Cathedrals of Steam

We welcomed well known transport journalist and commentator, Christian Wolmar, to speak at our October meeting on his 2020 book, Cathedrals of Steam. We were taken on an informed and entertaining journey to each of the twelve London termini, the most main line stations of any city in the world. This journey took us from the modest beginnings of Spa Road to the true cathedrals of steam like Paddington, the first ‘cathedral,’ built in 1854.

The one that got away was Broad Street, once the third busiest station in London, but cleared away in the 1980s to make space for the Broadgate development.

Mr Wolmar left us in no doubt that King’s Cross was his favourite of the London cathedrals of steam, combining in Mr Wolmar’s view ‘functionality and beauty.’ He looked down on its near neighbour, St Pancras, although we did dwell here a while. We also saw the once splendid Great Hall of Euston before it was demolished in the 1960s to make way for rebuilding ready for electrification.

Our trip around the London termini, also took in the Necropolis Railway which carried its ‘customers’ on a one way journey from Waterloo to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. Remarkably part of the London station can still be seen today.

Following a short break for refreshments, Mr Wolmar invited questions from the audience. Inevitably this included much frank and sharp commentary on the fate of HS2.

This was a most interesting and enjoyable evening and Mr Wolmar clearly enjoyed the engaged audience and sharing his views on the state of the railway today. We hope that Mr Wolmar will come back next year to talk about his latest book, The Liberation Line, due to be published in early 2024. We know that we will enjoy a well informed and entertaining presentation.