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The 120th anniversary! The first official train left Marylebone 9th March and the station opened to the public 15th March 1899. The London terminus was to be a grand one, both for the Midlands, the North and even a rail link to an early Channel Tunnel! The Great Central was therefore built to larger dimensions in anticipation of this forthcoming greatness. Sadly the station remained very much a backwater compared to other London termini. Its renaissance during the past twenty years has been amazing and despite its small size is now a premier London terminus.

The very first time I used Marylebone was in the late 1980s when I decided upon a trip from Marylebone to Banbury on what was part of the former Great Central route (even though it was built mostly by the GWR.) By that time British Rail had decided the station and the route it served were nothing but dinosaurs – and perhaps quite wishing a meteorite would somehow hit the lot (!)

They were very active in seeking to get rid of Marylebone station and that would have been the final nail in the coffin – or perhaps their best success to date – after the wholesale (and very controversial) closure of the original Great Central route in 1966.

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The glorious plans for make benefit of the roads lobby! Rails into roads as plans for busways take over much of London! Source: Twitter

This explains my desire to take a trip on the line before it became extinct. In terms of passing into the great unknown as far as the UK’s railways go, one major proposal at the time was the conversion of the route into an express bus or coachway.

British Railways were indeed very serious that a substantial London terminus of theirs was to close – no doubt very much to the delight of the road lobby. BR announced Marylebone station would shut with effect from 15th March 1984. Naturally there was huge opposition. This article at London Reconnections sums up the history of this quite well.

As the image below demonstrates, two years later British Railways had a change of heart…

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British Railways’ change of heart in closing Marylebone, 1986. Source: Twitter (Note: The Twitter account has been suspended/deleted thus an archived image is used here.)

Despite the attraction of the line’s Class 115 DMUs and the front seat views, the once proud main line was in fact a bygone relic – and notoriety was added in the form of the dreadful train accident that occurred in deep mid winter at Seer Green.

One thing that impressed me in those days, this is going back well over thirty years, was just how much main line still existed between Marylebone and Princes Risborough. Every substantial station en route had its four tracked layout complete (two platform tracks and two fast tracks.) Each too had their large signal boxes proudly overlooking the entire station and track areas with lovely arrays of semaphore signals to complement the scene.

Not forgetting the signal box at Neasden with its nice array of signals. In terms of the junction signals right by the box itself quite strangely the ‘main line’ (as it became after 1966) to Ashdendon was to all purposes and intents the branch – whilst the ‘branch line’ (to Aylesbury – now that the bit on to Grendon Underwood had been cut) was rather more the main route (as it had originally been when it all belonged to the Metropolitan – and promoted by Sir Edward Watkin!) Thus we all know why the signals are arranged the way they were.

And those signals were right. The services towards Aylesbury were more regular and a considerable commuter service prevailed – although there were odd gaps in the mornings and afternoons plus of course the last southbound and northbound train (and all day on Sundays) where a change was required at Amersham en route to/from London. Chiltern used to continue this arrangement but that has been phased out.

The other way, to the left as indicated by the branch signal at Neasden, wasn’t quite so fortunate. Yes it was a real main line however the real oddity was once the train reached Princes Risborough. From there it basically became a very long branch line (this is over twenty six miles of singled route with a solitary loop at Bicester North) as far as Aynho junction. In those days a fair bit of the route’s discarded second track could still be seen rusting away in the luxurious undergrowth.

For most it was considerably faster and more convienent to take a train from Banbury to Paddington. The level of comfort and rding quality these other trains had excelled – they were HST’s too let’s not forget. Did anyone (apart from the more stoic rail enthusiasts and the hardened commuter) really want to spend roughly an hour and forty five minutes on a somewhat uncomfortable and motley service along a clapped out main line? Passenger numbers unsurprisingly were struggling – no wonder BR wanted the lot gone.

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An example of how ‘railway modernisation’ turns out to be typical British stupidity… Top: Incomplete Princes Risborough station early 1900s. Bottom: Rationalised layout 1989. Pictures from Great Central Then and Now (pub 1991)

Let’s take the example of the convoluted layout at Princes Risborough. Under eventual, partial, modernisation (this is when British Railways thought the line finally had some merit…) the down platform was taken out of use. The down slow basically remained as a link to the Chinnor branch. The down fast, well it wasn’t ‘fast’ it simply led into the loop formed by the old up and down lines. Beyond that the line was singled. Stopping trains had to use the main platform in either direction. It meant any up trains waiting to enter the platform had to be held if a down was occupying the platform. The down would then have to move off onto the ‘fast’ down line (to all intents and purposes the loop) to allow the up to proceed into the platform.

