Few of the 200,000 weekday commuters that use Waterloo Station know about its macabre past. Six years after the original Waterloo was unveiled in 1848, the adjoining Necropolis Station was opened. From there would leave the "funeral express", taking coffins (with bodies) to Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey. The "fare" was 2/6d each (12.5p).

The Necropolis was bombed in 1941 and never rebuilt. Waterloo Station, however, has survived several incarnations - and Second World War bomb damage - since its construction more than 150 years ago.

During the 19th century it fell into disrepair and it was completely rebuilt between 1900 and 1922. The designers - J.W. Jacomb-Hood and A.W. Szlumper, engineers for the London & South Western Railway company, original owners of the station - came up with a roof measuring 520 feet by 540 feet, a concourse that was 800 feet long, and 21 platforms. In fact, the modern station is itself the largest in Britain, covering 24.5 acres.

In the 19th century it had been intended that Waterloo would not be a terminus at all, but just a stop on the way to the City. This never happened, though a link to the financial heart of London was forged when the Waterloo and City Line Underground ("The Drain") opened in 1898. After that came the Bakerloo line (1906) and then, much more recently, the Jubilee Line (1999).

But possibly the most significant addition, in 1990 and costing £400 million, was Waterloo International, next to the mainline station. Under its 400-metre long glass canopy, this is the terminus for the Eurostar services to France and Belgium.

Of significant historical interest is the Victory Arch, made of Portland stone, which commemorates the London & South Western and Southern Railway employees who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars.

Source: The Sunday Telegraph Commuter Guide (16/05/2004)

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