First memories of a London terminus?

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Bald Rick

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Hmmm....hidden away from most arriving passengers, poor range of ales and outrageous (OK, normal for London!) prices.

I’ll admit it’s been two years since I’ve been, so can’t comment on the Ales, but it’s no more hidden away from arriving passengers than the Champagne bar.
 

peteb

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Arriving at St Pancras from Bedford by peak class 45 and mk1 SK in 1973, my first trip to London.....amazed by the huge metal roof and the cavernous interior (at that time pretty quiet).
 

Falcon1200

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I seem to be in a minority thinking Eurostar have absolutely ruined the classical atmosphere of St Pancras; it now just seems a shopping mall with a fancy roof and a ludicrous champagne bar that rarely has people in it, with the East Midlands trains treated like they are a pariah.

August 1972 was also my first visit to St Pancras and my overriding memory is how quiet it was; ie not many trains ! Which is why there were actually proposals to close the place. Thankfully that never happened and its transformation into a multi-route international hub is amazing (although I do agree the traipse to the EMR platforms, and the limited capacity there, is disappointing; Not sure how it could have been avoided however).
 

nickw1

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August 1972 was also my first visit to St Pancras and my overriding memory is how quiet it was; ie not many trains ! Which is why there were actually proposals to close the place. Thankfully that never happened and its transformation into a multi-route international hub is amazing (although I do agree the traipse to the EMR platforms, and the limited capacity there, is disappointing; Not sure how it could have been avoided however).

According to Timetable World it was still very quiet in 1981, with just four trains an hour off-peak (two IC, and two local DMUs). To be fair there were significantly more trains in the peak, though the overwhelming impression you get from that timetable is how London Midland in particular didn't provide much of an off-peak service from any of its London terminals: Marylebone and Euston were equally sparse for locals. So much so for the former is that there was just ONE train an hour off peak to High Wycombe! I seem to recall reading that Marylebone was also proposed for closure with services transferring to Paddington, though it didn't help that the off-peak service provision for places very close to London was so poor. Again, to be fair, increases in the peak were massive.

While at a guess the arrival of electrification and 317s would have made things busier for a time, St Pancras must also have been pretty quiet during the period in between Thameslink opening and Eurostar arriving.
 
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Bayum

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I don’t remember arriving into Kings X but I do remember somehow making my way to Waterloo to see the Eurostar. I remember being at the bottom of a ramp leading up to the Eurostar platforms but being unable to see them up close.
 

Czesziafan

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Kings Cross 1979. Arrived on 254023 (43100 & 43101) and my dad has a photo of 4 HST‘s lined up on platforms 3-6. No Deltics from what I recall sadly but 31405 was there with its FP white stripe. We also took in St Pancras, Euston, Marylebone and Paddington that day. Didn’t get to the other terminals until 1980.

My love of London terminals has extended to the Paris terminals too.
Paris. Arriving at the Gare du Nord on the Night Ferry in 1979 in bitterly cold weather with deep snow everywhere. Gare d'Austerlitz on a stiflingly hot June evening in 1980 waiting for hours for the sleeper down to the South. Place seemed quite sleepy and hard to believe it was in the middle of one of Europe's great cities. And the metal "pissoir" - not a pleasant experience as the thing was only shoulder high and one had to endure catcalls from various women. And an antiquated ex-PO / Midi electric on ECS.
 

nickw1

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Paris. Arriving at the Gare du Nord on the Night Ferry in 1979 in bitterly cold weather with deep snow everywhere. Gare d'Austerlitz on a stiflingly hot June evening in 1980 waiting for hours for the sleeper down to the South. Place seemed quite sleepy and hard to believe it was in the middle of one of Europe's great cities. And the metal "pissoir" - not a pleasant experience as the thing was only shoulder high and one had to endure catcalls from various women. And an antiquated ex-PO / Midi electric on ECS.

Gare du Nord was also my first Paris terminal, pretty obviously, arriving there by Eurostar in 1999. It was quite something (these were the days of Waterloo International) to start your journey on miles of commuter railway sharing the tracks with CIGs, CEPs, VEPs and Networkers - and ending up in one of Paris's major terminals. Don't remember it being sleepy though, think it was quite busy. I do remember being slightly concerned about the cross-Paris transfer but ended up being simpler than I thought.

This was quickly followed by Gare de Lyon (same trip, I was heading for Montpellier - so got first TGV immediately after first Eurostar!) and Montparnasse a good many years later.

My first international journey (though I had done short rail trips in France, Italy, Germany and California) so a very exciting and memorable event.
 
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The "News Cinemas" were on several London stations, and died out in the 1960s. Idea was to go in and out as needed, just to pass the time until your train. The films just cycled round in about an hour, never stopping, though most people didn't stay that long..........
As we've slipped across the Channel (and we're unlikely to have a thread "First Memories of a German terminus"), here's my anecdote regarding on-station cinemas:-

In the late 1970s, as a youth on my first solo rail expedition deep into Europe, I had to change trains at Munich Hbf.

