Some Sidelights on the Many Problems of Administration
BECAUSE it sees so much of the drama, the comedy, the tragedy and happiness of life, a station -
There is romance in the sight of the train waiting at a platform, herald of a challenge to time and distance. There is romance behind the comings and goings of its passengers. And there is romance in the spectacle of the mail-
The railway station is the pivot of it all. But behind that is a smooth-
There are in Great Britain something like 6,700 passenger stations of every conceivable type, size and importance. The smallest of them all is Blackwell Mill in Derbyshire, where the tiny platforms can accommodate only one coach apiece, and the service consists of two trains -
The largest is Waterloo, the principal London terminus of the Southern Railway, which has 21 platforms, deals with 1,550 trains and 120,000 passengers each week-
Through London’s great termini there flow daily some 1,130,000 people. The provinces, too, have their great terminal stations -
For through these great clearinghouses trains pass to and from almost every part of the country. Stand for an hour or so on Crewe Station in the middle of the day and you will see something of the real wonders of railway working at close hand -
THE SMALLEST STATION IN GREAT BRITAIN is at Blackwell Mill, Derbyshire. Its platforms are the length of only one coach, and there is but one train a week in either direction.
A century ago Crewe consisted of a farmhouse standing in lush fields -
Where once stood the farmhouse now spreads a busy industrial town. It has a population of 46,000 people, 5,600 of whom are employed at the London Midland and Scottish Railway’s great locomotive works. These works cover no less than 160 acres, but they and their wonders are a story in themselves. We are concerned now with the traffic that filters through this immensely important strategic centre.
Assuming that we are travelling down to Crewe from London in winter, when the “Royal Scot” stops at Crewe, the first indication that we are approaching this great centre is a slackening of the train’s speed as it descends the Whitmore “bank”, and the appearance on the “down” or left-
The Approach to Crewe
Running slowly past the Crewe South Junction signal box, where a gleaming array of electric levers controls all movements at the south end of the station, we notice lines coming in on the left and right from the Shrewsbury and Potteries lines respectively. Our train passes under the great Crewe south gantry with its forest of semaphores, and draws up in the station.
If it were summer time, when the “Royal Scot” does not call at Crewe Station, we should run through on one of the middle tracks, independent of platform; as it is, we use one of the six platforms that give through access from north to south, or vice versa. Four of these six platforms are arranged with a cross-
The longest platform is over 1,500 ft in length. In addition, there are ten “bays”, or short terminal platforms; these are used by trains of a more or less local character, which start or finish their journeys at Crewe. The aggregate length of Crewe’s sixteen platforms is 11,394 ft.
For the moment we shall not concern ourselves with the operations within the station itself; let us walk to the north end of the platform, where, from the vantage-
To the left are the locomotive running sheds, where something like 150 engines arc housed. This is the north shed; we should have noticed, as we ran into the station from the south, another huge depot where there are about 100 engines stationed. The north shed houses principally passenger engines, and the south shed those for freight traffic; 250 engine in all -
While we have been waiting at Crewe strange things have been happening to the “Royal Scot” in which we arrived from Euston.
While the driver has been “going round” his engine, to make sure that all is well for the non-
Meanwhile, on another platform, two south-
Many Trains in One
If we want to find a really striking instance of many trains in one, let us consider the 7.30 pm sleeping-
These are the passenger-
ST. PANCRAS, LONDON, was formerly the southern terminus of the Midland Railway Co, and is now under the control of the LMS group. Its great arched roof achieves a striking effect, noticeable even at the busiest hours when the roadway down the centre of the station is thronged with traffic. St. Pancras is the middle one of the three great railway termini in the Euston Road, the others being King’s Cross and Euston.
