being restored is again another great example at how modern transformations can keep heritage at the heart of the railway
Kintore and Robroyston - Copy and Paste and off the shelf

Anyone think of any others?
The good... I used Ainsdale yesterday, and thought what a good job they had made of the new building. A well designed and legible layout, unashamedly late 2010s but respectful of its surroundings. It looked easy to keep clean as well.
 
Last edited:

AM9

Established Member
Joined
13 May 2014
Messages
10,168
Location
St Albans
I just think that in 50 years' time it will look just as dated as the previous one did before it closed, if not more so.


Oh, if they'd tried to imitate the Barlow shed completely that would absolutely have been the wrong call... but a better transition between old and new would have really added something. As it stands, the extensions look like an afterthought.
The extended platforms were an afterthought - 150 years later. Barlow built what the Midland Railway asked for: four full platforms, seven sidings between two of them and a parcels bay, an undercroft to handle goods all capped with what was then the largest unsupported arched roof and an impressive hotel, just the sort of statement that the MR wanted to boast about when it unshackled itself from paying GNR to get to the capital.
Barlow had no concept of 400m long trains, OLE electrification, a requirement for 15 platforms (at least) and soon, a railway that didn't need a 100ft high roof to prevent asphyxiation from coal burning exhaust and of course the gentry's concept of preserving views of his edifice in perpetuity. Beautiful as the shed is, it is still a very important functional building, visible from much of North London, that with it's appendages does it job, and indeed for those arriving for the first time by domestic services or the rear half of a Eurostar train, is an impressive reveal as they walk towards the exits from the station, (for MML visitors, once they have regained their breath after inhaling Meridian fumes)!
 

30907

Veteran Member
Joined
30 Sep 2012
Messages
11,757
Location
Airedale
I could be wrong, but I think the late 1980s rebuilding of Liverpool Street involved extending the western part of the trainshed southwards, as the platforms were extended to create a common barrier line. Presumably it was paid for by sacrificing the eastern trainshed to build over the platforms.
Memory says they actually re-used some of the displaced ironwork etc to do this.
 

DB

Guest
Joined
18 Nov 2009
Messages
5,036
Most stations built / rebuilt in the past 20 years or so are just utterly bland and functional - e.g. Leeds for a large example. Time will tell whether they start to look dated. Certainly, anything from the 70s and 80s does now.

Probably the last stations which have aged well are the art-deco ones of the 1930s.
 

Pigeon

Member
Joined
8 Apr 2015
Messages
423
St Pancras has been utterly ruined these days. From the outside it looks like a petrol station and from the platforms it looks more like Birmingham New Street than anything. And it is such a bloody long way from the Underground station that is supposed to serve it that it needs to have its own little spur line built and a shuttle service instantiated to link the two.

Meanwhile, the lovely old train shed which used to give it a sense of spaciousness and cathedral-like stillness and calm so untypical of London termini no longer has anything to do with it and has effectively been placed out of use. The Eurostar services are basically an irrelevance, and the more frequently you use trains connecting London with the rest of England the more irrelevant they are. It baffles me that the only comments to be found on the interner about St Pancras are all written as if, contrarily, the Eurostar is all there is and the ordinary services don't even exist - it's as if the handful of people for whom the Eurostar is the only train they ever use are the only people whose posts and comments are Allowed to be published, and some Sinister Force is stealthily censoring and deleting every remark by users of ordinary trains.

And what has happened to the old shed is absolutely not an improvement. It is now full of clutter and obstruction, the calm and spaciousness replaced by visual busyness and hassle and a sense of things getting in the way. Silly glass walls blocking off the trains, some kind of locked-off glass corridor full of empty office desks with computers and things which is totally out of place for any kind of a station - wtf is that all about? - and low-slung longitudinal gantry structures overhead cluttering the sense of headroom. They have removed the shading panels from the roof - the original builders of stations with impressively wide arched roofs understood that it was not a good idea to make them glass right across and included shading panels for a reason (and it wasn't steam exhausts), which now seems to have been forgotten - and worst of all they have cut ruddy great holes in the floor, which would be an outrage in any case and is made even worse by the way it intrudes the visual clutter and scurry of all the crappy shops in the undercroft, which should have been kept decently separated, forcibly into the station space at floor level.

The ruddy great holes in the floor ruin the engineering elegance as well as the visual. The principle of the station structure is that the side thrust of the roof arches is counteracted not by pressure from abutments as in a bridge, but by taking it in tension across the floor of the station. To cut ruddy great holes in the tension member extending past several arch girders means that there is several hundred tons-force of side thrust that now needs to be dealt with in some other way. It seems to be impossible to find out how they have handled this problem, but anything they may have done will necessarily be an ugly bodge compared to the simple elegance of the original design.

It's that much more of a shame since it used to be one of the best termini in London before they went mad at it. All it ever needed doing to it originally was a plain old good cleaning up, just like everywhere used to before they worked out that actually you can wash buildings and don't just have to leave them dirty.
 
Last edited:

AM9

Established Member
Joined
13 May 2014
Messages
10,168
Location
St Albans
St Pancras has been utterly ruined these days. From the outside it looks like a petrol station and from the platforms it looks more like Birmingham New Street than anything. And it is such a bloody long way from the Underground station that is supposed to serve it that it needs to have its own little spur line built and a shuttle service instantiated to link the two.

Meanwhile, the lovely old train shed which used to give it a sense of spaciousness and cathedral-like stillness and calm so untypical of London termini no longer has anything to do with it and has effectively been placed out of use. The Eurostar services are basically an irrelevance, and the more frequently you use trains connecting London with the rest of England the more irrelevant they are. It baffles me that the only comments to be found on the interner about St Pancras are all written as if, contrarily, the Eurostar is all there is and the ordinary services don't even exist - it's as if the handful of people for whom the Eurostar is the only train they ever use are the only people whose posts and comments are Allowed to be published, and some Sinister Force is stealthily censoring and deleting every remark by users of ordinary trains.

