The Architecture The Railways Built - Series 2 Episode 1
Wemyss Bay Station in Inverclyde.
First stop is this architectural gem on the west coast of Scotland, often called most beautiful station in the UK! It has the most stunning curved glass and iron structure, and was built as the interchange terminal between the Rothesay steamer ferries and the steam trains from Glasgow. Wemyss Bay has frequent Scotrail services to Glasgow. If you're thinking of travelling by train for daytrips in Scotland, we've got all the info you need.
The gorgeous walkway from the station down to the ferry terminal was designed by James Miller and enabled a whole train of happy daytrippers and holidaymakers to disembark, trundle down the platform with their luggage and stream on to the ferry in just a few minutes. That’s why there’s hardly a single right angle in the building – it’s all gentle curves – to carefully guide large crowds of people along without impeding their flow. The fewer minutes you spend in the station, the more you get at your holiday destination! All the ferries are run by Caledonian MacBrayne.
What’s even less well known about this station is that it’s full of international influences. Not only is the long, wide sweeping corner-less design inspired by then-modern stations in the USA, but there’s an Italianate feel to the clock tower, perhaps a little French Renaissance to the road-side elevation – and even Japanese pagoda turrets on the end of the pier building. It’s an architectural theme park! You might also like to know that the station is cared for by a group of local volunteers – the Friends of Wemyss Bay Station – who are always keen to take on new members. They’re a friendly bunch - as typified by Catherine Galbraith - who shows Tim around the gardens in this episode.
Blackfriars station, central London
One of the best stations in London, is Blackfriars! It’s also the only station to span the full width of the Thames. It was rebuilt in the early part of the 21st century – with the new glass station built on the original railway bridge. Sarah Cooper, an engineer from main contractor Balfour Beatty and in charge of some of the 2,000 site workers at the project's peak, describes it as “one of the most logistically challenging jobs imaginable”. An engineering marvel, it has a solar roof so can provide about half its own energy. Trains through Blackfriars are run by Thameslink.
Another of the experts on hand for this episode is the super Sophie Campbell - a go-to guide and knowledgeable historian if you too fancy a group or personal London tour.
The views from the station are extraordinary – they must be the best from any platform in London – and so we’ve collated a few of our own favourite images that we too have taken as we’ve passed through…
Sao Bento station in Porto, Portugal
This beautiful Beaux Arts style station in Porto’s old town has become a tourist attraction in its own right. People flock to see the station’s blue and white tiled booking hall, which has scenes of Portuguese history. A little-known fact is that as the station was built on the site of a former convent, construction of the main buildings couldn’t begin until the last of the nuns had died…
If you're travelling by train to Portugal, we have some tips too.