We Are Railfans Podcast: HS2, Working on the World's Oldest Railway Buildings



September 23rd, 2021

The railway world is ever-changing, growing and progressing into new technology and faster, more efficient operations. In the UK, Europe’s largest infrastructure project is well under way constructing High Speed 2 (HS2) initially from London up to Birmingham, eventually beyond to the north of England – with its trains carrying on the existing network to serve Scotland. But though this innovative project looks very much ahead to the future, recognising and preserving the past has been a key element of it and in the latest We Are Railfans Podcast, Sam talks to HS2's Historic Environment Manager Jon Millward about some amazing railway history that's been uncovered along the way.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or via a number of outlets here: https://pod.fo/e/eaedb

Earlier this month, HS2 announced the start of a major refurbishment project to restore the Grade I listed Principal Building, part of the old Curzon Street station in Birmingham and one of the world's oldest surviving pieces of monumental railway architecture.

The Principal Building has been integrated into HS2’s plans for the new Curzon Street Station, the first brand new intercity terminus station built in Britain since the since the 19th century. Birmingham Curzon Street station will be at the heart of the country’s new high-speed railway network, providing seven platforms and welcoming bullet-style trains that will travel across the country at up to 225 miles per hour (360kph). HS2-VL-14047-GettyImages-90747312 Lithograph by J C Bourne. HS2_200114_Birmingham-Curzon-Street-station_View-10- HS2's Curzon Street Station in Birmingham

Old Curzon Street Station was the first railway terminus serving the centre of Birmingham and built during a period of great significance and growth for the city. Having suffered extensive damage during the Birmingham Blitz, and surviving two applications for its demolition in the 1970s, it is now listed on the ‘Heritage at Risk Register’ maintained by Historic England. The refurbishment will see this status change for the first time in over a decade, with future plans to use it as an HS2 visitors centre, with flexible facilities for office space, exhibition purposes and catering. D-J-Norton---Curzon-Street-Sidings--27-July-1955- Curzon Street low-speed track section through Birmingham, July 1955.

Back in 2020, HS2 announced their findings unearthing what is thought to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse near Curzon Street station. We featured this in one of our first We Are Railfans articles. Curzon-St-site-turntable-archaeology-image-6-lo-res The roundhouse was situated adjacent to the old Curzon Street station, which was the first railway terminus serving the centre of Birmingham and built during a period of great significance and growth for the city. Built to a design by the 19th century engineer Robert Stephenson, the roundhouse was operational on 12 November 1837 – meaning the recently discovered building is likely to predate the current titleholder of ‘world’s oldest’ in Derby by almost two years.

To learn more about HS2 and specifically the history around the Birmingham Curzon Street station site, visit their website at: https://www.hs2.org.uk/

All images courtesy of HS2 Ltd.

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