If a down was waiting to use the loop it had to be held on the down line further back whilst any up train vacated the station platform. Any fast trains behind had to stop also before the track was cleared and the ‘fast’ line cleared for the non stopping train to proceed – except it wasn’t going anywhere ‘fast!’ These days its better as the down platform’s been restored to use giving more flexibility – and there is of course bi directional signalling which improves matters considerably (it too means trains can take the ‘overground’ route – the down line – or the earlier ‘underground’ route – the tunnelled up line in either direction.)

The silly layout at Princes Risborough existed until the early days of Chiltern Railways as I remember well. Thankfully they got rid of it and once again there is a nice properly double tracked route all the way to Aynho junction with far higher speeds than was ever possible in those days.

However things are not that perfect as we all would like. Like Princes Risborough (which has no down fast) the other once substantial stations en route have too all lost their four tracked layouts – and this rather limits the Chiltern Line’s full potentiality.

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Bourne End no more….. The lovely sign at High Wycombe evoking the days when it was a junction. Source: Twitter

Of course at some of the stations there is the potentiality for express trains to be able to overtake stopping trains – such as at High Wycombe – but that depends on whether the other platform track is vacant. After all there are only two tracks where there was once four. And if the other line isn’t any fast trains essentially become stopping all the way to Marylebone.

There you are, our rail planners know best and that is without a doubt why Britain’s railways are great! (Its eyes over to the continent for a even better greatness in terms of railways.)

We have lost the Great Central – all of it – and even if the plans for HS2 do come to full fruition, its only a little bit of the former GCR that will once again see use.

At least we still have Marylebone station and look at how it has turned out! A lot of people say its their favourite London station. Yes its cute but its also a serious station. It has more platforms than ever – although the earlier loss of the western side train shed because of more rationalisation and the land being sold off – meant new platforms had to be built, somewhat awkwardly, further out in order to provide the extra capacity needed.

It shows how, with a bit of determination, people will use a station/services provided the appeal and the incentive is there. Its a shame they did not do that in the sixties, we would still have had the Great Central and no need for HS2.

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The classic view of the station from the buffers. Does Marylebone look like a library from Nottingham? Source: Twitter

I like this quote from Sir John Betjeman and I think it fits quite well here:

Its an interesting thought. Am sure quite a few people will not realise the connotation these days but of course its because Marylebone was ‘just down the line’ from Nottingham, something that has not been possible since 1966 when the Great Central route closed and British Railways allowed bats to take over Catesby Tunnel lock stock and barrel!

The greatest protagonist of the Great Central Railway happened to be one Sir Edward Watkin, a man who liked to have his name everywhere. As well as wanting an even bigger Eiffel Tower in Wembley, he wanted a Chunnel and was responsible for the opening in 1892 of Britian’s first ever dedicated footpath. Its now one of the main tourist paths up Snowdon. Its not a path for the faint hearted but it is spectacular. This is the man in question, courtesy of Time Out:

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It doesn’t look much like Sir Edward Watkins does it? Its more of a caricature. Source: Time Out

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Photographs of Watkins the man himself are quite rare and those that are on the internet are held by the top notch UK museums. However this picture from the Chethams Library blog gives us a good picture of what the man himself looked like. Source: Chethams Library

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This colourful picture shows Sir Edward Watkin’s aspiration to bring the continent to London (on top of taking the new railway to the continent too!) His plans for a sumptuously large pleasure gardens in Wembley (and putting Gustav Eiffel to shame with an even bigger version of his famous tower) were sort of successful (despite a partially built tower.) However Wembley soon became a famous exhibition and parade ground more than anything else, before ultimately becoming the home of English football. Source: Twitter

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Watkins’ unfinished Wembley Tower amidst a barebones parkland. The tower was begun 1893 and demolished 1907. Source: Twitter

There wasn’t just the Great Central or the ‘Eiffel Tower.’ Watkin too had plans for a fantastic new railway in the Wembley area. I covered this on my blog several years ago and this would have been the first public application of Louis-Dominique Girard’s unusual Gliding Railway. Like several other schemes of Watkins’ this one too fell through.

