More than 100 years of London’s Olympic railway history has been brought to life online, with architectural plans and drawings of some of the capital’s biggest and busiest stations – including King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge and Stratford – available on Network Rail’s online archive.
The virtual archive was launched in February 2012, with today’s new section celebrating the role of the stations millions will use during the Games.
In 1908 there were many different railway companies serving the capital and far from supporting the Olympic Games they were primarily interested in transport links for the Franco-British Exhibition which was held at the same time and also at White City.
The 1948 ‘austerity’ Olympics was more sophisticated, with the newly nationalised British Railways and London transport executives working with the Olympic Games ‘Decorations Sub-Committee’ to publicise the event. The Committee provided the railways with special Olympic flags and Olympic shields
This year it is anticipated that 11 million spectators will get to the Games on foot, by bicycle or via public transport with 80% expected to choose rail. An additional three million journeys are expected on the busiest days of the Games.
Network Rail’s archivist Vicky Stretch explains why this new section has been added: “With millions of visitors to Britain this summer, we wanted to add a special section on those stations in the capital that everyone will pass through. With everyone focused on this fortnight, it’s fascinating to also look back at how things were different in 1908 and 1948 as the rail sector was quite different then.
“We hope that the archive helps people to understand the incredibly detailed and beautiful architectural work carried out by some of the world’s greatest engineers, and are still important for engineers working for us today.”
Several railway companies were drawn to Stratford, gateway to the Olympic Park, in the first half of the 19th century. The original station on the site was built in 1839 on the first section of the Eastern Counties Railway main line to Colchester. Soon after a second station was built by the North Eastern Railway and in 1847 the two stations were combined. In 1846 a third company, the Eastern Counties & Thames Junction Railway built a line from Stratford to Canning Town and their Stratford Low Level station was added adjacent to the existing stations.
With only a small section of the five million railway records available for the first phase of the virtual archive, visitors are invited to ‘ask the archivist’ questions about the collection.
Enthusiasts can also for the first time purchase a print of their favorite railway image. Network Rail is working with Mediastorehouse to enable people to buy or license high quality digital images for instant download as well as prints (including framed prints and canvases), key rings, magnets, mugs, mouse mats, jigsaws and greetings cards. All profits from this commercial activity will go back into helping Network Rail manage, maintain and improve Britain’s railways.
The website also has social media sharing functionality, which encourages people to share images with their friends and families.