With all the comedy mis-timing of Tommy Cooper, Network Rail chose this week to unveil a history exhibition at London Bridge to celebrate the station’s 180th anniversary.
Yes, that Network Rail that the Tory Government has decided that it wants to flog off to the rail operators. In a week of resumption of industrial action on Southern. And just when commuters using the station feel like they have been enduring 180 years of disruption caused by the on-going engineering works.
But the exhbit nonetheless marks a significant milestone for the capital’s oldest railway station.
The rail destination of tens of thousands of Croydon commuters every weekday morning, London Bridge is Britain’s fourth busiest station. The exhibition highlights the on-going redevelopment, which is due for completion in 2018 as part of the Thameslink Programme of engineering works.
London Bridge opened to the public as part of the London and Greenwich Railway on December 14, 1836, six months before Victoria became queen. Three years later, the London and Croydon Railway was opened, which in 1846 merged with other lines into London Bridge to form the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.
The exhibition, which is on display until December 23, charts the station’s evolution from railway terminus to major 21st century transport hub.
The exhibit has been curated in part by the National Railway Museum and the Science Museum. “Our collections and those of the Science Museum include images of the original station and an early train on the line,” said Bob Gwynne from the National Railway Museum.
“They also include a diary of one of the workers on the line, the latter being a very early example of an eyewitness account ‘from the shop floor’. Colonel Landman, the man who engineered the line, would surely be proud that his work is still heavily used, and is a key part of London’s network in the 21st century.”
Network Rail has also teamed up with children’s charity Barnardo’s to raise money for vulnerable children and young people, a nominated charity for Network Rail for the next two years.
“We’re proud to be custodians of a railway built in an age when trains transformed more than travel,” said David Statham, Southeastern’s managing director.
“When the first commuter line opened 180 years ago on our network, it brought social mobility, standardised time, and even saw people’s eating habits change as fresh produce was brought in from Kent and fish from the coast.”
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