Written by: TrainSim-James
In a previous article, titled “Great Western Main Line – A History” (which you can find here), we delved into the rich story behind the dawn of the Great Western Railway, and how it developed into the bustling line it is today. What we’ll be doing now however, is taking a look at how the Great Western Main Line stands at present. What would it look like if we all popped along to the Thames Valley right now? We have answers, and in-game screenshots!
London Paddington Station
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1854, Paddington station acted as the London terminus for the Great Western Railway, which previously started from a temporary station just up the line. The grand station was originally built with 3 spans and housed several platforms which served both local and long-distance trains. Adjacent to Platform 1 would be found parcel offices, ticket booking, and various dining rooms, and the face of the station was the impressive Great Western Hotel.
Today, the station has seen dramatic changes, a 4th span has been added and refurbished, the concourse has been modernised, the conversion to standard gauge saw the introduction of 14 platforms, direct and stopping services to Heathrow Airport have been introduced, and now, all lines have been electrified for the introduction of the Intercity Express Programme and Electrostars. Note, header image above depicts the view west from London Paddington.
Crossrail, or as it will be known, the Elizabeth Line, is perhaps the most radical development and construction project London has seen for decades. The Elizabeth Line will connect Shenfield and Abbey Wood to the east, with Heathrow and Reading to the west, via a brand new tunnel under the centre of London. One of the stations along the Elizabeth Line is London Paddington, after which the Line will utilise the Great Western Main Line to Reading.
As result, major changes have taken place surrounding Paddington in recent times, and the line has developed a unique ‘under-construction’ character; new platforms have been built underground, electrification has slowly been extended out of London, a massive site where the Elizabeth Line will emerge from the tunnels has been excavated. At the end of all the works, in December 2019, the new Elizabeth Line will revolutionise east-west travel in London, and the GWML will become a hub of interchange activity.
Old Oak Common TMD
Opened in 1906, Old Oak Common Traction Maintenance Depot serves as the main staging point in London for Great Western rolling stock. The previous depot for the GWR was located at Westbourne Park, and opened in 1855, but this had limitations as fleet sizes grew, and a new depot was required. When completed, it was the largest depot on the GWR network, and had a convenient layout that would be translated to other depots further down the line. It featured all the standard equipment required by steam locomotives, turntables, water and coal loading facilities, and a repair shop.
Over time, the depot has seen several modifications for more modern use, and the site has been expanded significantly to now be home of High Speed Trains, Networker Turbos, Adelantes, Night Riviera Stock and much more. Plans are also in place for further development, including a new shed for the Elizabeth Line and a new railway station to connect the GWML with the proposed High Speed 2 line from London Euston to Birmingham.
Originally opened in March 1840, Reading station quickly proved itself as a fast and reliable way to enter London, cutting previous journey times by at least fourfold; popularity grew alongside local towns, and as the GWR reached further afield, more and more travellers continued to pass through. Reading received its own Great Western Hotel in 1844 for visitors to the town, the station was built to a Brunel standard however, creating a bottleneck pattern for every up train and causing congestion.
Despite extra platforms and upgrades over the decades, including the combination of both the Great Western and South Eastern stations, the station had become a nightmare for trains to negotiate, and so the station received a major renovation between 2009 and 2015. The works included the addition of 5 new platforms, a totally brand new footbridge and platform canopies, reformed access to the station, and a new flyover west of the station to reduce congestion between different services. Totally transformed, Reading station is capable of coping with the capacity and frequency of the future.
The locale of the Great Western Main Line has been ever-changing in an effort to forever improve service reliability and timeliness, and recent years have seen the most radical changes since Brunel first devised such a line many moons ago. You too will soon get the chance to explore the GWML as we have today, so make sure you head to the Store as Train Sim World: Great Western Express is available now! ■