The Great Western Railway, 'The Greatest railway in Britain’, or ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’, with its 7 foot track and wide carriages, had been authorised by Parliament in 1835. It reached London in 1838, but Paddington Station was not opened until 1854. Until then the Station was merely a halt.
Brunel's three parallel train sheds are splendid examples of Victorian engineering, powerful and confident. From the street the station has never had any presence, but from the inside it is overwhelming. The station stunned the capital. The redevelopment by Nicholas Grimshaw, described at the end of the book, will remedy this former weakness.
From the day the railway arrived, the canal was under threat. Trains were quicker, brought new goods from different parts of the country, and threatened the monopoly which the canal had enjoyed. With huge railway goods yards next door to the canal, the competition was intense.
The sequence of Transport Maps which follows, traces the development of London roads, canals, railways and the Underground, from Roman times to the planned Cross Rail, which will link Paddington with Stratford East.