Armies of railway and postal workers are busy transferring mails and parcels -
The controlling organization behind this system at Crewe is in the divisional control office for the Western Division of the LMS Railway. This department controls, surveys and adjusts the whole of the passenger and freight operations between Euston in the South, Carlisle in the North, Holyhead and Liverpool in the West, and Swansea and Abergavenny in South Whales. Some 40,000 miles of telephone wires connect it with every station, every engine shed, and the score or so local district control offices throughout the division. No train can move anywhere in this vast area without “Control” knowing of the movements within a few seconds, and the information which the department collects and dispenses is of inestimable assistance to station-
This, then, is the unseen but all-
The country station-
The responsibilities of a station-
Some trains either give or receive a heavy parcels transfer traffic, and men must be ready with their platform barrows when these trains come in -
IN THE SUBURBS of cities and large towns the rush-
Individual trains have their own peculiarities. Some trains, for instance, can attach extra passenger coaches only at the rear, as there are four through fish vans from elsewhere marshalled next to (or “inside”) the engine; the 11.55 pm to London must load passengers for the metropolis only in the first eight coaches, since the last four go only to a certain destination -
All this is day-
Coaches have to be found for all extra trains run during the summer and on special occasions -
Not all these problems are the immediate responsibility of the station-
Over and above all this, the station-
Finally, the station-
The working of a large terminal station is less varied than that of an important junction, but none the less interesting. Here the objective is not so much the maintenance of scheduled connexions, transference of through vehicles, and fulfilment of the functions of an efficient traffic “filter”; but rather that of dealing with the maximum amount of traffic with the minimum amount of unprofitable platform occupation. Every movement, whether of a 15-
Here are just a few examples of how movements are saved in terminal working. The engine that brings the empty train from the sidings into the platform to load would, in the ordinary way, wait for its train to leave and then follow it out. That means two signalling movements through the platform instead of one, so the engine pushes the train out to the platform end, thus giving the departing train a “leg-
At some big stations, such as Euston, separate lines exist which not only enable empty trains to be brought into the station without interference with the main running lines, but also enable the empty coaches of arriving trains to be withdrawn in a similar manner.
Innumerable other instances could be given of the way in which our great railways save time and money by the intensively efficient management of their stations. Everywhere stations are becoming more scientifically equipped and more decoratively attractive; illuminated train indicators, mechanical conveyers for parcels, brighter waiting-
It is difficult now to realize what apparently insuperable obstacles confronted the railway companies when they sought to establish stations at the big cities. The building of the London & North Eastern’s terminus at King’s Cross, for example, presented many disturbing problems. Of necessity it had to be east of Euston, and the most favourable situation was found to be at King’s Cross; but as it was not immediately available, a provisional depot had to be established three-
Problems of the Terminus
The original station was opened in 1852, two years after the railway was completed, and at that time it was one of the largest terminals in existence. Externally it has few attractions, but its arched roof is considered a fine example of engineering. The present building is 800 ft in length, and the roof span is 105 ft, with the centre 71 ft above rail level.
In the first instance the ribs of the roof were of laminated timber planks, overlapping one another lengthways, but in the course of a few years the wood was found to be ravaged by decay. Accordingly reconstruction was taken in hand; the eastern half was replaced by wrought iron in 1869-
STATION DECORATION. Despite the varied duties of the staff at small stations flowers are grown to make the platforms look as attractive as possible. Prizes are awarded for the best displays. This picture shows Goldsborough Station, Yorkshire, which for nine years won the first prize for line-
Growth of traffic soon demanded the provision of additional platform accommodation, and this was supplied by turning the space in the centre of the station to this account. Subsequently the suburban business necessitated still further terminal facilities, and this requirement was satisfied by a local station. King’s Cross terminus to-
Modern development and improvement in railway work have assisted the station-
The London termini have, however, overcome difficulties as they have arisen. Increases of area have in most instances been impossible, but the measures taken by officials to deal with the ceaseless flow of passengers have greatly eased the situation. Platforms have been lengthened, additional bridges built, and subways have been constructed. Colour-
So the railway station changes with the times. Yet it will always preserve its spirit of romance, inseparable from the trysting-
[From part 6, published 8 March 1935]
“York Station” on this website.