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News / City Life

Waterloo station is 170 years old today

Waterloo clock
Department for Transport

Not only is today pretty huge for England (it’s coming home, yeah?) but it’s monumental for England’s busiest train station too. Waterloo is celebrating its one hundred and seventieth birthday – and while you might know that it’s undergoing massive renovations to reopen the disused Waterloo International Terminal, revamp the concourse and lengthen the platforms for longer trains, here are three things you probably didn’t know about the beloved (and occasionally infuriating) old lady.

Waterloo was the terminus for the London Necropolis Railway (no, seriously)

In the nineteenth century, a special line was built to move bodies from cramped London graveyards to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. At its peak from 1894 to 1903 it was dead busy, carrying more than 2,000 recently deceased passengers a year. The UK’s creepiest railway line was destroyed in one of the worst Nazi bombing raids of the Blitz and never rebuilt – which, frankly, we’re pretty glad about.

‘Terry and Julie’ might have been real people

In 1967, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by The Kinks hit Number Two in the charts. But who were Terry and Julie, the lovers who meet at the station in Ray Davies’ lyrics? Rumour has it that they were womanising actor Terence Stamp and ‘Doctor Zhivago’ star Julie Christie. Not so mysterious now, eh?

There’s a reason for all the tunnels beneath the station

The main concourse of the station is raised well off the ground, with enough room for arts venue The Vaults and the Leake Street graffiti tunnel. The reason is that the whole station and the area around was built on marshland and the original architect was keen to avoid it sinking into the ground – which is also why a nearby street is called Lower Marsh. Happy birthday, Waterloo – here’s to another 170 years!

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