Great Glen Station

by Doc

What is the motivation? Why Great Glen?

Having already made several mock buildings to act as backdrops for video and stills, as described in other articles here, I finally decided, during Covid lockdown that it was about time that I made a true scale replica of a station. It so happens that near to my home, along the Leicester branch of the still active once-Midland Railway line are several very similar buildings that I had long realised utilised the identical patterned windows and decorative brickwork.

Most of the small stations near me no longer function as stops. Some were torn down after they fell into ruin and neglect. Three were converted into homes and while that means they are in good states of repair, they have inevitable been altered, even "tarted up". I have always felt a bit disinclined to prowl around other people's houses taking photographs.

One, however, not far from my home, is very special. It was used as the office for a building supplies company and more recently sold to a firm that designs clothing. The owner is a very agreeable lady who has allowed me access and is interested in my build. While some elements of the building are in poor repair, enough of the victorian original still exists to be studied and copied. I have even been permitted to enter the old waiting room and see how the area was maintained. The fancy exterior of the long low extension to the main building, the Station Master's house hides the fact that the interior was wide open and held together by steel ties, very much as a large greenhouse or a conservatory is.

As luck would have it, the Midland Railway Association (£20 a year subs, worth every bean) has a very generous website library of resources and, blow me down! Here before my very eyes was an architect's scale drawing of the very station, complete with measurements and even internal details. Not that you will ever get to see any internals, but they allow you to see why external features like windows, doors and chimneys had their purpose. The same design was used for Henlow, Cardington, Rushton, Isham and Oakley but it is also obvious when you look at them, that the same architects were also responsible for Kibworth, Desborough, Kettering and Wellingborough and no doubt, many others. The give away feature is the use of the iconic cast iron windows, couple with the red and black brickwork. It is obvious that in the 1850s, the Midland Railway was flush with money and full of pride. Hoorah!

  A world of compromises and choices

It's a funny thing. When you open any can of worms, you discover there are no two worms exactly alike if you look closely. Who would? OK, maybe that stretches a poetic liberty a bit far. What I meant to say is that it was fine to consider copying the features of my local station until I discovered the architect drawings and noticed the differences. Those became even more relevant once I had found pictures of the other stations based on the same plans. Henlow is no more, but Rushton is easily visible from one side and just as near home. I found online images of Cardington, Glen and Rushton, including interesting pictures, inside and out, on a website dedicated to decaying buildings.

The problem was now that I had the added info, I could see how the architects intended Glen to look, guess at how the builders ignored them from time to time and did something else. Later, the ravages of time would add some features and destroy others. Where elegance  had been in the mind's eye, now stood ugliness. Sometimes it went the other way. I rather like to look of the paired buttresses against the door but they were not intended and it is hard to guess when they were added or even why, given their position and lack of evidence  of cracking or shifting of the end wall. We will never know. Oddly, on the opposite, track side wall where there is the same doorway, they built a single buttress only. It dos also look as if the buttresses share the same date and brick stock as the bricked up entrance.

So, though I like those buttresses, they have no place in this building. I've built them so they'll find a use somewhere!

The chimneys look impressive at Glen, until you see the ones at Rushton. I assume that Glen was the same but maybe they were originally only half the size. I can find no image of Glen from its early days. If, as I suspect, the upper halves of Glen's chimneys were removed, it was done very neatly indeed and before one collapsed because if that had happened, you'd expect to see some evidence of that on tiles somewhere.

One big difficulty arises from the low resolution of old photos found, including this one of Rushton. It does show that the chimneys today are original though it is interesting to note that it was found necessary to add very tall deflectors or cowls on pots even well above ridge height.

Note also the red brick decoration above the waiting room windows instead of stone features as designed by the architects and seen on the front of the building.

Plain to see is the addition of the toilet block of which there is not a trace nowadays at Glen. Since the main building at Glen has been partially rendered, there could well have been evidence of that extension once. Indeed, I think if we look closely at the render, we can see a vague shape behind the railings, suggesting that the render has been applied to an uneven surface, compatible with what you end up with when you demolish a part of a building. Besides, there is an obvious stink pipe near the track side corner with no other reason for that to be present, as it also is in the other stations of the same design

The tall window lets onto the landing at the top of the stairs but the smaller window was not in the original plan. The almost central door was an internal door within an angled and fancy-looking porch. I think that porch is still there at Rushton but I would have to make a house call to inspect it as it is closely surrounded by trees and shrubs.