The World’s Most Iconic Railway Stations
Travelling by train has its own charm. Steaming hot local food, long chats with fellow passengers, bunk berths, the absence of long winded safety protocols and turbulence, and of course, the scenery! The best way to get to know a country is to traverse it by rail. An added benefit of travelling by train — and one which often gets overlooked — is that it provides the traveller an opportunity to marvel at some of the world’s most stunning architecture. Yes, you read that right… Railway stations are quite often amongst the most iconic buildings in cities and towns across the world. From lavish Victorian buildings to ultra-modern hi-tech designs, train stations need to be added to the list of plusses for train travel.
To kick off our list of the world’s most iconic railway stations is Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the station was designed by Frederick William Stevens with influences from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and traditional Mughal buildings and built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
In neighbouring Pakistan, the Lahore Junction railway station is an iconic building. It was constructed by Mian Mohammad Sultan Chughtai, a former official of the Mughal Empire, between 1859-1860, and served as the headquarters for the Punjab Railway. Later it served as the northern terminus of the Scinde, Punjab and Delhi Railway.
In Turkey, there’s the important Haydarpasa Terminal, opened in 1872, when the railway reached Gebze. In 1888 the Anatolian Railway (CFOA) took over the line and the station. Since the station was built next to the Bosphorus, freight trains would unload at Haydarpaşa and the freight would be transferred to ships. Haydarpaşa station saw its first regular passenger service in 1890: a daily train from Haydarpaşa to İzmit.
Also in Turkey is the beautiful Istanbul Sirkeci Terminal, located on the tip of Istanbul’s historic peninsula right next to the Golden Horn and just northwest of Gülhane Park and the famous Topkapı Palace. Built in 1890 by the Oriental Railway as the eastern terminus of the world-famous Orient Express, Sirkeci Terminal has become a symbol of the city.
Next on the list is the Antwerp Centraal Station, built between 1895 and 1905 as a replacement for the original terminus of the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp Railway. The stone clad terminus buildings, with a vast dome above the waiting room hall were designed by Louis Delacenserie. The viaduct into the station is also a notable structure designed by local architect Jan Van Asperen.
Paris’s Gare du Nord is another important European station. The first Gare du Nord was built by Bridge and Roadway Engineers on behalf of the Chemin de Fer du Nord company, which was managed by Léonce Reynaud, professor of architecture at the École Polytechnique. The station was inaugurated on 14 June 1846, the same year as the launch of the Paris–Amiens–Lille rail link. Since the station was found to be too small in size, it was partially demolished in 1860 to provide space for the current station.
Elsewhere in Europe is the iconic St. Pancras International station in London. Widely known for its Victorian architecture, the station stands between the British Library, King’s Cross station and the Regent’s Canal. It was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway as the southern terminus of its main line which connected London with the East Midlands and Yorkshire. When it opened, the arched Barlow train shed was the largest single-span roof in the world.
In America, is Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. Built by and named for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad in the heyday of American long-distance passenger rail travel, it covers 48 acres (19 ha) and has 44 platforms, more than any other railroad station in the world. Its platforms, all below ground, serve 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower, though the total number of tracks along platforms and in rail yards exceeds 100.
East side, the Kuala Lumpur railway station is an iconic station. Completed in 1910 to replace an older station on the same site, the station was Kuala Lumpur’s railway hub in the city. The main structure, which contains a main hall, ticket counters and offices, is primarily designed in a “Raj” styling, mixture of Western and Mughal similar to Moorish Revival or Indo-Saracenic architecture.
Also east is the Tokyo Station in Japan’s capital city. Served by Shinkansen high-speed rail lines, Tokyo Station is the main intercity rail terminal in Tokyo. It is the busiest station in Japan in terms of number of trains per day (over 3,000). Much of the station was destroyed in B-29 firebombing on May 25, 1945. The bombing shattered the impressive rooftop domes. The station was quickly rebuilt within the year, but simple angular roofs were built in place of the domes, and the restored building was only two stories tall instead of three. These postwar alterations are blamed for creating the mistaken impression that the building is based on the central station in Amsterdam. Plans in the 1980s to demolish the building and to replace it with a larger structure were derailed by a preservation movement.