Depending on your route, entry into London can be either an eye-watering push through a frozen and gaping hole or a cloying, damp-breath squeeze into a baguette-smelling shopping centre.
In 34 years of coming and going (born here, moved out as a child, returned as an adult), I have built up a forensic picture of London’s major railway stations and the microclimates in which they exist. No number of noodle emporiums, shirt retailers or blister plasters can hide what I like to think of as a station’s core temperature. Forget seasons, weather, crowd size or time of day; this is a tabulation based on the very essence of the station itself.
Sweet mother of suffering chillblains. Paddington Station is a frozen tundra, a relentless howling gale, a house-sized tube of draught, pockmarked by ticket machines and gift shops. It is the coldest place in London. The Atlantic may as well break upon its shore, as it turns its wind-bitten face to the west.
A snowy day at Waterloo. Image: Getty.
I sometimes wonder if they pump the Waterloo air straight off the surface of the Thames. It just has that nautical bite, a kind of chill that sets into your bones, wriggles down your scarf and kickboxes you in the ankles. Last time I waited there for a train I ended up pushing my fingers down into my thermos: true story.
The Watership Down of train stations: largely underground, often damp, overlooked by the terrifying and vicious. While not always and essentially freezing, it does feel somehow chilled. Like the plums in the icebox. Only the plums are the West Cornwall Pasty Company and the icebox is the doldrums of The Shard.
While not, strictly-speaking a major interchange, Clapham Junction is the busiest station in Britain (at least, according to measure of traffic, rather than passenger numbers, with a train apparently departing from there every 30 seconds). So it earns a mention as, in my humble opinion, the windiest station in Britain, if not the world. (I’d give notable mention to Warschauer Straße in Berlin as the other hot contender for sheer, bitter wind power.)
Marylebone is as cold as the past: as cold as open fires and polished brass; as cold as Sunday closing and terry cloth nappies; as cold as bowler hats and tuberculosis; as cold as coal smoke and a fit of the nerves. Not thermically cold, perhaps, but certainly stiff with the chilly weight of time.
Only get hawks on warm days, you know. Image: Getty.
A veritable cathedral to tepidity. From the lukewarm tea to the brick walls, Kings Cross is as tall and blank as a stingray, floating through the blood temperature waters of North London. Not that this stops 5,783 dweebs turning up in floor-length maroon and yellow scarves everyday, trying to wring some magic out of what is, essentially, a sandwich-flavoured waiting shed for London North Eastern.
Essentially a 50p wee with a trains side dish, Victoria has a particularly stale, acrid climate that has little to do with temperature and everything to do with huffing commuters in navy suits smacking their briefcases into every passing knee as they bark meaningless orders into a takeaway cortado like a labrador staring down a rabbit hole.
Bah oui, St Pancras c’est chaud, non? Well okay, not actually chaud but definitely getting that way, even in January. Unless you make the mistake of walking down the M&S sandwich aisle which is, of course, colder than snow (but that’s more of a national crisis than a station-specific problem).
The very mouth of hell
It was probably quite warm that day. Image: Getty.
Bring me your tired, your hipsters, your huddled city boys yearning to breathe Essex, the wretched digital natives of your teeming shore. Send these, the sockless, hair-tossed to me, I lift my face to the golden departures board… and then take them for an egg roll at Wasabi and to Boots for some ibuprofen. Liverpool Street has that flat, unrolling warmth of Eastern England; a hairdressing climate, a sausage roll climate, a baked potato place.
Mmmmm, the warm hug of secondhand fag smoke, how I miss you. While pregnant, I managed to throw up every single time I set foot in Euston Station. Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps the smell of old chicken and gritty coffee, perhaps it was just sheer exhilaration at being so close to a Paperchase, but my god that station made me hurl. Still, at least it’s warm.
Sure, it’s not a major railway station, but special mention must go to the Bakerloo Line stop at Oxford Circus: hotter than Dante’s jockstrap and just as inviting. According to figures from TfL, the Bakerloo Line is the hottest line in London, temperature-wise. And, according to figures from my own sweat-soaked hauling of a large suitcase during a July heatwave, yes, yes it is. Burn on, Oxford Circus: you make clowns of us all.
Nell Frizzell tweets as @NellFrizzell.
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.