9 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Waterloo Station

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 97 months ago

Last Updated 20 May 2016

9 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Waterloo Station
Waterloo Station in 2015. Photo: richardbw9

1. Part of it is listed

The main entrance (also known as the Victory Arch) is Grade II listed. Built in Portland Stone, the figures on each side represent war and peace. The figure over the top is Britannia, bearing the torch of liberty.

Bronze plaques inside the arch name the London and South West Railway employees who have been killed in conflict.

2. It's the biggest

In fact, it has more platforms and a greater floor area than any other station in the UK. (Signs at Clapham Junction proclaim it is Britain's busiest railway station — this is measured by the number of trains that pass through the station).

When Waterloo opened in 1848 there were just 14 trains a day to and from the station.

Photo: Kathy Archbold

3. It used to be next to a 'death line'

The London Necropolis Railway (LNR) was built in the 1850s to help deal with the overcrowding problem in London's cemeteries, as it transported bodies (and mourners) to the purpose-built Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey for burials there. The trains ran on the same lines as the London and South West Railway trains which ran out of Waterloo at the time.

The London station for the LNR was situated right next to Waterloo station, and was built with separate waiting rooms for mourners of different social classes and religious beliefs, so they didn't have to mix. Bodies were stored in the railway arches while awaiting transportation.

The LNR station was relocated to Westminster Bridge Road in 1902, to allow Waterloo station to expand. The new LNR site was damaged in an air raid in the second world war, and never reopened. The former first class entrance can still be seen at 121 Westminster Bridge Road today:

Photo: HoosierSands

4. ABBA had a photo shoot at Waterloo

You'll never guess which song they were promoting? Just days after their song Waterloo won Eurovision in 1974, the Swedish foursome headed to Waterloo station for a press photo shoot.

5. The French wanted it renamed

The Eurostar service ran from Waterloo station when it began in 1994 until it moved to St Pancras in 2007. In the early days, French passengers weren't happy about arriving in London at a station whose name reminded them of the French's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. One French politician went so far as to write to then British Prime Minister Tony Blair to demand a name change.

Wondering why the station and area is named after a battle which took place in what is now Belgium? The answer's here.

6. There used to be a cinema there

In 1934, the Waterloo News Cinema opened on the concourse of Waterloo station, next to what is now platform 1. A similar cinema had opened at Victoria station the year before. News bulletins were shown on a loop throughout the day, with cartoons shown in later years. In the 1960s it was renamed the Classic Cinema Waterloo, and screened old Hollywood classics. The Waterloo cinema closed in 1970 but wasn't demolished until 1988.

The film London Terminus shows a couple visiting the cinema. This is what the cinema looked like.

7. Have you seen the special crane?

As covered in our secrets of the Waterloo & City line video, Waterloo station is home to a special crane which is used to winch Waterloo & City line trains out from the tunnels when they need maintenance. Stand on the corner of Spur Road and Baylis Road and look towards the station to see it.

According to Black Cab London, the previous crane (which stood where the now disused Eurostar platforms are) snapped in the 1940s when lifting a carriage, dropping the train back underground.

8. It's raised off the ground

The main concourse of the station is raised considerably off the ground by arches and tunnels (think about it, there's enough for a cinema and crazy golf set up under there, not to mention the Leake Street graffiti tunnel).

The reason for this is that the whole station and surrounding area is built on marshland, and the original architect didn't want the station sinking into the soggy ground. The name of nearby Lower Marsh suddenly makes sense, doesn't it?

Leake Street runs underneath the platforms and tracks at Waterloo. Photo: Doug

9. The Great Train Robbery link

Buster Edwards, one of the gang involved in the Great Train Robbery in 1963, wound up running a flower stall outside of Waterloo station after his release from prison in 1975, until his death in 1994.