Kings Cross has been a part of my life since I was a baby… I may have been born in Barnet, then within the county of Hertfordshire, but my Father was a Scotsman born in Dundee and we used to travel north for our summer holidays to Scotland. So, I have many memories of Kings Cross as it was and a view on what it has become. Back in those days of steam it was possible to see the racehorses of the iron road – the Gresley Pacifics, including Mallard, here. I recall, as told before, travelling north behind Gresley Pacific 60065 ‘Knight of Thistle’ and on other occasions behind diesels that still stirred the blood in the early hours of the morning. Kings Cross, more than Euston, was a gateway to the magic of Scotland – possibly because the western route of the old LNWR linked to so many cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, that Glasgow was often a forgotten by-product. You left Kings Cross knowing that it was York, Newcastle and then Edinburgh – a bit unfair on the beautiful city of Durham but it was never more than a stop for local trains and the occasional express back then. By the way, the stops used to be dictated by changes of locomotive – so it could be Doncaster, Newcastle, Edinburgh depending on the train you were on.
Moving fully into the diesel era, the Deltics ruled. There were just 22 of them and with 3300 horses and a top speed of 100mph – they soon won many fans and were very much the flagship of the BR fleet in the 1960’s / early 80’s. Kings Cross reverberated to the throbbing hum of their Napier engines.
As a railway enthusiast I visited at a variety of times of the day and night. I saw the newspapers being loaded in the early hours on platform nine and the royal mail parcels on platform 1 (where the lorries used to stand is the new platform Zero!). The Royal Mail train usually left from platform 8 and it was possible to post letters in a mailbox in the side of the carriage up until departure for sorting during the journey.
My late evening visits resulted in a number of encounters with ladies of the night who would generally accost you if you were standing anywhere near the southeast corner of the station. I can remember on one occasion in the late 1980’s being approached by a real waif of a girl in the middle of the evening, offering me sex. It was really not what I was there for – as I explained to her, “I’m just waiting for the bus home”. She then asked if I could spare her the price of a cup of tea – no problem with that!
So Kings Cross has been a bit of a home for me over the last 50 years. Sadly, recent changes have made it less friendly than it was, for trainspotters at least – barriers prevent access to platforms – no more wandering down to the end of Platform 8 to ‘see what’s on’. There are no Racehorses or Deltics anymore and I’m not convinced that the new concourse has really made a major improvement for passengers (though there is more space and it is less dingy!). The HST’s moved in to replace the Deltics and electrification displaced all the old noisy Cravens DMU’s with quiet electric units. Now it sometimes feels like a ghost town compared with the past – though it is busier than ever! Perhaps its soul has been taken away by the move into the modern world? Some photos from the past and present…