Remains of structures built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for his Great Western Railway have been unearthed near Paddington in west London.


Newly excavated by Crossrail, findings include foundations of a 200 metre long engine shed, a workshop and train turntables. The structures were used for Brunel’s famous broad-gauge railway, which first ran steam trains through the area in 1838.

The Crossrail archaeology team is documenting the remains using laser scans, creating 3D models of the buildings which date from the 1850s and were levelled in 1906 to make way for a goods storage yard.

It’s expected that these records will help historians understand the early development of railways in the UK.


The remains were found on a construction site known as Paddington New Yard, to the east of Westbourne Park Tube station. From 2018 the area will accommodate Crossrail tracks, turn-back sidings, an elevated bus deck and cement factory, which had to be temporarily relocated to accommodate the building of Crossrail.

The engine shed shows evidence of the change from 7 foot wide broad-gauge train tracks used by Brunel’s Great Western Railway, to the standard gauge tracks prescribed in an Act of Parliament in 1846 and widely implemented by the 1860s. Brunel initially resisted this change in the so-called ‘Gauge Wars’.

Great Western Railway Trust images of Brunel_s engine shed at Paddington Yard_158010

To date, Crossrail’s archaeology programme has discovered over 10,000 items spanning 55 million years of London’s history across 40 construction sites. Notable finds include Roman remains, plague pits, the Bedlam hospital burial grounds and a Tudor manor house.


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One comment on “Brunels’s original rail infrastructure excavated near Paddington
  1. Hi, Just wanted to let you know that some of these turntable bricks are finding their way into the construction of platform 2 at the rebuilding of Broadway (Worcs) railway station on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire heritage railway,

    Have a look at our blog:

    Terry Andrews
    Broadway Group Volunteer

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