Time for something a bit different. Thus far, my articles about train stations have focused on the big, sweeping London terminals. For this next edition, we’re leaving the city, and heading a few miles north, to a place I know extremely well.
I was raised in Stevenage, and as a result, my early train journeys started and ended with the local station. Some of my earliest memories include a trip to Cambridge, and also a trip to London, where we saw a lot of model railways in action (this is almost certainly what kick-started my love of the railways). A lot of traffic passes through Stevenage Station, and from here, you can catch a train to a variety of locations, both local and distant. Situated on the East Coast Mainline, Stevenage is sometimes the first stop for express trains heading north to Scotland (or the final stop before King’s Cross for southbound trains), and you can get services to Cambridge, Peterborough and Brighton, among many other places, from Stevenage.
Whilst the station is quite important to the town, this wasn’t always the case, and the station today is not the station of old.
The original Stevenage Station opened on the 8th of August 1850. It met with opposition and hostility from the local coach businesses, who feared they would be supplanted by the arrival of the railways, and their fears proved justified. Who was going to rely on the slow, cumbersome horse-and-carriage method of travel, with the much faster option of rail available? The coach business died out in Stevenage (as it did in most places), and Stevenage Station took the load. It would be fair to describe the history as uneventful, until Stevenage was declared a New Town in 1946 (part of a project to relieve overcrowding in London), and the town rapidly expanded. In the wake of this, British Rail decided to relocate the entire station, demolished the old facility, and rebuilt it, just under 1.5KM to the south. Stevenage Station could accommodate both commuter and express trains, as it does today.
Stevenage has five platforms. Platform 1 is for slow and semi-fast services to London, and some services will be routed via the Hertford Loop from this platform. Platform 2 is for semi-fast and express services to London, 3 is for semi-fast and fast northbound trains, 4 is for some semi-fast and slow services, and 5 is a new bay platform, for trains serving Moorgate via the Hertford Loop. Platform 5 has dedicated track, easing congestion along the slow northbound track.
There is something soothing about this station. Perhaps it’s the familiarity. In fact, it has to be. The station’s design reflects the era of its rebuild, in the 1970s. It is not eye-catching, and does not have any particular claim to fame. It does however, remind me of where I grew up, and that’s a powerful, personal connection.