BAM Nuttall Partnership Award Market Rasen station (Market Rasen Station Community Project Ltd)
Great Western Railway Craft Skills Award Battle station (Southeastern)
Arch Company Urban Heritage Award Bat & Ball station (Sevenoaks Town Council)
Costain Structures Award South Esk Viaduct, Montrose (Network Rail and Taziker Industrial)
London Underground Operational Enhancement Award London Bridge (Network Rail on behalf of the Thameslink programme)
Supporters Award Tunbridge Wells station clock (Network Rail)
Railway Heritage Trust Conservation Mytholmroyd (Network Rail Commercial Property)
Stagecoach Volunteers Award Aberdeen Ferryhill turntable (Ferryhill Railway Heritage Trust)
Abellio Signalling Award Norden station (Swanage Railway)
Southeastern Commercial Restoration Award Ballater station (Aberdeenshire Council)
Hendy & Pendle Trust Award for best overall entry King’s Cross coal drops (BAM construction)
Chairman’s 40th Anniversary Award King’s Cross and St Pancras stations redevelopment (Network Rail, London Borough of Camden, London & Continental Railways, Argent and McAslan Architects)
This is the National Railway Heritage Awards’ fortieth year and we have come a long way since the Best Preserved Station Competition of 1979. This was aimed primarily at the growing heritage railways, in order to encourage good standards in maintaining their stock of stations, the initial competition attracting eighteen entrants. The popularity of the competition, and the respect with which it is held throughout the railway industry, means that entry numbers have always exceeded that, often by a huge margin; this year our numbers touched sixty with two more held over until next year (George Hudson’s grave and Taunton Station Hotel). However the overriding aims have remained constant, being to encourage the conservation and restoration of old railway buildings.
Soon British Rail and then London Underground wanted to join in while the scope of entries was progressively widened to include all railway and tramway buildings, whether or not still in operational use. The full criteria for entries are overleaf in the Chairman’s piece “About the Awards”, while our celebratory anniversary book details our history accompanied by copious illustrations. Suffice it to say here that our entrants this year have included town and county councils, community projects, architects and developers, specialist contractors, hotels and museums, Scouts and private individuals as well as the expected train operating companies, heritage railways large and small, and departments of Network Rail. Although the Republic of Ireland did not submit an entry this year, all parts of the UK did so including the Isle of Man.
Around the Stations
Over half of this year’s entries were stations, either as whole structures or specific parts, and varying between heavy passenger use, tourist use and community or residential use. At the fore was the ever-bustling terminal and through station at London Bridge which has been extensively rebuilt and remodelled as part of the Thameslink Programme over several years while still being able to
retain significant portions of historic street level facades and some important ironwork. Further out, Southeastern has undertaken some good work at Battle station, correcting inter alia some poor work undertaken some years ago, while Sevenoaks Town Council has worked hard to revitalise the rundown local Bat & Ball station. Transport for London entered work done at Blackhorse Road and Sloane Square stations as did Arriva at Dore & Totley station outside Sheffield. Community involvement has been very noticeable this year, aiming to give new life to otherwise long neglected station buildings as far apart as Lowestoft Central, Market Rasen, Mytholmroyd (near Hebden Bridge), Newton Grange in Midlothian and Grantown East in the Highlands while Nairn Men’s Shed has reconstructed a platform building at Nairn and looks to do more.
Work on station canopies has also featured strongly, at Thorpe Bay (Southend), Ilkley Plaza (the car park in the erstwhile Skipton platforms alongside the operational platforms whose canopies were refurbished some years ago), Bournemouth, Doncaster (where the 1930s façade can be better appreciated) and Lochearnhead Scout Station, but not at Bangor (Gwynedd) where work concentrated on the roof and chimneys. The highly visible Tunbridge Wells station clock tower has been fully restored and now has a working clock again while Berwick-upon-Tweed not only benefits from concourse redevelopment, Appleby from a new platform shelter and the Vale of Rheidol station at Aberystwyth from a new platform and toilets; Waunfawr station on the resurgent Welsh Highland Railway now enjoys a totally new building. The Severn Valley Railway has begun work at Eardington and built a new refreshment room at Bridgnorth while continuing station maintenance at Arley. Aberdeenshire Council took the brave step of rebuilding Ballater station that had been almost totally devastated by arson while Network Rail also submitted arson repair work at Nottingham. Residential accommodation has also come in, including the station houses at Attleborough and Malvern Link while the long-derelict station building at Cultra on the Bangor (Co. Down) line, is being converted into several residential units following a significant restoration programme.