The biggest success for Watkins was of course the Great Central Railway. Built as a high speed railway in the late 1890s to almost a continental gauge standard, the one major defining success (after some near failures and the threat of total closure) happens to be Marylebone station itself. And the station’s famous Porte Cochère is enormous eye candy!

Let’s not reminiscence too much however for this post is more about Marylebone station and how it has looked since its opening in March 1899. There will however be some images of the Great Central as well as the famous London station itself. Let’s press onwards and focus upon the many views from these past 120 years….

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Great Central construction in the late 1890s. Source: Twitter

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Marylebone probably before it first opened in 1899. Source: Twitter

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The inaugural train 9th March 1899. Source: Twitter (This links to a Tweet which unfortunately links to a tweet fro Greatest Capital who have apparently deleted their account – thus an archived image has been used.)

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The new station. Source: Twitter

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The station when still quite new in 1905. Source: PicClick

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The Great Central timetable 1905. Source: Twitter

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Railway porter 1907. Source: Twitter

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Great Central Railway police officer at Marylebone 1907. Source: Twitter

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Sign outside the hotel in Marylebone Road in the early days. Source: Twitter

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The station probably 1908. Source: PicClick

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The Great Central touted as a healthy railway. Meaning travel’s good for one’s health. 1911. Source: Twitter

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Another GCR advert from 1911. Source: Twitter

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Carriage cleaners at the start of the war 1914. Source: Twitter (Greatest Capital has now deleted their timeline.)

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Women porters at Marylebone #1. 1915. Source: Twitter (Trench Detective has deleted this post.)

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Women porters at Marylebone #2. 1915. Source: Twitter

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Manchester Express leaving Marylebone probably before World War one (the signals on the gantry had changed by the 1920s.) Source: PicClick

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The 3.20 Manchester Express passes Rossmore Road bridge at Marylebone in the mid 1920s. Source: Railway Wonders of the World

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Telephone booths at Marylebone 1931. Source: Twitter

Marylebone station was hit by bombs in 1944. The carriage washing plant was destroyed and two rail workers killed. A replacement carriage washing facility was later built. The following pictures illustrate this incident…

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The bombed carriage depot and washing plant. Source: Twitter (Trench Detective has deleted this post thus an archived image is used here.)

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A new washing plant being built. Source: Twitter (Trench Detective has deleted this post thus an archived image is used here.)

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Some notes on the 1944 incident at Marylebone. Source: Twitter (Trench Detective has deleted this post thus an archived image is used here.)

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Mothers and children at the station July 1944. Source: Twitter

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BR 45292 at Marylebone in April 1948, on what is possibly a Manchester express. Note the lower quadrant signal midway on the platform! It can also be seen in the picture featuring the women porters. Source: PicClick (The page in question has now been deleted and the URL used for another image. An archived image is used here.)

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Bullied double decker mock-up Marylebone 1949. One wonders why they chose Marylebone for this, if the coaches were destined for the Southern… Source: Twitter

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Marylebone station nameboards, probably the fifties. The large buildings in the background have long gone. Source: PicClick

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Trial run of early type of diesel multiple unit between Marylebone and Princes Risborough. Source: Twitter

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A better shot of one of the 1952 DMU cars. Source: Twitter

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The 10.00 to Manchester hauled by A3 Pacific No. 60063 Isinglass. This is the west side and the houses here have all gone. Source: Wikipedia

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This is the Institution of Locomotive Engineers 50th Anniversary exhibition at Marylebone goods yard in 1961 with E3059 (later 85004) and the short lived, experimental, gas turbine loco GT3 . Another view shown below. Source: Twitter

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E3059 and the short lived gas turbine loco GT3. May 1961. A Hymek can be seen next to the GT3. Plenty of other views in the following link. Source: Flickr

The location of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers exhibition would have been right by Lisson Grove itself where people entered through a large archway that formed a feature at the time on the corner of Lisson and Rossmore Roads. This You Tube video shows the archway as the Duke of Edinburgh arrives to open the exhibition. It also shows a Warship (D829) on a demonstration run. It seems there were two ‘Warships’ as another report mentions D867.

In some of the films eagle eyed viewers will spot the huge Lisson Grove power station’s chimneys – this too had a large yard served off the lines into Marylebone. In this You Tube video there’s a great view of the power station and the Duke’s entourage arriving through the aforementioned archway.

