One of the favorite haunts of Skylighters during their stay in the Newcastle area in 1944, the Central Station was staked out routinely by the men of those batteries located close to the city center since that was where the girls were. It doesn't take much imagination to picture the station waiting rooms and platforms crowded with confident young "Yanks" waiting for the mad rush of English girls just off of work. It was pretty obvious that British men didn't like this situation very much. The Yanks were said to be "overpaid, oversexed, overfed, and over here." The Americans countered this by saying the Brits were "underpaid, undersexed, underfed, and under Eisenhower." Below is a poem that was sent our way that was apparently recited by the English during the influx of American troops into the British Isles during 1942-44. It's from the point of view of an English girl who's had her fill of those bloody "Yanks!" In the photo at above left, which appeared on the cover of the December 1943 British edition of YANK The Army Weekly, an English girl fights a "delaying action" by taking her sweet time applying her lipstick, while her "Yank" impatiently checks his watch (how quintessentially American!). How such scenes in pubs and music halls all over Britain must have stirred the ire of local males, who were, by comparison, poor, and couldn't compete with these brash, bragging "invaders."
Newcastle Central Station was opened by Queen Victoria on 29 August 1850. The station buildings were designed by the famous Tyneside architect John Dobson, though his original plan was deemed too expensive and his complete concept, including the impressive portico (the focus of the contemporary picture appearing above; photo © Ray Urwin, reprinted by permission) was not finalized until 1862 under Prosser's supervision (below, the portico as it appeared in the 1950s).
As Engineer-in-Chief to the successive railway companies, Robert Stephenson was responsible for all structures under and over the railway 1845-50 and was succeeded by Thomas Harrison. The station has seen many developments and modifications over the years, with new lines and connections extending the earlier works to accommodate traffic needs. Perhaps the most well known of these are the installation of the famous "Diamond Crossing" at the east end of the station in 1893, which together with other track and platform improvements increased the capacity for through east/west traffic.
When built, the station had been virtually two terminus stations for the York, Newcastle & Berwick mainline and the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway. The well-known configuration of routes shown on the map above was completed in 1906 with the opening of the King Edward bridge, which meant East Coast mainline trains could travel directly through the station without having to reverse. Since 1982 the north bank route to Carlisle has been truncated and trains now travel over the King Edward bridge via Dunston.
The last 20 years or so has seen much rationalization, and although many of the aspects beloved of railway enthusiasts have been swept away, the Central station remains very busy in both mainline and local rail traffic and the Tyneside Metro system.
The High Level Bridge
Built under the direction of Robert Stephenson, the High Level Bridge, a two-level rail and road bridge, is one of the great historic features of Tyneside. (The photograph above, reprinted courtesy Gateshead Library, was taken ca. 1890.) Officially opened by Queen Victoria on 28 September 1849, the bridge was a vital link in a direct East Coast route to Scotland, with trains reversing in the Central Station, then still under construction. The bridge is 1,337 feet in length and rises on stone pillars to 112 feet above the mean high water mark. The ribs of the cast-iron arches are arranged in pairs and have a span of 125 feet. The total weight of iron used in the construction of the bridge is 5,050 tons. The upper level carried three tracks until cut back to two recently; the road level some 23 feet below it was opened in 1850 and is still in heavy use today.
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