I was slightly surprised to find, quite prominently on the concourse, there was a cinema - which seemed to be screening films of, shall we say, adult interest.

While it wouldn't be any surprise to find such an establishment in some shabby building in a seedy neighbourhood around the corner from a main terminus, this one looked like a "proper" business (i.e. not obviously run by gangsters) and was cheek by jowl with all the normal retail tenancies - all in finest matter-of-fact Teutonic / Scandinavian fashion.

I noticed a steady trickle of patrons un-self-consciously entering & leaving the cinema (it might as well have been Boots The Chemist) - mostly businessmen types with suits and briefcases presumably killing time before their train. There would have been no point me going inside to sample the entertainment, since my German was very basic and I probably wouldn't be able to follow the plot. So I "made my excuses and left" - my train was due soon anyway.

Cinemas apart, my other first impressions of a bustling German Hauptbahnhof were the lack of platform barriers (all large British stations had ticket barriers at that time), the DB trains didn't all run on time (mine departed late), plus the bright, primary-coloured jackets and/or trousers worn by a fair fraction of the "film buffs" - beating Portillo off the mark by a good few decades in this department.
 
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Bald Rick

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There would have been no point me going inside to sample the entertainment, since my German was very basic and I probably wouldn't be able to follow the plot.

I’m not sure the plot, nor the language being spoken, would have been much to worry about.
 

birchesgreen

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My Nan took me to London in the mid-80s when my railway enthusiasm was just starting. We started at Euston then took the tube to Paddington, St Pancras and Waterloo. I just wish i had been able to take some photos, i remember vividly a Peak rumbling away at St Pancras which was quite different to how it is now.

I think it was that trip too i saw the recently renamed/repainted Sir Edward Elgar.
 

Diplodicus

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I have written elsewhere about my journeys from 1950's Paddington to Neath (unaccompanied, labelled and "kept an eye on" by someone my dad gave half-a-a crown). Liverpool Street in the late fifties had a huge impact on me.

After Paddington's dingy but tidy ambience, Liverpool Street was an assault on all the senses:

1. Platforms tucked around corners;
2. An endless tide of busy people arriving (AM) or departing (PM) all of whom were in a great hurry;
3. The ever-present smell of fish emanating from the sawdust in every freight cage in the guards van of passenger coaches (ex-Grimsby, Yarmouth, Lowestoft, etc).
4. A constant shower of ash and dust gently falling from the roof trusses and coating us all.
5. Gresley's teak coaches that seemed very foreign (and why, oh why didn't they keep them together instead of shunting one into the middle of "ordinary" rakes of jumbled stock??
Then leaving the building to emerge right into "The City".
6. It seemed the dirtiest of all the London Termini.
 

Gloster

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The first foreign terminal for me was Paris Nord around 1970 when I was about ten. I can just remember the Jacquemin BB 16000 locos and lots of shiny trains: the stainless steel bodied Z 6100 that I later came to know. I can also remember the trains that passed over the bridge north of the station and being amazed to be told that they were underground trains.
 

MDB1images

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Paddington 1980.
BR Blue Class 50's was a welcome sight, Blue clag everywhere!
Throw in Class 253 power cars(only been used to 254 upto that point) and DMUs with lots of doors and it stuck in the memory to this youngster.
The Jam had just charted with the Hit record 'Going Underground' and everytime I hear it I go back to 1980's Padd!

Second one was a visit to Stratford Open Day in 1981 and my first visit to Liverpool Street.
Locomotives everywhere, Split box Class 37's on passenger trains was the one that sticks out and how clean the local(Stratford)Class 47s looked.
 
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Taunton

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As we've slipped across the Channel (and we're unlikely to have a thread "First Memories of a German terminus"),
My own first Continental recollections were from a (non-rail) family holiday in Ostend. Having agitated to see the somewhat remote from us station, it was a notable disappointment on the visit to find not a single train or locomotive around; must have been at a non-ship time. There were some carriages in a couple of the bare, uncovered platforms but that was it. Of the station building, which I now see is a grand Victorian structure, I have no recollection apart from a few shops which were closed.Perhaps we went on a Sunday. Neither do I recall the overhead wiring, which would be the first I had seen.

During the holiday we hired a large taxi (must have been expensive) and went on an all day trip to my grandfather's WW1 cemetery on the Somme in France. We stopped for a meal in Arras opposite the station there, and again, on a quick visit, more bare platforms and it was quite lifeless for trains. Somehow I recall we couldn't get further than the ticket barrier, which as no trains were due had small chains across the entrance. The station building must have been brand new at the time, having been destroyed in WW1 and the replacement again in WW2.
 

Bald Rick

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Of the station building, which I now see is a grand Victorian structure

That raises an interesting point - can architecture in a country that wasn’t part of the Empire in Victoria times be described as Victorian?
 

Taunton

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That raises an interesting point - can architecture in a country that wasn’t part of the Empire in Victoria times be described as Victorian?
Sure, it's an architectural epoch. Streamline Moderne from the 1930s is no longer modern. In the USA Victorian and Russian Revival both were current at the same time.
 

