London Waterloo’s 175th birthday 

©Terence Cuneo / Science Museum Group

This week, one of Britain’s busiest railway stations – London Waterloo – turns 175 years old.  

We teamed up with train operator South Western Railway for special celebrations, which included the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the landmark birthday. 

A joint Network Rail and South Western Railway choir treated visitors to memorable ‘Waterloo’ songs such as ABBA’s Waterloo and The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset. 

Meanwhile, South Western Railway gave attendees a preview of one of its brand-new Arterio trains on platform 19. The fleet of 90 trains will improve your journeys on the operator’s Reading, Windsor and South West London suburban routes. 

Guests from the rail industry included Huw Merriman, Minister of State (Rail and HS2); Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail; Peter, Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, chair of Network Rail, and Claire Mann, managing director of South Western Railway. 

Before the event, we gave a behind-the-scenes tour to a group including historian and television presenter Tim Dunn. The tour revealed the secret passageways that lie beneath the station. They still hold deserted shooting ranges, an old snooker table and even an old bathtub where railway workers used to wash after a long day of work. 

Present day work  

We’re proud custodians of our historic railway. That’s why we’ll spend the next few years improving your visits to the station through a series of projects. 

Once we’re done, you’ll have refurbished toilets, a replacement to the 100-year-old station roof, improved customer information systems and retailers offered, as well as more seating on the concourse.  

Mark Killick, route director for our Wessex route, said: “The station holds a lot of history and is a key transport hub for many and will continue to be for years to come which is why it’s important for us to carry out a series of refurbishments to continue improving the customer experience and future-proof it for generations to come.”

You can learn more about it here. 

A station of significance 

The station first opened to the public in 1848 and was originally popular with race goers travelling to Epsom. In fact, the station’s opening date was even brought forward by a week to 11 July so passengers could travel to the Derby by rail for the first time. 

Since then, Waterloo has had a fascinating history, including: 

  • having its own small, private station dedicated to the funeral industry from 1854 to 1941 – the London Necropolis railway accommodated mourners and held funeral services
  • becoming a focal point for army and navy personnel departing for war 
  • the main railway station as a gateway to the rest of Britain for many of the Windrush Generation 
  • the opening of the first London terminus for Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel on 14 November 1994 
  • supporting the Coronation celebration of His Majesty King Charles III and The Queen by welcoming more than 5,000 armed forces personnel who travelled to Waterloo station from all over the UK.

Read more:

10 things you didn’t know about Waterloo station

Improving London Waterloo station

Incredible Windrush Generation images brought to life