While trains may seem like an outdated form of transportation, they can be a highly effective and sustainable option. From historical stations that are grand and ornate, to modern feats of engineering, they are a beautiful building that makes the form of transportation all the more enticing.
The History of Train Stations
The world’s first recorded railway station was The Mount on the Oystermouth Railway (later to be known as the Swansea and Mumbles) in Swansea, Wales, which began passenger service in 1807, although the trains were horsedrawn rather than by locomotives. The two-storey Mount Clare station in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, which survives as a museum, first saw passenger service as the terminus of the horse-drawn Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on 22 May 1830. In the United States in particular, rail travel was highly associated with idealogical and economic ideals for the country. To understand the importance of the train station in the United States of America as a building type, one must familiarise with the country’s Railroad Era and its significance in American history. The invention of the locomotive due to the Industrial Revolution was a stepping stone to a capitalist and mobile society and served initially for intercontinental expansion. At the outbreak of the respective wars, it was a means of transporting goods and soldiers. As a symbol of America’s relentless pursuit of speed, innovation, technology, and the changing political landscape, the Railroad’s arrival was encapsulated in an ideal structure. As the importance of the Railroad increased, so did its associated architecture. Each city began seeking to represent and stage its respective entrance, embodied by the arrival at a station.
In the earliest days of railways, nobody knew how a station should be or what it should look like; it was simply to accommodate staff and passengers waiting for trains. Sometimes old buildings were used for station purposes. Even the first names given to stations did not clearly indicate their function. In some countries (such as France or Spain), stations were initially called “pier” where people board ships. Similarly with airplanes, the word “airport” derived its name from ships as “the port for air traffic”. Intermediate stations were simply known as “halts”. The first stations were often modest, functional buildings. In many cases, stations also served other purposes of the railway company such as main offices, sometimes headquarters or maintenance workshops, etc. Stations were systematically located out of the city centre. There was no question of disrupting or destroying the cities at that time – in some cases that would come later. In the early days of railways the train was considered impressive and futuristic but not a clean mode of transport. Early stations were sometimes built with both passenger and freight facilities, though some railway lines were goods-only or passenger-only, and if a line was dual-purpose there would often be a freight depot apart from the passenger station. Dual-purpose stations can sometimes still be found today, though in many cases goods facilities are restricted to major stations.
When the growth of passenger and freight traffic began to structure countries and society, railway companies became increasingly important and needed more financing. Consequently, a railway’s façade to the city (the station) had to be more impressive in order to build investor confidence and attract more money to finance this mode of transport which would change the world. In the second half of the 19th century large, iconic buildings started to emerge in big (and smaller) cities and the names of architects began to appear alongside those of railway companies. The first dilemma regarding the functional design of stations (and railway operations in general) in big cities was whether they should be the terminus or a through-station. In big cities it was thought that stations should represent the end of the railway line, and consequently tracks should end at the station terminal.Many stations date from the 19th century and reflect the grandiose architecture of the time, lending prestige to the city as well as to railway operations. Countries where railways arrived later may still have such architecture, as later stations often imitated 19th-century styles. Various forms of architecture have been used in the construction of stations, from those boasting grand, intricate, Baroque- or Gothic-style edifices, to plainer utilitarian or modernist styles. Stations in Europe tended to follow British designs and were in some countries, like Italy, financed by British railway companies.
Stations built more recently often have a similar feel to airports, with a simple, abstract style. Examples of modern stations include those on newer high-speed rail networks, such as the Shinkansen in Japan, THSR in the Republic of China, TGV lines in France, and ICE lines in Germany.
The 20 Most Spectacular Railway Stations Around the World
1. Toronto Union Station
Union Station is Canada’s busiest, multi-modal passenger transportation hub, a designated national historic site and a significant part of Toronto’s history and identity. More than a quarter-million people use Union Station daily. The City led Union Station’s revitalization with three objectives: to improve the quality and capacity of pedestrian movement, to restore heritage elements and to transform the Station into a major destination for shopping, dining and visiting.
Construction on this iconic landmark began in 1914 amidst a materials shortage during World War I, but the station didn’t officially open until 1927. Since then, Union Station has welcomed waves of immigrants to Toronto, survived a major fire, and endured more than 90 years of wear and tear. In 1975, Parks Canada designated Union Station a National Historic Site because it was, and still is, the country’s finest example of a classical beaux-arts railway station. Union Station is the largest of the great urban train stations built during the early 20th century. Since acquiring Union Station in 2000, the City continues to own, manage and improve the station and is currently leading a multi-year revitalization that will make Union Station, one of Toronto’s crown jewels, spectacular again.
Union Station was designed in the grand manner of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris by a team of architects composed of the Montreal firm of G.A. Ross and R.H. MacDonald, Hugh Jones of the CPR and John M. Lyle of Toronto. It was built by Canadian Pacific Railway and Grand Trunk Railway at a time when a railway station was viewed as the gateway to a city, Union Station was the largest and most opulent train station erected in Canada during the last great phase in railway station construction. Construction began in 1913 but was delayed for several years because of the First World War.
The shape of the ceiling is echoed in the four-storey, barrel-vaulted windows on the east and west walls. Mid-way up the north and south walls are carved the names of the cities that were then serviced by the CPR and the Canadian National Railways (CNR), the government-owned railway that replaced the Grand Trunk. The list alternates from side to side, naming the cities from east to west. The interior walls are of Zumbro stone from Missouri; the floors are Tennessee marble, laid in a herringbone pattern. The exterior walls of the station are Indiana and Queenston limestone. Each of the 22 Bedford limestone columns weighs 75 tons is 40 feet high.
2. World Trade Center Transportation Hub
3. Liège-Guillemins Railway Station