I’ve spent a lot of time on Cardiff Queen Street station. As a child my friends and I would usually alight there to go for days out around Cardiff. Years later, I worked in Admiral Insurance in 2004/2005, and I would occasionally commute in from the Rhondda Valleys to avoid traffic. A decade later, I worked at the ATRiuM campus of the University of South Wales, and commuted there from Treforest for a few years. So I’ve always been somewhat curious about the old station, even though it’s always felt so lo-fi and run-down in all of my encounters with it. Over the years I’d been even more intrigued, especially as there was so much evidence on and around the platforms that something bigger had once existed there.
Over 170 years ago, in October of 1840, the Taff Vale Railway opened a new station (and indeed, their headquarters) on the site. That station (and the local area) was named Crockherbtown.
It was the first railway station in Cardiff, and helped prompt the population boom in Cardiff at that time. By the 1860’s, the Crockherbtown area had been widened, and in 1886 was re-christened Queen Street. Further renovations took place in 1907.
Originally a large hub comprised of five platforms, the station was enclosed under a grand roof. There were refreshment rooms on the first platform. Trains to the Valleys were all routed through Queen Street, as were connecting services to Cardiff Bay and Cardiff General (latterly Cardiff Central).
As part of the British Rail 1973 nationalisation, all of the the 1887 Taff Vale Railway station frontage was demolished and replaced by a bland, red-brick ticket office, and the roof over the platforms removed. The western-most platform was also decommissioned, and would remain dormant for a further 42 years. All traffic was now routed through the central platform, which contained a small cafe and toilets. Trains to Cardiff Bay were routed from the remaining eastern platform. What was once an impressive entryway into the centre of Cardiff was reduced to a small, pokey and unwelcoming station.
With rail traffic increasing in the early 2010’s, new plans were drawn up to stop the bottlenecks appearing at Queen Street. As part of a £220m scheme (completed in 2015), Cardiff Queen Street saw the disused platform on the west side renovated and brought back into use, and a new bay platform built on the end of eastern platform for the dedicated Cardiff Bay shuttle service. The 1973-era ticket hall was demolished, and replaced with a very modern and spacious new structure, which incorporated up-to-date ticketing facilities and barriers. A similar renovation had also been put into place at Cardiff Central.
So Cardiff Queen Street now finds itself in the midst of a minor resurgence. While the station still certainly lacks the majesty it once had at the start of the 20th century, it’s no longer the run-down shadow of itself it had become by the start of the 21st century. Let’s see what the future brings.
Emmdee on Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/10163027@N05/
Peter Brabham on Flick – https://www.flickr.com/photos/taffytank/