And what has happened to the old shed is absolutely not an improvement. It is now full of clutter and obstruction, the calm and spaciousness replaced by visual busyness and hassle and a sense of things getting in the way. Silly glass walls blocking off the trains, some kind of locked-off glass corridor full of empty office desks with computers and things which is totally out of place for any kind of a station - wtf is that all about? - and low-slung longitudinal gantry structures overhead cluttering the sense of headroom. They have removed the shading panels from the roof - the original builders of stations with impressively wide arched roofs understood that it was not a good idea to make them glass right across and included shading panels for a reason (and it wasn't steam exhausts), which now seems to have been forgotten - and worst of all they have cut ruddy great holes in the floor, which would be an outrage in any case and is made even worse by the way it intrudes the visual clutter and scurry of all the crappy shops in the undercroft, which should have been kept decently separated, forcibly into the station space at floor level.

The ruddy great holes in the floor ruin the engineering elegance as well as the visual. The principle of the station structure is that the side thrust of the roof arches is counteracted not by pressure from abutments as in a bridge, but by taking it in tension across the floor of the station. To cut ruddy great holes in the tension member extending past several arch girders means that there is several hundred tons-force of side thrust that now needs to be dealt with in some other way. It seems to be impossible to find out how they have handled this problem, but anything they may have done will necessarily be an ugly bodge compared to the simple elegance of the original design.

It's that much more of a shame since it used to be one of the best termini in London before they went mad at it. All it ever needed doing to it originally was a plain old good cleaning up, just like everywhere used to before they worked out that actually you can wash buildings and don't just have to leave them dirty.
Just like me you are entitled to your opinion. The only difference is that those who approved the new station, and those who gave it architectural credit had opinions that are much more positive than yours.
 

MarkyT

Established Member
Joined
20 May 2012
Messages
5,081
Location
Torbay
St Pancras has been utterly ruined these days. From the outside it looks like a petrol station and from the platforms it looks more like Birmingham New Street than anything. And it is such a bloody long way from the Underground station that is supposed to serve it that it needs to have its own little spur line built and a shuttle service instantiated to link the two.

Meanwhile, the lovely old train shed which used to give it a sense of spaciousness and cathedral-like stillness and calm so untypical of London termini no longer has anything to do with it and has effectively been placed out of use. The Eurostar services are basically an irrelevance, and the more frequently you use trains connecting London with the rest of England the more irrelevant they are. It baffles me that the only comments to be found on the interner about St Pancras are all written as if, contrarily, the Eurostar is all there is and the ordinary services don't even exist - it's as if the handful of people for whom the Eurostar is the only train they ever use are the only people whose posts and comments are Allowed to be published, and some Sinister Force is stealthily censoring and deleting every remark by users of ordinary trains.

And what has happened to the old shed is absolutely not an improvement. It is now full of clutter and obstruction, the calm and spaciousness replaced by visual busyness and hassle and a sense of things getting in the way. Silly glass walls blocking off the trains, some kind of locked-off glass corridor full of empty office desks with computers and things which is totally out of place for any kind of a station - wtf is that all about? - and low-slung longitudinal gantry structures overhead cluttering the sense of headroom. They have removed the shading panels from the roof - the original builders of stations with impressively wide arched roofs understood that it was not a good idea to make them glass right across and included shading panels for a reason (and it wasn't steam exhausts), which now seems to have been forgotten - and worst of all they have cut ruddy great holes in the floor, which would be an outrage in any case and is made even worse by the way it intrudes the visual clutter and scurry of all the crappy shops in the undercroft, which should have been kept decently separated, forcibly into the station space at floor level.

The ruddy great holes in the floor ruin the engineering elegance as well as the visual. The principle of the station structure is that the side thrust of the roof arches is counteracted not by pressure from abutments as in a bridge, but by taking it in tension across the floor of the station. To cut ruddy great holes in the tension member extending past several arch girders means that there is several hundred tons-force of side thrust that now needs to be dealt with in some other way. It seems to be impossible to find out how they have handled this problem, but anything they may have done will necessarily be an ugly bodge compared to the simple elegance of the original design.

It's that much more of a shame since it used to be one of the best termini in London before they went mad at it. All it ever needed doing to it originally was a plain old good cleaning up, just like everywhere used to before they worked out that actually you can wash buildings and don't just have to leave them dirty.
Obviously not applicable right now but annual passenger figures for Eurostar totalled over 11 million journeys in 2019 most of which must have started or ended at St Pancras. This is approx one-third of the national rail entry and exit totals for all three domestic operators using the station in the same year. So International services in a normal year probably generate around as much traffic as a single one of the domestic operators at St Pancras, which is clearly not as much as was predicted when HS1 was being planned, but is definitely not trivial, and has potential for further growth. The distance from the circle/met platforms to the domestic concourse is in the region of 250m, not vast and comparable to some other major terminals like Victoria. At least the Barlow train shed has not been subject to diesel exhaust inside since it was refurbished.
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
4,291
St Pancras has been utterly ruined these days. From the outside it looks like a petrol station and from the platforms it looks more like Birmingham New Street than anything. And it is such a bloody long way from the Underground station that is supposed to serve it that it needs to have its own little spur line built and a shuttle service instantiated to link the two.
Maybe not "ruined", but it does sometimes seem that Eurostar is the cuckoo in the nest at St. Pancras, and that that EMR are effectively the meadow pipits that have been made to make way! :rolleyes:
 

Top