There were many other locomotives at the exhibition including Midland 1000 (as Exhibit 1), Mallard (as Exhibit 2), Duke of Gloucester, Evening Star, and many diesels including Class 31, Class 33, Class 42, Class 44, Class 45 (No.28 later 45124) Class 55 (D9003), a carriage from the 1962 tube stock and one from the brand new ‘A’ stock. Here’s a short You Tube video. This rather better and longer You Tube video shows most exhibits including cab interiors of the Hymek etc.

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Not quite Marylebone nevertheless its the Flying Scotsman with a special railtour on the Great Central to London. It was the line’s twilight years and express services would soon be no more. Source: Twitter

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I am not sure of the occasion however its an engine driver being interviewed. It may be the Flying Scotsman trip, pictured above. Source: Twitter.

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Rolling Stones 1964. The route served Marylebone until 1987. I have pictures of RM’s on the one at Marylebone. Source: Twitter

The Beatles

Sorry everyone! I hope most of you are a Fab Four fan – because this has to be a Beatles biggie! Their first feature length film A Hard Days Night is noted for its scenes filmed at Marylebone station. Its probably what made the station more famous than at any time in its entire history! You can scream and shout all you like but its undoubtedly an important part of the station’s history and there are scenes of great interest.

It is said filming began at Marylebone station on 2nd March 1964. Other reports say the Beatles left Paddington on a five coach special to Minehead for the first scenes to be filmed and the scenes at Marylebone were done on the 5th March! The rather more serious researchers insist it was Marylebone the Fab Four used as a departure point for Minehead, not Paddington. There are many conflicting reports however this short report from Six Bells Junction suggests the trains left from Paddington – and at one point the Fab Four were forced to disembark from Westbourne Park station to avoid hordes of fans waiting at Paddington.

Anyway one way or the other the four spent nearly an entire week shuttling from London to Minehead filming various rail based scenes. Many of the establishing shots were taken at Marylebone because the scenes also involved a chase through the streets around the station itself. No doubt the fab four’s fans were there too – in their thousands!

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Not quite Marylebone! Rather its Crowcombe on the way to Minehead. Its however a nice establishing shot for this section. Source: Twitter

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Dashing through the Porte Cochère into the station. Source: Twitter

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Paul & John dash under the Porte Cochère into the station. Source: Twitter

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Ringo & George follow suit – and the fans follow…. Source: Twitter

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The Beatles’ Marylebone station antics. Source: Twitter

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John, Ringo & George in the station’s phone booths. Source: Twitter

The location of these two photographs happens to be the current Marks and Spencers in the station itself. This was once the ticket hall.

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Another view of the same scene. The interest however are the LNER notices on the right and the modern wooden bench underneath these! Source: Tumblr

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Ringo and John looking to see if there’s an all-clear! Source: Twitter

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Paul waits to film his scenes featuring this use of a ‘disguise.’ Source: Twitter

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Ringo, George and John – either resting or just foolin around. Source: Twitter

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Running for the train! John, George & Ringo in the lead. Source: Twitter

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Beatles and Patti Boyd rest in a guard’s carriage during a break in filming. Source: Absolutely 60s

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The station in 1966 with the Melbury House block visible. This was once a headquarters for the British Transport Commission, British Waterways Board, the British Transport Docks Board, as well as British Railways. Note the western side platform and canopy which have long since disappeared. Source: Wikipedia

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Marylebone station at Xmas 1967. Note the old iron gates! Source: Twitter

As the plaque outside the station tells us, the ornate roof over the road is known as a Porte Cochère. Here are some images on Wikipedia’s pages showing more views of the station’s unusual overall roof.

A Hard Day’s Night was no doubt the station’s last gasp for glory before the powers that be decided its main line express services to the north should end. These were progressively reduced until a skeleton service remained between Rugby and Nottingham. That too was destined for the chop…

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The last part of the once mighty main line out of Marylebone to Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire goes to the wall. Services ended May 1969. Source: Twitter

In 1970 Marylebone became the subject of a Doctor Who episode – The Silurians. Note the passengers as they drop to the floor of the station. I love the one of the woman collapsing by the rail timetable – its almost as if the woman has just taken a look at the train times and said ‘oh gawd these train services are just so crappy’ before taking a tumble against the timetable in question 🙂

Doctor Who The Silurians 1970.

