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British Industrial History

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Curzon Street Station, Birmingham

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Curzon Street Station was a railway station in Birmingham in the 19th century and is the world's oldest surviving piece of monumental railway architecture. It acted as the terminus for both the London and Birmingham Railway and the Grand Junction Railway, with lines connecting Birmingham to London and to Manchester and Liverpool respectively. The two companies had adjacent, parallel platforms but no through services were provided.

The station was opened in 1838, with the first train from London to Birmingham arriving on September 17. However, the railway station was inconveniently located on the eastern edge of Birmingham city centre. For this reason, its use as a passenger station was short-lived.

When the London and North Western Railway was created in 1846, they decided to build a new joint station with the Midland Railway at New Street. It was about half a mile west of Curzon Street Station. When this was completed in 1854, Curzon Street ceased regular passenger use, although holiday excursions ran from the station until 1893. However, it remained in use as a goods station until its closure in 1966. The station was known simply as 'Birmingham' until November 1852, when the suffix 'Curzon Street' was added. A smaller goods station, Lawley Street Goods Station, was located to the east of the station.

The surviving entrance building, which was designed by Philip Hardwick and constructed in 1838, is three storeys tall but relatively small. The architecture is Roman inspired, following Hardwick's trip to Italy in 1818–19. It has tall pillars running up the front of the building, made out of a series of huge blocks of stone. The design mirrored the Euston Arch at the London end of the L&BR. As part of the original design, the building was to be flanked by two arches leading into the station, but excavations revealed that these were never built. The interior housed the booking hall, with a large iron balustraded stone staircase, a refreshment room and offices.

Adjacent to the station was Queen's Hotel. It was here that the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was established on 27 January 1847 with George Stephenson as its first president. A plaque commemorating the event is located inside the station building, as the hotel has since been demolished.

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