Two lengths of railway track from the very earliest days of the railways have been restored at Paddington station, although you might need a few tips to be able to find them.
There are two lengths of railway — one dates from around the 1850s and to the untrained eye looks like a fairly routine piece of railway track, but was created by William Henry Barlow, the same engineer who built the massive train shed at St Pancras station. The other railway track visibly looks older, and is from an early type of “baulk road” railway developed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel — and like many of his inventions, was a bit of a failure.
The two lengths of railway are, rather oddly for a railway, mounted on the side of a wall. Quite why they are there is a bit of a mystery, but the best theory is that they were put there between the 1850s and 1920s to protect the brick wall from damage if hit by road vehicles.
To find them, go to the northern of the two main entrances into the Elizabeth line station and look northwards — on the left side you’ll see a small road next to the main entrance slope, and the restored railway tracks can be found on the wall there. Once you spot them, it’s very obvious, and there’s also a small plaque next to them to explain their historic importance.
Incidentally, looking at the lower baulk road railway – it refers to laying the railway sleepers in a line underneath the railway track instead of at right angles as all modern railways use now.
You can however see some baulk track in use today — also at Paddington station. Pop around to Platform 1 and you can see the junction where conventional track and sleepers switch to the older baulk layout.
A little bit of historic legacy that’s walked past by hundreds of thousands of people without realising.