A guide to the architecture that gives British railways their identity, from stations to signal boxes. Roots of Britains railways lie in the wooden-railed colliery wagonways of around 1600, but it was almost 1830 before specific railway architecture became needed. This evolved rapidly down to 1850, and for some time afterwards Britain led the world in designing passenger stations.
Though stylistic dress followed contemporary fashions, their handling of space and of large crowds of people was something quite new. Glass and iron were used to produce elegant platform roofs, many exploiting the decorative potential of cast iron. However, the most striking contribution was made by the great arched station sheds, often seen as the 19th centurys counterpart to medieval cathedrals.
Between the 20th centurys two world wars, architectural progress on Britains railways was largely confined to London Transport, but the last few decades have seen a renewal of confidence and investment, matched by some interesting new buildings.