Greetlander

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Kings Cross - arriving in 1985 on a day trip. First ever trip on a 125 from Wakefield Westgate. Didn't care about London but as a 9yo train nerd it was all about the journey. Kings Cross was noisy, smelly and I loved it.
 

Watford West

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Kings Cross in the summer of 75. Just started train spotting, so was excited to be allowed into London without parents / older siblings and just a fellow train buff. Walking into the station and through the shop (if my memory is correct) all the while hearing the hum of a Deltic getting louder and louder. Then to come out at the platform end and find said Deltic at the buffer stops. Magic. In those days you could get along the outer platform to the end and look out at the small loco stabling area at the side, and i clearly remember seeing MELD coming out of the yard and then being moved through the points at the platform ends to join a rake of carriages for it's next train. Wonderful
 

Grumpus63

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What a great thread! I have indistinct memories of arriving at Liverpool Street from Billericay in the very early sixties on my way either to hospital appointments at Great Ormond Street or, before Christmas, to visit Gamages for Father Christmas and the magnificent model railway set that they always had one display there. I remember that when Father Christmas asked what I wanted for Christmas I asked for an Underground train set. He asked me how I would be able to see it if it was under the floorboards and that was indeed a question for a four year old. Liverpool Street was a swirl of noise, ticket barrier checks "You got the tickets, Bet?" "No I gave 'em to you George!" then the urgency of parents getting their offspring across the concourse and down onto the tube. The Central Line trains impressed me with having a window at the front on one side and half a window on the other so it must have been standard stock and prior to 1963. Then we moved to Buckinghamshire and the trains were diesels into Marylebone which was less frenetic but smellier. Finally another move shortly after meant that we travelled to Waterloo from Surrey and most of my childhood memories are of that station and my fascination with the "Make Your Own Record" booth, the fresh milk vending machines which were everywhere in London in those days and the WH Smith's bookstall. When I started work near there in 1974 I remember that they played marching music over the loudspeakers in the morning to get you striding across the concourse on your way to your duties and more Mantovani type stuff in the evening peak. I was always tempted by hearing the announcement for the train to Exeter St David's which was bound for a hazy rurality that I had never heard of with inviting names such as Crewkerne, Honiton and Whimple! Often I was almost tempted to stuff the job and buy a ticket for one of these places. Fortunately for my employment record the temptations of the station announcer at Waterloo never quite persuaded me. Btw, those of you who like Waterloo station and wonder what it must have been like during the Second World War may enjoy the opening five minutes of a film called "Miss London Limited" which is on YouTube and was filmed in 1943 on location at the station. The music may not be to everyone's taste but I quite enjoy it. Don't bother with the rest of the film though ;)
 

Razor1967

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Living in York and remember my first trip to London with my older brother in 1980. So excited as I needed every single unit etc. First went to Liverpool Street and remember the Stratford 08957 on the parcels line and copping so many emus. The silver roofed 47s and 31s 37s on the passenger trains. This of course was the old station where you could sit in a parcels cages (BRUTE ?).We went to Stratford to bunk the shed and remember the sheer terror of going down the long underground tunnel, frightened to be caught by security. Saw 03160/1 straight away and got a long line of shunters and got round the old steam shed which had some Cravens dmus in and also round the small two road shed. I thought Stratford was a lot smaller than I anticapated and lost our nerve and left, not realising there was a bigger shed and the works further on. Probably would have been too scared to go any further anyway. Always remember seeing 08547 in Mile End Sand Sidings and 08262 in Bow Goods, funny how you can remember certain things from 40 years ago but cannot remember things from last year !!

We then went to Waterloo and copped 09005 in the parcels platform and saw my first 33 and 73s and every single unit was a cop.

Of course had to go to Clapham Junction and needed about 4 pairs of eyes and was amazed the trains just kept coming and annoyed that we missed a lot and just kept writing the numbers down, only later to find that after about an hour we were writing the same numbers down for the trains running back out of London. Also got around Hither Green shed and the foreman let us in no problem. Next stop Euston and saw I think 08934 (I have always loved shunters !!) in the parcels platform and also the 501 emus on the Watford trains.

Then went to Willesden to cop a load of electrics and more shunters. Asked politely to the foreman if we could go round the shed, to be left with a flat no, without looking at us. I was only 12 and pleaded that we had come all the way from York and it was my first trip to London. Think he was intrigued by our Yorkshire accent and took pity on us and said you have 10 minutes but don't leave the shed area and then passed us a list of what was on shed so we could get the numbers of the trains outside we could see but not get the numbers of.

It was a brilliant day out and think I copped about 500 new trains, mostly units that have long gone.

Even now I still love going to London for the pure variety you see. Of course the shunters have mostly long gone and diesels are a a thing of the past too. Oh to have a time machine to go back to the 80s when life was so much simpler and the variety you could see was brilliant.
 
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Diplodicus

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I've already posted here but Grumpus63's mention of food smells sparked a powerful memory of the perpetual and delightful smell of fresh doughnuts on the Underground's district line platforms at Victoria.
 

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