Winners: 2012

The HS1 Station Environment Award: Paddington Span Four [Network Rail]
The FirstGroup Skills Award: Lambeth North [London Underground]
The National Rail Heritage Awards Volunteers Award: Ongar [Epping Ongar Railway]
The London Underground Operational Enhancement Award: Paisley Gilmour Street [Network Rail]
The Modern Railways Restoration Award: Melton Mowbray [Network Rail]
The Network Rail Partnership Award: Burntisland [Fife Historic Building Trust]
Supporters’ Award: Tywyn (Narrow Gauge Museum Trust)
The Railway Heritage Trust Conservation Award: York [York Tap Ltd]
The National Rail Heritage Awards Signalling Award Swithland Sidings [Great Central Railway]
Chairman’s Special Awards Forth Bridge [Balfour Beatty and Network Rail]
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel [Manhattan Loft Corporation]
The Ian Allan Publishing Heritage Railway of the Year Award: Epping Ongar Railway
The Ian Allan Publishing Award: Pickering ‘Train of Thought’ project [North Yorkshire Moors Railway]


Review of the Year 2012

The Awards have a long history – we are now in our 34th year – and over that time we have considered several hundred entries, but never before have we received 69 in one year. (There were actually a couple more but, being rolling stock, were ineligible.) These came from all corners of England, Scotland and Wales, plus Ireland and the Isle of Man, and represented both national and heritage railways as well as from local authorities and private individuals. This was extremely pleasing and reinforces our message, that entry into the annual Awards competition is open to any organisation or individual who has care of an historic railway structure, whether in operational railway use or something totally different, which has been sympathetically restored, refurbished or adapted to its new use. We do not accept locomotives or rolling stock, i.e. anything that can move away of its own accord; otherwise our brief encompasses turntables and level crossings, weigh bridges and other bridges, as well as the usual run of stations, goods sheds, signal boxes and signalling.

One very significant feature this year was roofs: overall and canopies, old and new. In London the overall roofs ranged in size from the graceful Span 4 at Paddington(1916) and the train sheds at Kings Cross (1852) to the short one over the District Line platforms at West Brompton (1869). Attractive new roofs have appeared over Paisley Gilmour Street station and, as a copy of the G.T. Andrews 1846 original, at Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Also in the north east, the Victorian forest of ironwork roofing at Tynemouth, latterly in a deplorable condition, has been thoroughly restored, while further south the iron entrance canopies or platform awnings at BathBerkhamsted and Melton Mowbray have all been attended to.

Signal boxes have also featured widely this year, from Montrose North in north east Scotland, which has been brought back into operational use (with an impressive lever frame full of coloured levers) to the elevated Canterbury West box in Kent. From the Midlands we received the ‘Airfix’ box at Oakham Level Crossing (so called because it was the prototype for the popular model railway signal box) and the extensive signalling project on the Great Central Railway at Swithland Sidings. The London area produced the newly restored box at Ongar, formerly near Bishop’s Stortford, on the Epping Ongar heritage railway.

We always garner a clutch of bridges, large or small. One cannot get much larger, or more iconic, than the Forth Bridge, whose judging gave our intrepid judges an interesting experience. The viaduct over the Kent estuary at Arnside was another interesting one while among the footbridges were those at Watchet in north west Somerset,Twyford and Slough west of London and Ropley where the Mid Hants Railway is erecting the structure which formerly crossed the platforms at Kings Cross. Work at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway’s Sandbourne Viaduct and tunnel also came in.

We have always stressed that a restored building must have a sympathetic use if it is to have a long term future, so it is gratifying to see so many railway buildings coming in this year which have been rescued from dereliction and adapted for further use. Pride of place must go to the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel; meticulously restored and adapted internally for both the hotel and accommodation, the whole readily evokes the former splendour of the Midland Grand Hotel (‘London’s Most Comfortable Hotel’) advertised in Bradshaw. Outside London, the station master’s house at Cowden has been restored as a private house as has one of the surviving Derwent Valley Railway stations at Skipwith and the former Corris Railway station at Machynlleth. The imposing main buildings of Frodsham and Moorthorpe stations (in Cheshire and West Yorkshire respectively) long derelict, have been restored for commercial use while in Scotland parts of CuparBurntisland and Kinghorn stations have similarly been brought back to useful life as studios.

Other buildings to mention in this context are the conversion of three disparate early Midland Railway buildings by Derby station into pleasant offices (as John Ellis House), coffee shops and bars appearing in disused parts of the stations at Letchworth (Rico’s) and Stoke on Trent (Gourmet), and the creation of York Tap as a pleasant bar in the erstwhile model railway rooms at York station, the art nouveau decoration of the windows and dome betraying its first manifestation as tea rooms.Littleborough station on the Manchester Victoria to Halifax line is being transformed as the local History Centre while at Peckham Rye station rooms and staircases not seen for generations are being uncovered and restored in a far reaching project. Two other significant buildings rescued from an uncertain future are the Brunel Goods Shed at Stroud and the Queen’s Building atWolverhampton, originally the station carriage entrance. We finish this section with another striking conversion, that of the station water tower at Settle into a desirable private residence, complete with sun room in the former tank, giving splendid views over Yorkshire. The involvement of local authorities and organisations in these projects, as well as private individuals, is much commended

Some new building always comes our way which is acceptable if it has sound heritage antecedents as explained in the guide which accompanies our annual entry form. Apart from the roofs already mentioned, these all concern heritage railways and include new GWR-style buildings at Blunsdon (Swindon & Cricklade Railway), a replica of Haven Street station at Wootton on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and the hotel at Snaefell Summiton the isle of Man. At Paignton Queen’s Park the station has been totally rebuilt  (Dartmouth Steam Railway) while at Tywyn the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum have rebuilt the weigh bridge on a new site in the station yard, complete with a vernacular weigh house along side.

Such is the attention given to stations in these more enlightened times (compared to when the Awards began over 30 years ago) that much work now goes unsung, but significant restoration or refurbishment has come our way from Appleby (Settle-Carlisle line), Arley (Severn Valley Railway), Buxton and Glossop (both in Derbyshire),Chalkwell (on c2c outside Southend), Drem (on the North Berwick branch), Eridge (Sussex), Exeter Central,Huddersfield and Southampton Central. The Epping Ongar Railway has made Ongar station into a typical Great Eastern Railway branch terminal again while also improving facilities and the surrounds at its North Weald station. London Underground has repaired the distinctive worn and damaged deep red faience facade at Lambeth North while, with the local authority, it has improved access at Latimer Road. At Kings Cross, as well as the work on the train sheds already noted there has been thorough refurbishment of the Eastern and Western Offices and Clock Tower while work is beginning on the south facade. In Dublin Iarnrod Eireann has brought its Boardroom at Heuston station, dating from about 1849, sympathetically into the 21st century. Passenger facilities have been enhanced within Carlisle and Chester stations and with a 1950s tea room at Winchcombe station (Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway). Structural work has included the long awaited repair to war-damaged exterior stonework at York, wide ranging work in connection with Thameslink at Farringdon and creation of a new facade at Elsecar & Wombwell by the Elsecar Heritage Railway. Finally the Ffestiniog Railway has begun the process of restoring – and recreating in some cases – its historic slate milestones.