Published: 23rd September 2014
Crossrail engineers are building a 21st century railway across London and they have now literally unearthed a hidden part of Brunel’s Victorian rail infrastructure near Paddington. This has been carefully carried out as part of the UK’s largest archaeological programme and the engineering wonders of the Great Western Railway (GWR) have been uncovered for the first time in over a century.
The findings have revealed the foundations of a 200 metre long engine shed, a workshop and turntables used to service the broad-gauge railway from 1838.
Crossrail’s archaeology team is documenting the remains using laser scans, creating 3D models of the buildings which date from the 1850s which were demolished in 1906 to make way for a goods yard. The conservation work will
help historians understand the early development of UK railways and the methods Brunel used.
Other buildings identified are railway workshops and a 45ft train turntable dating from the 1880s. The broad-gauge engine shed was built in 1852/1853 and came into use from 1854 when Brunel's new Paddington station opened.
The turntable dates from 1881/1882 and was built at Swindon and located at the western end of the engine shed. Within the brick superstructure there was a wrought iron 'turning circle' decked with timber on which both broad gauge and standard gauge engines could be turned.
Jay Carver, Crossrail’s Lead Archaeologist said: “Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway is the most complete early mainline railway in the world. Whenever we expose parts of the original infrastructure it is vital to record these for posterity and the history of rail in this country. Using the latest 3D scan technology provides a permanent and accurate model Brunel’s distinctive architectural legacy.”
The remains were located on a construction site known as Paddington New Yard, to the east of Westbourne Park Tube station. When Crossrail is operating from 2018, this land will accommodate Crossrail tracks, turn-back sidings and an elevated bus deck and cement factory which were temporarily relocated to enable construction to go ahead.
The engine shed shows evidence of the change from 7 foot wide broad-gauge train tracks used by Brunel’s Great Western Railway, to the standard gauge tracks prescribed in an Act of Parliament in 1846 and widely implemented by the 1860s.
The archaeological excavations are undertaken on behalf of Crossrail by Oxford Archaeology in partnership with Ramboll.
Tunnel boring machine Ellie has set out tunneling the final section from Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock which is one of Crossrail’s shortest but most complex tunnel drives. The distance is just 900 metre journey from Limmo Peninsula, near Canning Town, towards Victoria Dock Portal in east London.
The tunneling will take three months by the 1,000 tonne machine, named after four-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds OBE. It will be bored close to the Jubilee line, Docklands Light Railway, River Thames and River Lea leaving no room for error.Once complete, it will complete tunnelling on Crossrail’s southeast spur.
Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail Chief Executive said: “Huge amounts of planning go into every tunnel drive, and this one is no different. We are deploying some of the world’s best engineering talent and machinery to safely build these new tunnels.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking at extending Crossrail as far north as Tring which would relieve Euston as passengers could travel direct into London and avoid using the Underground or buses from Euston. It would also make HS2 easier to manage at Euston and current service patterns and levels need not be affected.
Tring has a large siding area suitable for stabling and turnback use so would make operational sense and benefit passengers, a rare win-win situation!
Crossrail is advertising a trip into one of their tunnels – all you need to do is to take a selfie taken against one of the "Behind the hoardings" posters located at the following Crossrail sites across London - Paddington, Bond Street, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Moorgate, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House and North Woolwich.
The winning selfies will win a guided tour of a section of Crossrail’s new rail tunnels in 2015.
To enter the competition, just fill in the form below and upload your selfie. The selfie must be a JPEG or JPG image file and must be no more than 5MB.
All entries will be entered into a prize draw.