What was it that Ray Davis sang? Something about as long as he gazes on Waterloo sunset he is happy? (I may be paraphrasing there.) Well sod that. That may satisfy him, but I need more, I need to see something more than a poncy ball of burning fire in the sky, over a grotty London station. I need buildings, I need architecture, lots of building work going on that shows the vibrancy and forward thinking of where I am.
You know where I get all this? It’s the stretch of railway track between Salford Central and Victoria, there is no finer place in the world (well there probably is, but I have yet to find it!!)
I love it. When the train gets towards town, beyond the high rises of Salford, I look forward to that part of the journey and just gaze out of the window, it never fails to give me a glow. I agree some of the buildings may have seen better days, they may even look ugly, some of the newer buildings may lack character, style even, but put them all together and it’s a view to behold.
Let me take you on a journey.
The 1st buildings that strike you are the Lowry Hotel and The Edge apartment block. The 1st you get to see of the new Manchester, the 1st 5* hotel in the city and a new block of apartments built for the upwardly mobile and well to do. Both signs of Manchesters’ affluence, of how Manchester has moved away from its reputation of grimey industrial Northern city.
As you move down the track, the next building of note to hover into view is the Renaissance Hotel. In contrast to the Lowry, this harks back to the days when this was one of the top hotels in the city, but now a symbol of Manchester past, especially with the plethora of new modern hotels that are springing up in the metropolis.
As the train gets closer to Victoria, new Manchester jumps out at you, with the department stores and, currently, the big wheel of Exchange Square. To some this is a consumer nightmare, maybe even capitalism gone mad, but to me it shows how far Manchester has come since the bomb of 1996, how the much needed regeneration of Manchester has been a success. Old meets new here though, with the Corn Exchange building coming into view, now a collection of shops, bars, and restaurants, but from the outside, it is a sign of Manchesters glorious architectural past. Of course in the background is a sign of Manchesters not so glorious past with the tiled building of the Arndale, least said the better. The Premier Travel Inn building comes next into view, a converted 60s office block, bright white in colour, awful to look at with its strange windows, but with a character all of its own.
Behind this white carbuncle though, comes a view a little bit of a green oasis, yes, greenery in the city centre, located just behind the ski slope shaped Urbis, which dominates this area of the city with its glass façade and shape. Again, old meets up with new as the Printworks can be seen, now an eating and drinking centre, but once the bastion of newspaper printing, even now you can imagine the newspapers rolling hot off the press.
One of the best buildings on view at this point is Chethams school, with its beige coloured outside and library that is important to the history of the city.
But the part of the skyline that cannot be ignored at this point is the huge, CIS building. For many, the 1st thing looked for when approaching the city. I know if I have been on a train journey back from London, when I look out of the window and see the CIS, I feel reassured that I am nearly home. This building has been dominating the Manchester skyline for as long as I can remember, though its domination is under threat from the new building going up on Deansgate, the CIS buildings’ place in Manc history is assured, a Manchester company and its building dominating the sky line like that, its enough to make you fill up.
And so onto the final part of the journey, the approach into Victoria Station, and two things stand out here, the station itself and of course the adjoined MEN Arena. To be honest, the MEN is pretty much a characterless affair, but its place as Europes largest indoor arena is yet another feather in Manchesters cap. Then finally, the final building on the journey, Victoria station itself, with its large Edwardian façade which was designed by George Stephenson. There is something about Victoria, that I can’t quite put my finger on it, maybe it is the iron and glass canopy that runs around the outside of the station, or maybe the map of the route of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway which used to run from the station until the early part of the last century, a railway that of course is important in the history of Mufc and of course FC United. The only problem I have with the station is trying to keep my feet on the concourse on a wet Mancunian day.
Well I hope you have enjoyed this short journey looking at the buildings and the skyline that makes the city of Manchester so great. Join UTB next time, for maybe a trip round East Lancashire mill towns…….or erm…..something.