Paddington is one the most beautiful and memorable of all railway stations, retaining its Victorian character while evolving to meet modern demands on its use.
The station is the London terminus for trains operated by First Great Western, to Bristol, Bath, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford in the West Country, and Newport, Cardiff and Swansea in South Wales. The Heathrow Express starts from Paddington and travels non-stop to the airport whilst the Heathrow Connect service runs along the same route but calling at most intermediate stations.
The station was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the great British engineers of the 19th century, in association with the architect Matthew Digby Wyatt.
In 1833 Brunel was appointed chief engineer to the Great Western Railway and was tasked with designing the Great Western Railway (GWR), linking Bristol to London. In 1849 Brunel started work on the design of a new Paddington Station as the London terminus of the GWR. He was asked to construct a flexible covered space to accommodate the railway’s future needs and to outshine the London terminus of the GWR’s arch-rival, the Great Northern Railway, at Euston.
Inspired by Joseph Paxton’s design of Crystal Palace, Brunel hired the same contractors, Fox, Henderson, to build a three-span iron and glass structure for Paddington, which would be 700 feet long and 240 ½ feet wide, with a 102 ½ feet wide centre span, a 68 feet south span and 70 feet north span. It consisted of 189 wrought-iron arched ribs with 12 diagonals supporting the transept roofs and 69 identical cast iron columns erected in three rows.
Recent relocation of the departures information structures has revealed long views down the roof from the concourse area which is now seen in all its glory, and particular attention is now drawn to the restored wrought iron decorative ‘arabesques’ at the gable ends.
Introduction of electrified services into the station in 1998 has meant that overhead 25KV wires have had to be accommodated for the first time in the station’s history. These have been sensitively installed without the need for additional supporting structures to mar views through the station.