Temple Meads train station, an iconic gateway in and out of the city, the sight of which has pulled on countless heart strings and the site where an infinite number have felt the anguish of departure and elation of arrival. Standing in front of the pseudo medieval architecture certainly adds a gravitas to the melodrama of pooling emotions playing out below the clock tower………but today we are hopping left into the long stay car park.

Passenger Shed

 In particular to have a little look at this……….

Train Shed

This fluorescent barrier is a prime example of modern roadside construction.

Which is great….. but slightly distracting from the wooden cream and green number directly opposite – the signal box that was connected to the Brunel’s original Temple Mead Station.

Originally this stood outside the main station, controlling the terminus of the GWR line but, when the swelling number of train passengers and the increased weight of goods could no longer be digested by the existing set up and the time came for the buildings to expand, Mr Francis Fox used his cunning to build around the existing signal box. Hence why the signal box sits ensconced between the archways of the train shed extension.

Signal Box Front

And from behind.

 Signal Box rear

To give a little extra background the original Temple Meads station is the one on the left hand side when gawped at from the front. It was designed by a young Brunel and built in 1839 – 41 to be the terminus for the Great Western Railway (GWR) line between London and the West. Built with all the stout confidence and swagger of Henry VIII in a mock Tudor style it was Bristol’s first passenger railway and is regarded as one of the best Victorian station buildings in its time.

The GWR line connected Bristol to London Paddington and was known as ‘Brunel’s Billiard Table’ due the extraordinarily level and straight route that the line takes, via such engineerial contortions as the Box Tunnel.

A common theme during the rapacious growth of the 1800s , Brunel’s station was soon inadequate and more neo- historical style buildings were added to the site. The Jacobean design of Samuel Fripp for the Bristol Exeter railway in 1852 -4 was built (the building to the right on modern Temple Meads), replacing the temporary wooden station locally known as the ‘Cowshed’ that had been built in 1845. The gothic centre piece was part of the 1870’s expansion led by Francis Fox (part of the same industrious furore that built around the signal box).

 colin maggs

1965, Colin G. Maggs *

 One hundred and twenty five years after it had been built Brunel’s Old station was swiftly closed in 1965, the terminus of the domino chain toppled by the 1963 Beeching Axe and by 1966 the train shed was an amazing….car park.

However, this closure did cause another rather entertaining little quirk (and another example of just modernising around existing features).

Platform sign

If you are familiar with Temple Meads station this sign sits above the stairs leading down from platforms 13 and 15 and so, I mean, it’s not technically wrong, it is just not telling the whole truth either. Where are these mysterious platforms one and two? Alas, this is not an alternative means to get to a wizarding school but rather platforms 13 and 15 had actually been numbers 1 and 2 until the closure of the Old Station at which point the platform numbers were reversed – so the sign should actually read ‘to platforms 1 to 12’.

 So, what next for the signal box and train shed?

 The past 20 years have seen Brunel’s Old Station Passenger Shed used as the Bristol Exploratory Science centre (the precursor to @Bristol), the Empire and Commonwealth Museum and now a function and conference space (rather befittingly currently housing a show applauding the life of Brunel).

And now will it be adapted to the needs of modern society?

The site is one of part of the Key Projects of the ‘Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone’ (http://www.bristoltemplequarter.com/key-projects/ ). This is a huge project inwardly investing in Bristol based businesses, pushing forward electric trains, overhauling inter and intra city transport, as well as leading the way in the push for a Bristol arena.

 So, I will refrain from the train metaphors but, there are a lot of green and red lights flashing at the moment – I for one am watching this space.

*Sourced from http://www.alextrack.co.uk/railways/


2 thoughts on “Green Light: Signal Box, Brunel’s Old Station

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