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Archaeology at Westbourne Park

Remains of structures built by celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel for his Great Western Railway were unearthed near Paddington in west London. Findings included foundations of a 200 metre long engine shed, a workshop and turntables.

  • Victorian-era rail infrastructure excavated near Paddington as part of the UK’s largest archaeological programme
  • Engineering marvels of the Great Western Railway are uncovered for the first time in more than 100 years

The structures were used for Brunel’s famous broad-gauge railway, which first ran steam trains through the area in 1838.

The Crossrail archaeology team documented the remains using laser scans, creating 3D models of the buildings which date from the 1850s and were levelled in 1906 to make way for a goods storage yard. These records will help historians understand the early development of railways in the UK and the methods of Brunel, widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest engineers.

Brunel engine room uncovered at Paddington New Yard _158219

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway is the most complete early mainline railway in the world. Whenever we expose parts of the original infrastructure it is vital to record these for posterity and the history of rail in this country. Using the latest 3D scan technology provides a permanent and accurate model Brunel’s distinctive architectural legacy.

The engine shed shows evidence of the change from 7 foot wide broad-gauge train tracks used by Brunel’s Great Western Railway, to the standard gauge tracks prescribed in an Act of Parliament in 1846 and widely implemented by the 1860s. Brunel initially resisted this change in the so-called ‘Gauge Wars’.

Brunel’s bricks breathe again_159665

The remains were found on a construction site known as Paddington New Yard, to the east of Westbourne Park Tube station.

From 2018 the area will accommodate Crossrail tracks, turn-back sidings, an elevated bus deck and cement factory, which had to be temporarily relocated to accommodate the building of Crossrail. The works at Paddington New Yard are being undertaken by Costain.

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Crossrail's work at Paddington New Yard

The archaeological excavations were undertaken by Oxford Archaeology in partnership with Ramboll on behalf of Crossrail.

The Crossrail works at Paddington New Yard involves relocating and constructing a new bus park, concrete batching plant, track beds and landscaping the tunnel portal.

The discoveries include foundations for Brunel engine sheds and workshops, dating from the 1850s and a 45ft turntable from the 1880s.

The broad-gauge engine shed was built in 1852/1853 and came into use from 1854 when Brunel's new Paddington station opened and engineering workshops were moved to Westbourne Park, with the area later becoming known as Paddington New Yard. The engine shed was 202 metres long and had four tracks with inspection pits running along its full length. 

The turntable dates from 1881/1882 and was constructed by the Great Western Railways works at Swindon. It was located at the western end of the engine shed, to which it allowed train engines access. Within the brick super structure there was a wrought iron 'turning circle' decked with timber on which both broad gauge and standard gauge engines could be turned.

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