Bridges, Boxes and other structures
No less than six bridges were entered, ranging from pedestrian foot bridges at Abergavenny, Lydney St Mary’s, over the railway beside the parish church, Preston Bridge in Faversham and Thickley Wood Footbridge near the museum at Shildon, to the majestic viaduct at Montrose carrying the East Coast Main Line over the South Esk water. Also included is the refurbished walkway adjacent to the railway viaduct over the River Ayr at Ayr.
Turning to signalling, a number of signal boxes were entered, from the surviving GNR (I) box from Bundoran Junction (on the Fermanagh / Tyrone border) and now restored at Downpatrick, and along the North Wales Coast main line where six unused but listed boxes have been mothballed, to Billingshurst box, now at Amberley Museum outside Arundel. Talking of relocation, Hednesford No. 1 signal box has been relocated to a local park in Cannock Chase, where full restoration is on going, while Roskear box at Camborne has new lease of life with the installation of electronic signalling equipment. New GWR-style level crossing gates to replicate the rotten originals have been made at Jackfield in the Ironbridge Gorge industrial complex. Down on the Swanage Railway a new token block signalling system, in the traditional branch line manner has been installed at Norden to enable trains from the heritage railway to access Network Rail at Worgret Junction and run into Wareham station.
It is convenient here to mention the restoration of the turntable at Aberdeen Ferryhill that is now capable of turning the large steam locomotives used on charter trains. At the other extreme comes the Coal Drops at Kings Cross, now fully restored and integrated into the vibrant Kings Cross Lands regeneration north of the terminal stations.
Little and Large
In looking at memorials, first comes Sir Edwin Lutyens’ impressively large war memorial for the North Eastern Railway at York. Earlier cleaning attempts has not
been that successful so bronze plaques were erected at one side to record the names before erosion removed them forever. As part of the current cleaning, the slate slabs recording the WWII fallen were also re-laid. Infinitely smaller is the memorial in Otley churchyard to those workmen and their families who died during the construction of the neighbouring Bramhope Tunnel; this has now received necessary repairs. Inside Newton Heath TMD one finds the wooden memorial, made in house, to all the L&Y employees who served in WWI, as well as recording the fallen. This had disappeared for years; when finally recovered the ornate wooden surrounds had gone but a chance find of a photograph of the original has made exact replication possible.
At Whitehead near Belfast a museum has been created out of the derelict station stables while a corrugated iron shed from LNER days, once housing a Wickham Trolley, has been resurrected at Scruton on the Wensleydale Railway after being found deep within undergrowth. An older building rescued from decay is the 1844 engine shed at Darlington, now being developed as residential accommodation, while at Dunbar the tiny station master’s house has become a Micropub. In Edinburgh the former Princes Street Station is remembered with a fine set of ornamental gates, now lovingly restored.
On the Isle of Man a group has been progressively reinstating the once abandoned narrow gauge railway along Groudle Glen, working again on the distinctive canopy at Lhen Coan, its principle station. Five other small schemes came our way: the careful repainting of the replica coat of arms at Derby station, some work on the glazing of the Waterloo Central Carriage Arch, the installation of the Hulton panels from Bucklesbury House into a new concourse at Bank station, the restoration of the ex-GWR camping coach at Blue Anchor on the Minehead line, and finally, ready to take our ease, Jesse’s Seat Topiary which is a bush beside the North Downs Line near Chilworth kept clipped by local railwaymen in memory of a guard.
With sixty entries to judge, each twice, it was a busy year for our judges and adjudicators. We thank them all, as well as our entrants old and new.