Great British architecture comes in all shapes and sizes, from the lowly yet iconic red phone box designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, to great super structures such as Buckingham Palace and the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, there is one type of building that millions visit every day yet never linger long enough to appreciate. There’s usually one in every town and, due to their constant use, they are often in need of refurbishment or even demolition and rebuilding. Have you guessed it yet? Nope, its not public lavatories, those are actually the one public structure that local authorities are quite happy to leave derelict for decades. Train stations are, of course, the building’s I’m describing. What follows is a list of, in my honest opinion, the top five Great British Railway Stations.
5) London Victoria
In the heart of our great capital, what is needed more than a coffee chain on every corner is of course transportation. Victoria not only serves as one of the most important transportation hubs for the country, but also doubles as a top-notch shopping destination for those looking to spend that little bit extra on everyday objects such as milk, eggs, paper and staples. Located conveniently close to some of the major London attractions, as well as being just a five minute walk away from the coach station (also called Victoria, to avoid confusion); Victoria boasts stunning, you guessed it, Victorian architecture and easily makes the number five spot for this alone.
4) Birmingham New Street
Another classic Victorian train station that has undergone significant redevelopment and refurbishment; BHM, as its fondly referred to by Network Rail, is almost unrecognisable from its past self. A true train station of the future, New Street offers more than three exits and as many as ten individual urinals grouped into three toilet blocks. If this isn’t quite enough to convince you; there are a plethora of well known restaurant and café outlets, all selling slightly drier versions of well known foods such as sandwiches, sushi and spaghetti. With elegantly curved metal and glass combining with a strikingly distant workforce Birmingham New Street is a Great British Train Station well worth passing though.
3) Liverpool Lime Street
An absolute must-see for any train station enthusiast, Liverpool Lime Street combines the grand scale industrial feel of steam-punk Victorian liverpool architecture with the cold, comfort-less charm of modern railway stations. The immense iron structure which dates back to the eighteen-hundreds, has been left to rust and age gracefully whereas new conveniences such as an extortionate Marks & Spencer Food outlet softly goads the average consumer. The Liverpudlian traveller, perhaps homeward bound from London, can make their way home with ease thanks to the wonderfully convoluted Merseyrail network or one of Liverpool’s many perfectly safe black cabs.
Serving as the terminus to the Tamar Valley Line, Plymouth’s main station (one of six surviving, quality stations in the city) captures the very essence of 1960s architecture. Bold concrete flooring collides, with striking concrete walls, and stunning beige ceramic tiles to wonderful effect. A grand total of 6 platforms adorn this picturesque station, with some lines closing seasonally due to high tides in the Dawlish area. However, it is not simply the conveniences that make this a stand out British train station, it is the people of Plymouth that make it so unique. Rubbing shoulders with the local people eager for the first drag on their rolled up cigarettes, arguments often break out as there is inevitable confusion at the ticket turnstiles. These charming interactions are what singles out this idyllic location.
1) Tiverton Parkway
You’d think that the top spot on this list would be occupied by one of the big city stations, with their grand halls and wide plazas. However, space and luxury are not what makes a Great British Railway Station. Tiverton Parkway (named such as it is located seven miles outside of the town itself) captures the idyllic charm of country living – encapsulated in a transport hub. There are only
two platforms; a fishing lake and driving range border the quaint country lane and, despite the regular buses running through its car park, an air of peace and tranquillity reigns supreme. The public conveniences are squalid, concrete affairs and the vending machines are often broken; but these are minor trifles when compared to Parkway’s superlative charm.