Sunday, 10 April 2011

Mysteries of Design

Mike Thompson sent me a copy of some old drawings this week that he had found in the archives on a recent trip to London. One of them I had already seen, and it showed the design of Kirkby Stephen East as it was built between 1858 and 1861 for the station to open for business. The other two drawings showed copies of this original on which other options for the trainshed roofs had been sketched. One of them reminds me a little of the old Guisborough Station.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway and its subsidiaries often made strange choices for station designs. They were very keen on single platforms for example, a feature of quite busy stations such as Barney and Crook. But I often think that the design of Kirkby Stephen is a real mystery.

Actually our surviving station was the result of a rebuild in 1883-4 when the central range of offices was retained but the roof was rebuilt and supported by the present outer stone walls rather than the original iron pillars that you can see in this 1864 engraving from the 'Herald'.

But why build a station with only a pedestrian access down two flights of stairs from the bridge? Surely even in 1858 it must have been obvious that there was a big advantage in being able to draw a horse and trap up at the station entrance to drop off luggage. They could have laid the station out in any way they liked on the site, and made a proper vehicle access rather than humping everything up and down those two flights of stairs that you can see in the background. It would be forty years before an electric lift was installed to solve this problem. Also , the ticket office was nowhere near the station entrance which must have caused confusion.

Why did the directors opt for this design? Your guess is as good as mine. It would be interesting to have a competition sometime for an alternative - a kind of 'Dream Team of Yesteryear' applied to station design!

No comments:

Post a comment