In most tourist guide books, the writers will invariably inform you that it is simple to spot the newcomers to the area, as they will be the ones looking ‘up’. This is true of most large cities; New York, London, Chicago, for instance. However, the adage is just as applicable in York (And, between you and me, if you don’t, you might just miss something).
While coming and going through our city’s fine railway station, between grabbing a quick coffee, buying your ticket, and frantically attempting to ascertain the correct platform and the path of least resistance to it, it is easy to miss the most attractive aspect of the building; the roof. That’s not to say that York Railway Station is not only notable for its roof. The building hosts a plethora of interesting architectural and historical quirks.
Completed in 1877, the ‘York Station, Royal York Hotel and Events Centre’ is a majestic building which lies almost exactly halfway between London and Edinburgh. It took three years to build, and was at the time the largest railway station in the country. Designed by Thomas Prosser, the station’s crowning glory is its 800 foot long curved train-shed roof, suspended 42 foot above the tracks by iron columns. It was massively popular at the time of its inception, deemed modern; futuristic, even. The entire station was specifically built on a curve, in order to highlight the impressive architecture. One reviewer of the time hailed it “a monument to extravagance”.
Much of the ironwork in the station is quite decorative, using insignia and other carved designs used to enhance the look of the architecture. In fact, it is the traditional methods used to decorate the station that halted and eventually stopped the construction of automated ticket gates, (like those at larger stations), as East Coast Rail and City of York Council did not wish to spoil the historic nature of the building.
Other attractive aspects include a 19th century signal (the last of its kind) preserved in the foyer, (Hard to spot, and easily missed), and a huge, iconic iron clock on the footbridge over Platform 2. Going south from York, it is impossible not to pass these two artefacts from our relatively recent past. All three require us to stop, take stock, and appreciate the history of the city. It’s worth it once in a while to look ‘up’.