By Geoff Courtney
THE former Midland Hotel is within yards of a main line and in a street named after a pre-Grouping railway. Not far away lie a rank of sidings that are still in very active use and a once-busy steam depot, all in a county town with two stations, one of which welcomes nearly four million passengers a year.
So the name of the 19th century building – The Paddington – that started life as a hotel more than 150 years ago and has been converted into bedsits, shouldn’t raise any eyebrows. But it surely does, even those of non-enthusiasts who would fail to distinguish between an A4 Pacific and an N7 tank.
For The Paddington isn’t within the GWR heartlands of west London, Bristol, Exeter or South Wales and isn’t close to any other part of the company’s former territory. It is in Bedford, deep in the operating stamping ground of the Midland Railway and LMS and directly opposite the site of the town’s first main railway station, which in 1978 was relocated 100 yards up the road.
And to compound the conundrum, the locomotive adorning the building’s sign has, if one is imaginative and allows for artistic licence, echoes of a GWR locomotive rather than a design from the pen of William Stanier or any of his predecessors or successors.
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