Marylebone once had a substantial goods yard and carriage/locomotive depots. By the seventies it had all shut down and the land was therefore ripe for new housing development. In due course this became the Lisson Green estate…

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The Lisson Green estate going up at the former GCR goods yard, 1974. Source: Twitter

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The station was used for ‘One of our Dinosaurs is missing (1975.) Source: Twitter

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The London terminus in April 1975. Source: Twitter

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A much better view of the old west side platforms and Melbury House. The entire land to the right (plus one main canopy and one side canopy) has been lost to development. Source: Flickr

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Marylebone station 1977 showing the station’s architecture to quite good effect. Source: Flickr

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May 1984. ‘The Anglo-Scottish Freighter’ at Marylebone with 25321 & 25316. Source: Twitter

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Badge commemorating the return of steam at Marylebone 1985. The locomotive was Sir Nigel Gresley. Source: Twitter

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April 1988. This is the 07.40am for Aylesbury. Source: Twitter

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Pair of 115 DMUs at the station. 1990 possibly. Source: London Reconnections

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A Class 165 in the early days of its use with a pressed steel DMU visible in the old diesel depot. Source: Twitter

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I tried hard to find a Wrexham and Shropshire picture from Twitter! This one comes courtesy of a Japanese rail enthusiast! Source: Twitter

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Notice of filming for ‘Closed’ at the station entrance 2012. Source: Twitter

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Selfie time with Brendan Cole. Source: Twitter

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New memorials to WWII erected at the station April 2015. Source: Twitter

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2015 filming at Marylebone involving a train mocked up in good old British Rail style! Source: Twitter

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First Great Western HST’s diverted to Marylebone in December 2015. This one is for Swansea. Source: Twitter

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Dave Penney, Chris Grayling, Michael Portillio, Mark Carne at the new Oxford-Marylebone rail service launch 12 December 2016. Source: Twitter

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Rare picture showing broken rail, 2016. This was on the approach into Marylebone. Chiltern Railways trying to explain to annoyed customers why there were delays to their services. Source: Twitter

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Not quite Holland. Its Marylebone’s enormous bike rack! Source: Twitter

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DB liveried 660017 at Marylebone in October 2017. Source: Twitter

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More rare sights of Great Western HSTs at Marylebone. December 2017. Source: Twitter

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A fantastic welcome from the Bicester Village hosts! Source: Twitter

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Special stop board for the GWR HSTs! Source: Twitter

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Monopoly toilets at Marylebone! Source: Twitter

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Monopoly pieces represented on the toilet doors! Source: Twitter

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Anyone see a resemblance to Thunderbird 3? Source: Twitter

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Enthusiasts out at the ends of the platforms to spot more GWR HSTs! May 2018. Source: Twitter

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Chiltern Railways’ employee of the day! Source: Twitter

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68013 at the head of the 13.10 to Birmingham Moor Street. Nov. 2018. Source: Twitter

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The ‘Choo Choo Express!’ DVT 82309 specially adorned with a kid’s winning drawing for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Source: Twitter (Note: The Twitter account has been deleted, thus an archived image is used here.)

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The ‘Choo Choo Express!’ The winning picture for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Source: Twitter (Note: The Twitter account has been deleted, thus an archived image is used here.)

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More cups recycling pictures! Source: Twitter

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A station full of surprises! Source: Twitter

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Its not Marylebone but who couldn’t resist a couple of lovely shots for this post’s wrap up! First up is this of Royal Scot 46163 Civil Service Rifleman approaching Nottingham Victoria to form the 17:15 to Marylebone. Source: Twitter

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And a cute picture to wrap up this post! Many different faces & expressions! Female locomotive cleaners Birmingham 1918. Source: Twitter

2 thought on “Marylebone station's anniversary”
  1. What an excellent article and the photos many of which I hadn’t seen before. All through the 60’s and into the 70’s I worked for an oil lubricants company only a couple of minutes away from Marylebone station and travelling up from the Chilterns every day I must have used that station thousands of times. In one of John Betjeman’s films, I think, he gave a great description of Marylebone Station where he mentions if I remember rightly the trolleys having rubber tired wheels so as not to wake up staff, or something like that. Have you any idea of that talk and where I might find it. I did have it and now of course can’t find it!

    1. Thanks for the comments! I dont know where that description of Marylebone would be found I did have a quick look at You Tube but nothing came up. It might be in one of the many Betjeman videos without showing up in search.

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