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 THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY 

Few persons who have inspected the buildings of the Great Northern line of Railway can fail to have been struck with their vast extent and completeness; of which the pair of views upon the next page present interesting specimens. In the whole the buildings Mr. Lewis Cubitt, the architect, has sought to combine with the greatest strength and cheapness of construction the utmost facilities for the transit and stowage of goods. The entire station as it stands, with coal-stores, goods offices; arrival, departure, waggon, and carriage-sheds; granary, canal-docks, and temporary passenger-station, covers a space of about forty-five acres. We have engraved the Granary and Goods'-shed of the London terminus at Battle-bridge. 
        The Granary, which fronts the canal dock, and has water ways for barges, is 70 feet high, in six stories, 180 feet by 100 feet, and will hold 60,000 sacks of corn. On the last story [sic] are immense wrought-iron water-tanks, holding 150,000 gallons; and from the highest floor to the ground inclines, down which the full sacks slide, without a touch, from top to bottom. From floor to floor the grain is hoisted by hydraulic apparatus, invented by Mr. Armstrong, by which contrivance the cranes in the goods-shed are also worked. 
        The railway is brought into direct communication with the river at Limehouse by the Regent's Canal, water ways from which, commanded by the cranes, pass under the centre of the goods-shed platform; so that timber brough in floats, hogsheads of sugar, and all articles of heavy merchandise for the use of inland towns along the line, can be carried from the shipping direct. 
        The Goods-shed, the largest of its kind in the kingdom, is of brick, 600 feet in length, 80 feet wide, and 25 feet high, with timber roof, glazed with the cast glass windows, 8 feet by 2 feet 6 inches. Our Engraving shows very distinctly the platforms, railway trucks, waggons, cranes, canal; and, without further explanation, will enable our readers to understand with what ease and rapidity goods can be laden or unladen, lifted from the canal, or shipped in barges. 
The only part of the shed that our Engraving does not show is the stables, 300 feet by 30 feet, under each side of the goods platform, light, perfectly ventilated, and affording room for 300 horses to be employed in the delivery of coals, vegetables, meat, grain, and all goods and parcels carried by the rail. 

        Nearly half the tonnage of the line is in grain, consisting of corn, chiefly from Lincolnshire. Until the opening of the Great Northern line, this corn was almost entirely conveyed coastwise, at great delay and risk of loss and damage. Now, within twenty-four hours it reaches its most distant market with the most perfect punctuality and saféty by rail; and for the accommodation of this traffic the Company keep a stock of 100,000 sacks. The carriage of potatoes has reached 300 tons a week; hay, from 30 to 40 tons; carrots, as much as 20 tons a week; and on a single market-day, from the neighbourhood of Biggleswade and Sandy, no less than 30 tons of cucumbers have arrived at the London stations. Vegetables can now be brought by rail from fifty to sixty miles off in as short a time, and as fresh condition, as by market cart from Barnet, Finchley, Greenwich, Hampton, or any place within eight to twelve miles of London. The rails, in short, give a radius of full fifty miles for metropolitan market, gardens; and, however great may be the present consumption of fruit and vegetables, there can be no doubt that it is infinitely below the wishes of the population. But the scarcity of such articles of food, in consequence of the narrow limits and high rent of the land on which they are grown, so raises the price as to place them out of the reach of the great majority of the population. And, for such extension of gardens, the railway affords still further facilities by carrying down in the returning coal-trucks, at a very low rate, the fresh stable manure from London -an item of traffic as yet in its infancy, but which is rapidly gaining ground. 
        Our Engraving of the Goods-shed shows at one end the canal under the centre of the platform: the boats can thus come into the shed and have goods of all kinds passed to or from the railway trucks as the case may be. The canal enters the Thames at Limehouse, and a branch line of rail is in course of construction to join the East and West India Dock line, so as, without any transhipment, to carry goods coming by rail direct to the ships. 

[ILN MAY 28 1853] 

The text accompanying these illustrations of the Great Northern Railways granary and goods shed near Kings Cross providés a vivid illustration of one of the prime benefits bestowed by the coming of railways: the improvement in, and reduction of cost of, people's diet in urban areas. The much-increased areas surrounding conurbations that could provide fresh végetables, fruit and fish inevitably lowered prices; equally the shorter journey times and greater care with which the goods were handled, compared with the generally poor conditions of the roads and slowness of canals, raiseil the standard of food in the market place. The refèrence to the 'terminus at Battle-bridge' refers to the road which crosses the railway immediately north of the station. It is curious that the writer does not give the station its proper name since it had been in use since 1850 when the temporary station between Gas Works and Copenhagen tun-nels was given this name. The permanent King's Cross was opened on 14 October 1852. 


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This page was created by Julia Lee '99. It is maintained by Professor Robert Schwartz of the History Department, 
Mount Holyoke College.