Winners 2020

BAM Nuttall Partnership Award Harlow Town station (Greater Anglia Railways)
NRHA Craft Skills Award Appleby North station (Colt Construction Ltd)
Arch Company Award for Urban Heritage Berwick-on-Tweed station (LNER and Network Rail)
Costain Structures Award Manchester bridges (Network Rail)
London Underground Operational Enhancement Award Stirling station (Network Rail and Story Construction Ltd)
Railway Heritage Trust Conservation Morpeth station (Greater Morpeth Development Trust, Northern and Network Rail)
Hendy & Pendle Trust Volunteers Award Minffordd Gweithdy (Ffestiniog Railway)
Network Rail Community Award Award Goostrey station (Network Rail)
Southeastern Commercial Restoration Award Cardiff Bay station (Loftco)
Chairman’s Special Award Dublin Pearse station roof (Irish Rail)
NRHA Award for best overall entry Northampton engine shed (University of Northampton)

Review of the year

Naturally Network Rail, as the largest owner of railway structures in mainland UK, dominated the lists but it was joined by a raft of others. Among these were several train operating companies including Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, LNER, and Trenitalia c2c, plus Transport for London, while from over the water Iarnrod Eireann submitted an entry.

Contractors were also much in evidence, including Colt Construction Ltd, Loftco and Story Contracting. Inevitably, given their operating difficulties during the pandemic, heritage railways were largely absent this year, being represented only by the Dean Forest Railway, the East Lancashire Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway. On the other hand there were ten entries from other sources. These included local organisations and commercial concerns like Caterleisure Services Ltd., the Friends of Scrayingham and Lappington Villages, the Hamilton Davies Trust, the Parochial Church Council of the Harwich Peninsular Team Ministry, Pitlochry Station Bookshop, Working for Health and The Old Lamp Room Ltd., and the YMCA Dulverton Group, as well as individuals like Mr & Mrs Pyemont and Mr Savage. No local councils this year but instead we welcomed an entry from our first university, the University of Northampton.

The Entrants

Stations. The trend in recent years has been for individual parts of station complexes to be entered, these usually being public spaces like booking offices which have been refurbished and updated, often not before time, to meet higher public expectations and regulatory requirements, or rooms long surplus to operating requirements which have been transformed into a new use. Sometimes the actual entry may be small in itself, like the railings at Berwick-upon-Tweed, but signify the end of a longer refurbishment which then gives us the opportunity to look at the station as a whole. Stirling is another case in point, and regular readers of these Reviews of the Year will remember that we have seen aspects of both these fine stations several times in recent years.

On the operational side, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Goostrey, Morpeth, Ockendon and Upminster stations had substantial work done to lighting, ticket offices and booking halls and other public areas. Roofs or canopies were attended to at Dumbarton, Hinckley, Llandrindod Wells, Rawtenstall, Rhyl, Shrewsbury and Stirling, while at Dublin’s Pearse station the distinctive overall twin-arch roof was sadly life-expired and too far gone for economic repair. However rather than replace it with utilitarian platform canopies the bold decision was taken to install a new arched roof, similar in style to the old but not a replica. What was a replica was the new platform shelter at Parkend on the Dean Forest Railway.

Railings were attended to at Lanark and Penzance as was the distinctive clock tower at Cardiff Central, the terracotta panel at Thetford and the boiler house wall at Durham. Stations where surplus accommodation has been transformed into a new use include a café at Lincoln, a bookshop at Pitlochry in the old salt store, more general community use at Cottingham and hopefully likewise in the old timber buildings beside Dumfries station. An amazing survivor is Brunel’s original Cardiff Bay station of 1842-43 on Bute Road, which has been sympathetically resurrected as offices. Another odd survivor is the long platform seat at Scarborough, reputed to be the longest in the country is now fully restored.

Bridges and Tunnels. This was a strong area this year, with some attractive bridges west of Manchester city centre featuring prominently. Restoration of station footbridges always catches passengers’ eye especially the lattice ones at Arnside, Cogan and New Mills Newtown. The enclosed footbridges at Rhyl and Shrewsbury also received attention while that at Stirling had to be raised to accommodate the electrification works. In London the railway arches at Wood Lane have been restored and some transformed into attractive commercial lets while deep in North Wales the Ffestiniog Railway has finally completed the new stone portals to its Moelwyn Tunnel. By contrast signal boxes only produced two, those at Appleby North, which had to be carefully raised in order to replace the almost non-existent foundations without compromising the workings of the mechanical lever frame, and at Irlam where the box from Keighley has been relocated and is being restored.

Other structures. When the Midland Railway penetrated the LNWR fastness of Northampton it built its own engine shed as well as its own terminal station. While the latter has long gone, the engine shed lingered on, for many years in other railway use but in recent time laid derelict. Local initiatives got it listed some years ago but not until the University of Northampton moved into new accommodation beside the River Nene did this distinctive building come back to life, now as the Students Union building. Two other distinctive buildings with railway associations are the old Y Gweithdy (workshop) at Minffordd station on the Ffestiniog Railway and the former GWR offices at Taunton, now restored as a boutique hotel. Railway graves and memorials also come our way, represented this year by the Jones’ grave at Bettws Garmon (long serving Ffestiniog Railway employees), George Hudson’s grave at Scrayingham (the erstwhile ‘Railway King’) and Captain Fryatt’s memorial at Dovercourt, he being a Great Eastern Railway mariner illegally shot by the German military in WWI. Finally, to emphasise that the competition is not focussed exclusively on the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, the distinctive fascias at Harlow Town (1959-60) have been restored.