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st pancras...international - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2007-11-14 23:41
Subject: st pancras...international
Security: Public
Location:home
Mood:chipperchipper
Music:robert plant and the strange sensation
I've not been unfamiliar with St Pancras Station, down the years. When I lived in Sheffield it was the station we travelled down to on infrequent visits to London. When I came to live here and my mother was still alive, it was the station I left from for weekend visits and returned to on Sundays. It was always romantically Victorian, all grime and darkness, fronted by the astounding Gothic edifice of Pancras Chambers, very quiet because only trains to the Midlands and Yorkshire and the commuter traffic on the Bedford-St Pancras line used it. The suburban platforms I use at King's Cross, just across the road, give you a good view of St Pancras. I've seen it more or less every day since I came to live in London. It was quite unlike any other station in London. It turned up in films - it stood in for Liverpool Street in The Fourth Protocol when Michael Caine caught a train from there to Colchester, it appeared in the opening credits of Porridge, and unless my memory's faulty it was also in the opening scenes of The Ipcress File.

Today, it's different. Today, it's the London end of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and dear lord have they made a good job of it.

I went through there for the first time in a very long while a few weeks ago on my way to Nottingham for FantasyCon. Going out, I was a bit late and hurrying for my train, but coming back on the Sunday afternoon I was staggered. The dark, grimy, decaying old station I remembered was gone.

Or rather, not gone, but given one of the most intelligent makeovers I can remember a public building having. Firstly the brickwork has been given a good clean, which always makes a difference. Then the roof has been reglassed and the ironwork repainted. The platforms have been raised a good forty or fifty feet and what is basically a whole station built onto the end of the platforms to accommodate the longer Eurostar trains and the average Midland Mainline commuter trains (also, I have to report, much improved since I last travelled north on British Rail)

People have been using the words `cathedral-like' to describe what St Pancras is like now, and that really is the only way to describe it. The dirt and darkness disguised just how sodding big Barlow's original Victorian `shed' (in its time including the largest single-span roof on Earth) really is. Now it's been cleaned up you can see, and it's huge.

I popped in on the way home last night, with about seventeen hours to go before the first Eurostar left, and it is not finished. A lot of the franchises aren't in yet, and won't be until next year, and there is still a lot of hoarding about. But, my hand to god, I think it's the most impressive building in London. I just stood there gawping. If you're going to have £800 million, you might as well use it to do something like this. I like Waterloo International - whose future is still uncertain - a lot, but St Pancras just gets mediaeval on Waterloo International's ass. It's an extraordinary thing. Really. A truly fitting international terminus for London.

And then, of course, the international traveller leaves St Pancras and finds themselves on the Euston Road...
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-16 22:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No offence, but everybody makes the St Pancreas gag at least once in their lives. It's something to do with being part of Western Civilisation, or something.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-15 02:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"I went through there for the first time in a very long while a few weeks ago on my way to Nottingham for FantasyCon."

Pam and I saw it for the first time when making that exact same journey, but a day or so before you! You're right: it is truly staggering. We'd been prepared for the beauty of the place through seeing stuff about it on BBC World Service a couple of weeks earlier; what that couldn't convey to us adequately was the sheer scale of it all, and of the way the scale in itself increases the beauty almost impossibly further. The place really is -- once you get up to the platform level, anyway -- a knockout.

Trouble was, when we arrived at the station en route to Nottingham we were in foul tempers through having had to navigate our way, struggling with heavy luggage, up a hefty flight of stairs and then through a sort of lunar landscape from Kings Cross-St Pancras tube station to get there. It seemed completely bonkers there was no direct access between the two places.
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pds_lit: Baby quilt
User: pds_lit
Date: 2007-11-15 04:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Baby quilt
I agreed with Paul on the access issue to Kings Cross. It was a what my family calls a "big adventure". I think in the end it is going to be and extremely wonderful place to start a journey or pass through.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-16 22:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As I said, there is much still to do there. A lot of the lunar landscape you describe is associated with the construction of the new St Pancras Thameslink station for commuter trains from Bedford and Luton down to Wimbledon and Brighton. I'm not sure, but I think if there is going to be a direct link between the two stations, it'll be via the subways serving this new station. We'll know soon; it's due to open on December 9.

Edited at 2007-11-17 12:21 am (UTC)
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