It was the first intercity railway station to be built in London, as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway. The original 1837 station was demolished and rebuilt in the 1960s. Euston is proposed to be the London terminus of the future High Speed 2 route.  Euston was the first intercity railway station in London, opened on 20 July 1837 as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR). The building was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with the present building in the international modern style.

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Euston Station 1837

The site was chosen in the early 1830s by George and Robert Stephenson, engineers of the L&BR. The area was mostly farmland at the edge of the expanding city. The station was named after Euston Hall in Suffolk, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Grafton, the main landowners in the area. Objections by local farmers meant that, when the Act authorizing construction of the line was passed in 1833, the terminus was at Chalk Farm. These objections were overcome, and in 1835 an Act authorized construction of the station, which then went ahead.

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Plan Euston Station 1888

The station and railway have been owned by the L&BR (1837–1845), the London and North Western Railway (1846–1922), the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (1923–1947), British Railways (1948–1994), Railtrack (1994–2001) and Network Rail (2001–present).

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Euston Arch

The original station was built by William Cubitt. It was designed by the classically trained architect Philip Hardwick with a 200 ft (61 m) long train shed by structural engineer Charles Fox. It had two platforms, one for departures and one for arrivals. Also by Hardwick was a 72 ft (22 m)-high Doric propylaeum, the largest ever built, erected at the entrance as a portico, known as the Euston Arch.

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The Great Hall, Euston Station

The original station was built by William Cubitt. It was designed by the classically trained architect Philip Hardwick with a 200 ft (61 m) long train shed by structural engineer Charles Fox. It had two platforms, one for departures and one for arrivals. Also by Hardwick was a 72 ft (22 m)-high Doric propylaeum, the largest ever built, erected at the entrance as a portico, known as the Euston Arch. Until 1844 trains were pulled up the incline to Camden Town by cables because the L&BR’s Act of Parliament prohibited the use of locomotives in the Euston area; this is said to have been in response to concerns of local residents about noise and smoke from locomotives toiling up the incline.

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The Great Hall, Euston Station

The station grew rapidly as traffic increased. It was greatly expanded with the opening in 1849 of the Great Hall, designed by Hardwick’s son Philip Charles Hardwick in classical style. It was 126 ft (38 m) long, 61 ft (19 m) wide and 64 ft (20 m) high, with a coffered ceiling and a sweeping double flight of stairs leading to offices at its northern end. Architectural sculptor John Thomas contributed eight allegorical statues representing the cities served by the line. The station stood on Drummond Street, further back from Euston Road than the front of the modern complex; Drummond Street now terminates at the side of the station but then ran across its front. A short road called Euston Grove ran from Euston Square towards the arch. Two hotels, the Euston Hotel and the Victoria Hotel, flanked the northern half of this approach.

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Euston Station Layout

As traffic grew, the station required further expansion. Two platforms were added in the 1870s with new service roads and entrances, and four in the 1890s, bringing the total to 15. The growth of the platforms took place as follows:

Nos 1/2 (built 1873)

No 3 (1837, the original arrival platform)

Nos 4/5 (1891)

No 6 (1837, the original departure platform)

Nos 7/8 (two short platforms that were rarely used)

Nos 9/10 (1840, mostly used for parcels)

No 11 (mainly used for parcels)

Nos 12–15 (1892, used for main line services accessed from separate entrance termed the West Station).

Apart from the lodges on Euston Road and statues now on the forecourt, few relics of the old station survive. The National Railway Museum’s collection at York includes a commemorative plaque and Edward Hodges Baily’s statue of George Stephenson, both from the Great Hall; the entrance gates; and an 1846 turntable discovered during demolition.

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Euston Station 1944

By the 1930s Euston had become congested, and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) considered rebuilding it. In 1931 it was reported that a site for a new station was being sought, with the most likely option being behind the existing station in the direction of Camden Town. By 1937 it had appointed the architect Percy Thomas to produce designs. He proposed a new American-inspired station that would involve removing or re-siting the arch. When World War II intervened, the proposals were shelved.

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1930 Plans for redevelopment of Euston Station

In the early 1960s, it was decided that a larger station was required. Because of the restricted layout of track and tunnels at the northern end, enlargement could be accomplished only by expanding southwards over the area occupied by the Great Hall and the Arch. Amid public outcry, the station building and the Arch were demolished in 1961–2 and replaced by a new building. It’s opening in 1968 followed the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, and the new structure was intended to symbolize the coming of the “electric age”. The station was built by Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd to a design by London Midland Region architects of British Railways, William Robert Headley, and RL Moorcroft, in consultation with Richard Seifert & Partners, responsible for the second phase of the complex in the late 1970s.

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Modern Euston Station

The station is a long, low structure with a frontage of some 197 m (646 ft). The second phase consists of a bus terminal and three low-rise office towers overlooking Melton Street and Eversholt Street. The offices were occupied by British Rail, then by Railtrack, and finally by Network Rail, which has now vacated all but a small portion of one of the towers. These buildings are in a functional style; the main facing material is polished dark stone, complemented by white tiles, exposed concrete, and plain glazing. The station has a single large concourse, separate from the train shed. A few remnants of the older station remain two Portland stone entrance lodges and a war memorial. A statue of Robert Stephenson by Carlo Marochetti, previously in the old ticket hall, stands in the forecourt.

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Modern Euston Station

The demolition of the original buildings in 1962 has been described as “one of the greatest acts of Post-War architectural vandalism in Britain” and is believed to have been approved by the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, the first of a line of Prime Ministers who championed motorway building. The replacement trainshed has a low, flat roof, making no attempt to match the airy style of London’s major 19th-century trainsheds. The attempts made to preserve the earlier building, championed by the later Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, led to the formation of the Victorian Society and heralded the modern conservation movement. This movement saved the nearby high Gothic St Pancras Station when threatened with demolition in 1966, ultimately leading to its renovation in 2007 as the terminus of HS1 to the Continent.

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LNWR Portland stone entrance lodge to Euston Station

The demolition of the original building is often compared to the 1963 demolition of New York Penn Station, which similarly alerted preservationists in New York City to the importance of saving historic buildings.

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Demolition New York Penn Station

On 11 March 2010, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that Euston was the preferred southern terminus of the proposed High Speed 2 line to Birmingham and the north. This would require expansion to the south and west to create new sufficiently long platforms. These plans would entail a complete reconstruction of the station and demolition of local housing, with half the station providing conventional train services and the new half high-speed trains. The station would have 24 platforms serving both high-speed and classic lines. These would be at a low level the underground station would be rebuilt and connected to Euston Square tube station.

 

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