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London’s Paddington Station

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As my subway car rolled into Paddington Station, I felt a child-like thrill run through me.  I couldn’t believe I was actually here, in the first London landmark I had ever learned about, where a lost bear from deepest, darkest Peru was discovered and befriended.  Yes, when I was very young, Paddington Bear was my second-favorite stuffed animal, in a close race with Winnie the Pooh.  I had heard the story a million times, about how he was discovered at Paddington Station, carrying a suitcase and wearing a tag that asked someone to “Please look after this bear.”

The bear, sadly, is fictional, but the Paddington Railway Station is quite real, and it provides a vital link in England’s transportation system.  As an American, all of this train-riding is quite foreign — we just get in a car if we want to travel out into the countryside or hop on a plane to go to another city.  But in Europe, trains are the way to go — not only because of the price of gasoline, but also because the railroads seem to go everywhere, and trains leave frequently.

As a result, stations like Paddington are quite crowded.  Even so, I was able to easily figure out which train I wanted, and locate the appropriate track.

I was taking a Great Western train to Slough, then transferring to another train for the ride to Windsor.  Because I had a London Pass and a Travelcard, both train rides were free.  The Travelcard gave me access to the train, in the same way I used it for the Underground — you simply run it through the turnstile, it pops out the other side, you take the ticket, and the gate opens.

Heavy-rail trains in England are operated by different companies, but the ticketing process is coordinated by just one website.  With a few searches on National Rail Enquiries, you can figure out how to get where you’re going by rail.

On the way back, I stopped at the Paddington Bear at Paddington Station kiosk, for a slightly overpriced souvenir.  Leaving the station without taking home a Paddington Bear was out of the question.

I have read that there is a statue of Paddington Bear, somewhere at Paddington Station.  Sadly, I didn’t know about it at the time, so I didn’t see it.

The Underground station at Paddington is slightly separate from the heavy-rail trains.  If you arrive by subway, you will need to take a short walk through passageways to get to the rail station.

The Paddington Underground station serves the Circle (yellow), District (green), Hammersmith & City (pink), and Bakerloo (brown) lines.

Service at Paddington Station dates back to 1838, while much of the modern station was built in 1854.  Tube lines began service to Paddington in 1863.

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