Railway architecture


Detail of Newcastle Station Approach

Novelty characterised the Victorian period. It is the period best known for inventions, for remarkable technological advances and engineering marvels. The speed of change throughout the period was phenomenal, a movement best encapsulated by the arrival of the steam train.

Suddenly it was possible to travel great distances at speeds hitherto unimaginable. Within decades of the first train, a recognisable railway network sprang up. An iron spider’s web, it quickly spread out, connecting up most of the country, dissolving distances. People and goods could now move easily around, and with them ideas. As travel was relatively cheap, most could afford to experience the new railways and their destinations.  

The population’s sense of place was transformed. No longer tied to a locality, people could move as they wished, changing jobs, towns, religious denomination and status. And this excitement and flux is reflected in the magnificent railway architecture dating from the 1830s onwards, as these images show.

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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