Monday, May 18, 2015

St Pancras station train shed

click photo to enlarge
It's a testament to the engineering skills, vision and achievement of the Victorians that so much of the infrastructure that they created still serves us today. Our large towns and cities, for example, still depend to a very great extent on the sewers that they constructed, and the essence of the railway system is almost wholly a creation of the nineteenth century.

I was reminded of this the other day when I walked through the arch under St Pancras Hotel in London and stepped onto the platform where the Eurostar trains were were lined up. What caught my eye wasn't the sleek elegance of the shiny locomotives and their carriages, but the enormous, soaring, single-span arch of the engine shed. This structure was the work of the engineer, William Henry Barlow (1812-1902) assisted by Rowland Mason Ordish (1824-1886). It is slightly pointed, creates a space just over 245 feet (75 metres) wide, and was the largest such building in the world at the time it was erected in 1868. The materials used were wrought iron, timber and glass. Each of the 24 main ribs are six feet deep and are created from a lattice-work of metal that lends the whole structure a light, almost insubstantial appearance. That it continues in service today is a testament to its strength and the skill of those who designed and built it. In the fifteenth year of the twenty first century we are used to being impressed by large, new, exciting structures - earlier in the day I had been looking at 1 St Mary Axe (the "Gherkin") and the new Broadgate development - and it's good, I think, that the buildings that awed the Victorians are still capable of inspiring that feeling in us today.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On