• University of Strathclyde

Railway History: The Rise of the Railway Station

Gain a unique insight into British history as you explore the heritage and uses of railway stations from the 19th century to now.

1,015 enrolled on this course

Vintage engraving of the Underground Station at King's Cross, London, England. 1893 to show railway history.

Railway History: The Rise of the Railway Station

1,015 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
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    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Go behind the scenes of York Railway Museum with the University of Strathclyde

Railway stations are an integral part of British history, helping to shape the economy and Britain’s built environment.

On this four-week course, you’ll discover the heritage of railway stations and their significance in British history and culture.

You’ll explore York’s Railway Museum – one of the UK’s most popular museums – and go behind the scenes to locations that are not open to the public.

With this unique insight, you’ll reflect on how railway station heritage can be preserved and displayed.

Explore railway stations as an aspect of British architecture

Victorian railway stations are a highly visible aspect of Britain’s built environment. On the course, you’ll explore how the innovative architecture and design of these stations have had a significant influence on British architecture.

You’ll also discover how stations helped to shape the urban environments of towns and cities and to draw people into rural locations.

Explore the role of the stationmaster and other station staff

Next, you’ll unpack the uses of railway stations and the people within them.

You’ll learn how stations have helped stimulate an economy centred on railway travel and provided jobs to a new cohort of workers including stationmasters, ticket office staff, and transport police.

You’ll delve further into the role of station people to understand their experiences and the current issues regarding the treatment and safety of station staff.

Learn more about the history of British railways

Finally, you’ll consider how railway stations have been represented throughout British culture in art, film, and literature.

By the end of the course, you’ll understand the importance of railway stations in British history.


  • Week 1

    Architecture and Design

    • Welcome to the Course

      Here we'll introduce you to what you'll be learning over the next 4 weeks, and who you'll be learning with.

    • Welcome to the Week

      In this activity, we'll think about the very first railway stations.

    • Styles of Stations

      In this section, we'll look at various aspects of station architecture.

    • Station Scenes

      Here we'll think about the many and varied functions of railway stations and how they might have appeared in the Victorian period.

  • Week 2

    Using the Station

    • Welcome to the Week

      Here we'll introduce what we'll be learning this week.

    • Hospitality

      In this section we'll look at how stations provided gradually more facilities - but not always the warmest of welcomes - for a range of travellers and other customers.

    • Buying and Selling

      In this activity, we'll dedicate attention to the retailers that made themselves at home in stations.

    • Spaces

      Here we'll examine the various distinct spaces in stations and how they were divided.

  • Week 3

    Station People

    • Welcome to the Week

      In this section, we'll cover what we'll be learning throughout the week.

    • The Stationmaster

      In this activity, we'll learn about the role of the stationmaster.

    • Station Occupations

      Now we've learned about the stationmaster, we'll turn our attention to the other occupations present in the railway station.

    • Safety, Crime and Spectacle

      We'll now dedicate some time to looking at how railway stations were often contentious sites, places of crime, protest and spectacle.

  • Week 4

    The Station in the Cultural Imagination

    • Welcome to the Week

      Here, we'll cover what we'll be learning in our final week.

    • The Station in Art

      In this activity, we'll think about representations of the railway station in art of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    • The Station in Literature

      We'll now move on to explore how the railway station is represented in literature, across various genres.

    • The Station and Children

      Before we conclude, we'll think about connection between children and the railway station in literature.

    • Summary and conclusion

      To conclude this week, we'll summarise what we've learned and have some space for discussion.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the history of British railway stations and their development through time
  • Debate issues in railway station history
  • Investigate railway station history by following up on course materials and finding new information

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in British history, railway heritage, and industrial heritage.

It will be most beneficial for current railway employees and current employees in industrial heritage such as museum curators.

Who will you learn with?

I am the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling, and from 2018-22 have led the research project 'Piston, Pen & Press: Literary Cultures in the Industrial Workplace.'

Dr. Oliver Betts is the National Railway Museum's Research Lead. He oversees the academic and research profile of the museum and has a deep love of all things Victorian and Railways!

Who developed the course?

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde is a leading international technological university located in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, committed to useful learning.

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Choose the best way to learn for you!

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Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 18 Jun 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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