Comfort. Convenience. Modernity.
That was the vision at least, when British Rail flattened Euston's original 1837 station building, and plonked a hulking slab of concrete and glass where it once stood. The former station survived two world wars, but alas, it could not survive the haste of sixties planners — and its replacement was hailed as a vision of the future. Well, at the time it was...
Fast forward to the present day, and it's no secret that Euston is the ugly duckling of London's mainline terminals. Near-universally loathed — even by the standards of sixties architecture — we're sure we're not the only ones to have stopped to wonder what the hell they were thinking when they decided to take a wrecking ball to its predecessor. Heck, not only that, but what they were thinking when they decided to replace it with this?
Well, this handy little brochure from the sixties goes some way to explaining what was going through their minds, and if we're honest, it almost sells us on the thing.
Curiously, the brochure starts by fawning over Euston's history, including the iconic 1839 Doric arch — perhaps the best known part of the original station. Towering over Drummond Street, it proved a fitting entrance to the station complex. These days, only the two accompanying lodges remain, home to the delightful Euston Tap.
A lesser-known, yet arguably more impressive, part of the old station was the Great Hall. The brochure goes on to document its grand double curved staircase, column supported ceiling and intricately decorated panels, together forming the largest construction of its kind in the world. Eight bas-reliefs detailed the major cities linked by the railway, filling the hall with a form of charm sorely lacking in its modern counterpart.
Despite its grandeur, mounting railway traffic quickly found the old station 'too small' for modern requirements, and necessitated its replacement. You see, enlargement could only be achieved by taking the area formerly occupied by the Great Hall and Doric Arch, and razing it to the ground...
Given the successful modern day transformations of neighbouring St Pancras and King's Cross, it's hard to believe that a more tasteful solution couldn't be found, but we'll take their word for it.
And as for what the sixties planners had in mind? Only the 'most modern rail terminal to be found anywhere', complete with 1,300ft platforms capable of accommodating 'the longest trains of the future'. The new Euston was to put people first, with passengers able to enjoy frictionless movement across the vast station precincts — and if that doesn't sell the vision to you, then perhaps the glossy artist's impressions will...
Clean lines, vast open spaces, vaulted concrete ceilings... look at us, we're almost falling in love with it.
The brochure boasts of total separation of pedestrians and vehicular traffic with a 240 space underground car park and taxi rank, accessed by way of basement service road. A parcel depot sits on the upper deck, with ramps down to three dedicated platform areas below, serving fast trains to the Midlands, North-West and Scotland. The travel centre, pictured above, concentrates all the ticketing facilities a passenger might need in one convenient place, including modern, coin-operated machines. Other luxuries include a buffet restaurant, licensed bar and grill room, providing full table service meals to scores of hungry travellers.
It's easy to see how one could get swept up in all the excitement. We might sneer at it today, but jump back a few decades and Euston looks like something straight out of the year 3000. It was bold, brash, arrogant — like a spaceship had just landed on the Euston Road.
Naturally, things haven't quite worked out the way they intended. Built with both form and function in mind, the present day Euston seems to do neither very well, with a mish-mash of ill-considered additions tainting the original vision of a clutter-free concourse. A new mezzanine level slices its way across one side of the room, while retail outlets encroach on the pedestrian walkways on the other, joining the tacky uplighters, benches and information desk in the middle.
And the less said about the platform areas, the better. Far from forming the grand entrance that London deserves, passengers could be forgiven for thinking they had accidentally alighted in some sort of train maintenance shed. We're trying really hard to find something nice to say about it, but for all of Euston's redeeming features, but you won't find any of them here.
You can check out the brochure in more detail here, and maybe have a little cry while you're at it. Perhaps we'd love Euston a little more if it stayed true to the one sold to us in the advert, but one thing is for sure: it's woefully unequipped to handle the needs of the modern day commuter. Forget a refurbishment — if you ask us, enlargement can only be achieved by taking the area formerly occupied by the main concourse and... well, you know the rest.