The history of London Euston

We’ve just handed back London Euston station following a vital upgrade that will enable more reliable services for passengers.

The first mainline station to connect London with another city has been radically transformed during its more than 180-year history:

The original Euston station opened in 1837 but was completely rebuilt in conjunction with the electrification of the West Coast Mainline in the 1960s, representing a new era in British railway history.

Parliament authorised the London & Birmingham Railway to build its line between the two cities in May 1833. The engineers of the line, father and son George Stephenson and Robert Stephenson, had always planned their London terminus for Euston Square, but objections from landowners forced them to relocate it to Chalk Farm to get the bill passed.

With permission secured, George Stephenson stepped back from the project and Robert (pictured right) took charge as chief engineer. By 1835 he had authorisation to build his terminus at Euston Square as originally planned, and a simple train shed was built with two platforms, one for arrivals and one for departures with tracks between to store carriages.

This was shortly accompanied by a grand ‘Doric Arch’ gateway, designed by architect Philip Hardwick as an impressive entrance to the terminus site.

Euston station, named after the Norfolk family seat of the Duke of Grafton, opened on 20 July 1837 along with the line as far as Boxmoor in Hertfordshire. The first inter-city journey from London to Birmingham was made by the directors of the Company on 17 September 1838.

Robert Stephenson

Expansion and a new headquarters

By the early 1840s Euston was getting overcrowded as lines from the Midlands and the North East made use of the station as their entrance to London.

In 1846 the station began its first major expansion, and after the formation of the London & North Western Railway in the same year, the building work included the headquarters for the new company, which also formed the entrance to the station. Known as the Great Hall, it was situated between the Doric Arch and the station platforms.

By the 1870s, passenger and parcel traffic had once more outgrown the capacity of the station; two new platforms, additional service roads and an additional entrance were created. By the 1890s, the terminus had been enlarged once more, with four more platforms created, bringing the total to 15; 14 for passengers and 1 for parcels.

Electrification

There was no further expansion to the station after the 1890s, although during the 1930s the London Midland & Scottish Railway had drawn up plans for its redevelopment. After the Second World War and the formation of British Railways, plans for an overhaul of the terminus were revisited.

By the 1950s, steam locomotives were being phased out, and British Railways’ London Midland Region took the decision to completely rebuild Euston as part of the electrification of the main line between London and the North West of England. A bold new station would reflect a new, modern railway era.

Railway modernisation

Phase one of the Euston redevelopment concentrated on the movement of passenger and parcel trains. The restrictions of the original site layout meant that the redevelopment had to make use of the land occupied by the Great Hall and the Doric Arch, which were demolished in 1962.

A total of 18 platforms were built; 15 for passengers, 3 for parcels. The development also included the construction of two track bays, a parcels deck, signal box, staff buildings and workshops using a combination of building work on site and precast units. Building work started in 1962 and was completed in 1966 with the newly electrified main line.

Phase two focused on the passenger station. A spacious, open concourse over two levels provided new access to London Underground services, shops, restaurants and a new travel centre - the first ‘one stop shop’ concept where passengers could buy tickets, book sleeper and ferry services and hotel accommodation in one place.

The station design specifically separated the movement of passengers and road traffic; vehicles circulated in the taxi, short stay and multi-storey car park facilities underneath the main concourse building.

The only elements of the old station that were kept were the LNWR war memorial in Euston Square, the two lodges on Euston Road and the statue of Robert Stephenson by Carlo Marochetti which was re-erected in the station plaza.