Two stations in Windsor

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Windsor Central Station Concourse

The main entrance to Windsor and Eton Central.
Photo WyrdLight http://www.wyrdlight.com

(Click to see original photograph and details of licensing.)

There are two railway stations in Windsor: Windsor and Eton Central, from which shuttle trains currently run to Slough on the Great Western Railway main line; and Windsor and Eton Riverside, which enjoys direct trains along the London and South Western Railway’s line via Staines and Twickenham to Waterloo Station in London.

These days, the once-magnificent GWR station is little more than a short truncated siding at the back of a Victorian-themed shopping centre, although the LSWR station is virtually complete. If only the relevant authorities had shown a little more imagination, the demise of the GWR station need not have been the case. A bold proposal from Madame Tussuad’s would have seen steam operated vintage trains run from Slough to Winsdor Central where a magnificent ‘Royalty and Railways’ exhibition celebrating Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee would still be thrilling local residents and tourists alike. But we are running ahead of ourselves!

In the mid 19th century, the GWR and the Windsor, Staines and South Western Railway – the latter working in cooperation with the London and South Western Railway – were engaged in a race to provide railway services to Queen Victoria and Windsor Castle. Both companies struggled with opposition from Eton College and the S&SWR – whose proposed route cut across Windsor Home Park – also faced opposition from Castle officials. Gradually the GWR crept closer to Windsor, building increasingly grand stations for the monarch’s convenience first at Langley, then at Slough and finally – in October 1848, via a short branch line from Slough – in Windsor itself. The competing station on the Staines route opened under the auspices of the London & South Western Railway in December 1849.

The original GWR platforms would seem – from the layout of the railway arches across the Goswell Road – to have been on South part of the current station site. In 1877, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the GWR built a much grander station with four platforms, a grand royal waiting room and covered awning under which the royal guards could shelter from the weather.

In November 1968, platforms 3 and 4 were taken out of use, and a year later platform 2 was also decommissioned. The station buildings became run down and British Railways hoped to demolish the station and to use most of the area for a modern shopping centre. Fortunately, these plans met strong opposition from local conservationists and came to naught.

in the 1980s Madame Tussauds produced a counter proposal – to restore the station, and to create an exhibition called Royalty and Railways which would be served by steam-hauled vintage trains from Slough. Sadly the steam train idea was still born, but the exhibition – soon renamed Royalty and Empire – became a popular tourist destination. The former GWR station was carefully restored complete with a ‘royal train’ – a full-size replica of the steam engine that hauled Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee train plus two areal Victorian royal train coach bodies, mounted on modern frames and bogies.

Regrettably, the exhibition closed in the late 1990s and the once authentically restored station was infilled with pseudo-Victorian boutiques and cafes. To make room for this desecration much of the operational track was covered over – in two separate moves – and prospective passengers now face a long walk from the High Street.

And the L&SWR station? The former booking hall has become a cafe and rock music venue. But the rest of the station: tracks, platforms and original wooden all over roof still remains intact and in use as a working example of Britain’s railway history.

windsoreton_riverside

The magnificent wood and glass train shed at Windsor and Eton Riverside Station
Photo Chris Wood

(Click to see original photograph and details of licensing.)

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