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Coming of the Railway

Coming of the Railway

In west London, Crossrail’s route mirrors that of the former Great Western Railway (GWR), the line which links Wales and the West Country with the capital. The coming of the railway helped speed up the urbanisation of the Paddington area, which had begun with the construction of the Grand Junction Canal in 1801.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s GWR terminus station opened at Paddington in 1854. Engine and carriage sheds, offices, workshops and sidings were quickly established around the station and at Westbourne Park. During the project we have discovered many buried features of Brunel’s work. These include the original wood block road surface which provided noise abatement to residents from the hundreds of horse drawn vehicles using Departures Road.

On the arrivals side of the station we also found the specially constructed milk ramp that allowed carts to drive right up to the carriages arriving laden with milk from the counties.

Built under the guidance of George Jackson Churchward, GWR’s Locomotive Superintendent, Old Oak Common was one of the most up-to-date locomotive repair facilities in the country when it opened. Traditional and modern construction techniques and materials were combined to create a depot capable of accommodating and servicing the company’s latest and largest locomotives. A mighty engine shed containing four turntables was the centrepiece of an extensive site which also housed locomotive and carriage repair workshops, offices and stores.

The depot survived the demise of steam locomotives, and was only decommissioned in 2009 so that Crossrail could construct a tunnel segment factory. Crossrail’s new train depot will eventually be built on the site. Prior to demolition, the buildings and surviving equipment were recorded. Many of the most significant historical items have been salvaged and we hope that they will find new homes in heritage railways across the country.