I don’t refer to the song by Abba, or the famous Napoleonic battle, but to the station in London.

Waterloo Station, with the London Eye above, and the separate line to Charing Cross on the right.

In some ways, the story of Waterloo Station is a story of failure. This sprawling, bustling station was never intended to be a terminus, yet plans to extend the lines further north never took shape. Designed by William Tite, at the behest of the London & South Western Railway, and opened on the 11th of July 1848, Waterloo was designed as an intermediate station. The L&SWR hoped to push into the City of London, and even purchased properties along their desired route, and as a result, Waterloo was not equipped with the facilities a terminus usually provided (such as booking halls). Haphazard, poorly-planned extensions led to a jumbled, confusing station, with stations within the station, and quite literally a lack of good direction to get passengers from one area to another.

At the end of the 19th century, the L&SWR finally gave up on extending the line, and accepted Waterloo would be the terminus of their route. They did open the Waterloo & City Underground Line (which still exists today), to take passengers to Bank, thus giving themselves an indirect route to the City. They also arranged to rebuild the station, and construction was carried out across several stations, from the turn of the century, to 1922 (World War I interfered with building efforts). Interestingly, the L&SWR name features on the rebuilt station, yet by the time it fully reopened, the L&SWR had ceased to exist, owing to the Railways Act 1921, which forced the grouping of Britain’s huge array of rail companies into just four businesses.

Waterloo provides services to the south of England, including the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, and thus, came under attack more than once during both World Wars. There is a famous arch, the Victory Arch, commemorating the first World War.

Waterloo has the historical distinction of being the last London terminal from which steam trains departed. The final steam service left on the 9th of July 1967, marking the end of an era for the British railways.

Another claim to fame for Waterloo is that it served as the London terminus for Eurostar services for many years, whilst High Speed 1 was under construction. To accommodate the long Eurostar trains, new platforms were built, and the Queen opened the new facilities on the 13th of November, 1994. Regular trains ran from the 14th, and would do so for many years, until High Speed 1 and St Pancras were ready. In a somewhat poetic set of circumstances, the final Eurostar service from Waterloo took place on the 13th of November 2007, 13 years to the day after Queen Elizabeth II had travelled on the inaugural service.

The Eurostar platforms remained closed for many years, but recently, to ease growing capacity problems, they have been reopened, in stages, along with train alignment work. The future might involve new Crossrail projects, such as a connection to Euston and the West Coast Mainline, but as with all things, time will tell.

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