“Untangling the tracks” opened to the public on Friday 24 May 2019 and will run for a year.
The exhibition traces the history of the Thameslink route from 1836 through to the ambitious Thameslink Programme, a government sponsored collaboration between Network Rail, train operators Govia Thameslink Railway and Southeastern, and train builders Siemens.
Visitors will be able to see how this huge infrastructure project to transform and modernise an aging railway and its stations, while ensuring passengers could still travel, was undertaken. The exhibition will also show how communicating such major infrastructure projects to the travelling public has been undertaken, by creating eye catching posters and other communication material.
Visitors will be able to have a go at solving an ‘Untangling the Tracks’ puzzle by navigating trains into the right platforms. The game is inspired by the impressive engineering of the Bermondsey Dive Under, a new structure built to the south of London Bridge station. This section of track is more than 150 years old and was one of the most complex layouts in the world. Like a motorway flyover, the Bermondsey Dive Under enables Thameslink and Southern trains serving Sussex to ‘pass over’ Southeastern trains travelling to and from Kent. This innovative engineering solution removed a bottleneck which caused delays when trains had to pause to let others criss-cross in front of them.
Also, on display will be miniature models of the central London stations which have been transformed, including Blackfriars station which is the only station to span the river Thames. Solar panels in its 250-metre-long roof means 50 per cent of the station’s energy can be produced in an environmentally-friendly way.
London Bridge was also completely redeveloped. Architects had to work carefully around its listed features. The construction of the Borough Viaduct, through the historic Borough Market, doubled the number of tracks heading west out of London Bridge station. The Victorian market roof was taken off site and preserved, before being put back in place when the viaduct was complete.
The exhibition will also include video footage showing how the market’s heritage features were preserved.
The protected sight lines of St. Paul’s Cathedral had to be taken into consideration during the Blackfriars station rebuild. The biggest challenge was keeping these stations open to the public while major building work was carried out. A total of 20 stations were improved as part of the Thameslink Programme.
Train fans will love the giant image of the new class 700 train with cut-away sections to show how these trains improve the experience for passengers. Visitors will also be able to experiment with a class 700 train model, testing the train’s payload capacity to see if they can get their passengers to spread out evenly through the carriages.
Paul Harwood, Director of Route Investment at Network Rail, said: “This exciting exhibition shows how the Thameslink Programme follows in the great tradition of engineering innovation and excellence which created the rail network in the first place. Everyone involved in the programme has played a part in solving complex problems, while ensuring passengers could still travel. I am sure visitors will have great fun trying to untangle the tracks and the exhibition will hopefully help inspire the next generation of engineers.”
Sam Mullins, Director for London Transport Museum, said: “This new exhibition shows what a mammoth task it is to rebuild our ageing central London stations, ‘untangle tracks’ and safe-guard the heritage of our historic buildings while keeping services running for thousands of passengers a day. The Thameslink Programme and its partners have achieved a feat of engineering and we are sure our visitors will enjoy discovering the secrets behind this complex ‘Untangling the Tracks’ project.”