The History of Paddington Station: The UK’s Most Popular Railway Terminus

Paddington station, London, is one of Britain’s busiest railway terminus. It is the headquarters of the Great Western Railway (GWR) and one of the masterpieces of its chief engineer Isambard Brunel.

History: A Look at the Story behind the Paddington Station

Initial Plans: What the Chief Engineer had in Mind

The Paddington station’s history dates back to July 30, 1833, when Brunel announced initiating the construction of a railway terminus connecting Bristol to London. He was planning on setting up a grand building at Paddington near the Regent’s canal and the Grand Junction canal. However, he was instructed by GWR to cut down on the budget owing to the high cost involved in constructing the mainline. Therefore, he was forced to abandon his plans.

Later a temporary station was set up at the west side of Bishop’s Bridge Road. This temporary station and a new line that extended as far as Maidenhead were opened on June 4, 1838. With the opening of this station, there was an increase in traffic, which called for an extension.

As a result, in 1850, GWR agreed to construct a permanent station to accommodate the increased traffic. Brunel was once again tasked with the role of designing the new station.

The Making of Paddington Station

Brunel borrowed most design and construction aspects, such as the use of glass and wrought iron, from the Crystal Palace’s Great Exhibition of 1851.

During this time, Paddington station was the world’s largest train shed roof. It had a main span measuring 102 feet and two smaller spans on its side, one on the north measuring 70 feet and another on the south about 68 feet. Currently, the spans are crossed by two transepts overlooked by three oriel windows.

The main station building was constructed along the Eastbourne Terrace, and it housed a royal waiting room, some offices and the GWR’s new boardroom. Additionally, a hotel, the Great Western Hotel, was built close to the station along Praed street and it was opened alongside Paddington station in 1854.

Expansion: What Characterised the Expansion of this Railway Station

Paddington station was big enough to cater to the GWR’s growing traffic needs for the next 50 years. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the need for new accommodation arose following the increase in traffic and the number of employees. As a result, a lawn and more office spaces that extended along the Eastbourne Terrace were created in 1904.

Other expansion moves included the building of another span, span 4 between 1913-1916. GWR’s engineer, W Armstrong, designed the new span’s expansion features to match those of Brunel.

Further expansions and improvements continued where the station was extensively refurbished with glass in the 1990s. Brunel’s roofing has also been replaced with modern-day polycarbonate glazing panels. The décor, too, has been changed to give the station an eye-catching look.


This centrally located terminus at the heart of London has played a significant role in improving transport in the UK. It is easily accessible from other cities. It also boasts of modern facilities such as improved CCTV coverage, modern stairways and extended train platforms that enhance its efficiency and suitability in the transport industry.

Royal Lancaster Hotel Hyde Park is a good place to stay while discovering London history.

By Period Post Card, PD-US,

By Photograph: Phychem – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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