London Marylebone – When it grows up it wants to be a proper station

Don’t be fooled. There is precious little hustling and bustling at Marylebone, London’s terminus for the polite Chilterns (and occasional journeys to the wilds of Birmingham Snow Hill). Since the sad closing of the Wrexham & Shropshire line all the trains carry the blue, white and red livery of Chiltern Railways and if you can define a set of travellers by a drink you’d say this lot were “gin and tonic”.

Marylebone is not a particularly well-equipped station. For late-night commuters in need of a drink or cheap eat there may well be no choice at all. The ‘pub’ is often dark by 10, Burger King shuts its doors unfeasably early and everyone else seems to shuffle off home whilst the night could still be called young. If you’re early on the weekend you’ll find the same in reverse although you’ll probably have less need of those amusing plastic glasses with a measure of red or white in them. M&S sells those and it at least stays open until the witching hour. You can very often find tired and emotional commuters looking over the selection Marks’s bistro meals because there’s nothing else to do once you’ve read the memorial plaques, looked at the closed cheese shop and wondered just who holds their important get-togethers at The Meeting Place offices for rent.

Other stations may have gritty inner-city violence – or at the very least dodgy chicken shops and kebabis on hand – but whilst Marylebone has estates at the far end of the platforms the exit is nowhere near them and you are instead deposited opposite the Landmark hotel (I stayed there once, breakfast was £22) and the genteel surroundings of Dorset Square. If there is to be a fight here it’ll probably be over the boris bikes – Marylebone is served by only a few inadequate docks and local objections and Westminster council planners will probably keep it that way.

You’ll probably have seen more of Marylebone than you realise as it’s the go-to station for British TV programmes in need of external locations for stations. Peep Show‘s been here (and I did want to yell that trains to Bristol don’t go from there), Gavin & Stacey had a fake sign proclaiming it to be Paddington and a very strange looking programme that involved some people running and missing their train will have had me and a few other genuine people in the background as we boarded our train without looking like we were star spotting. If you can’t afford to close Waterloo for your shoot just remember that off-peak Marylebone acts like it’s closed anyway.

One last thing: do remember that it’s “Mar-lee-bone” not “marilybon” or anything similar. You wouldn’t want to be thought of as on a par with the kind of person who sounds the el in Holborn – it’d make the regular passers through choke on their G&Ts.


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