Train travel is nostalgic and romantic. Cheap, convenient and comfortable, it is the preferred travel mode because it allows you to meander through beautiful landscapes, making the journey an experience by itself. Train stations themselves are uniquely associated with the journey – the halls, the trains, the buzzing commuters, the tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions.
More than temporary stops, train stations serve as exquisite landmarks, becoming a destination in their own right. Many have interesting histories, while others are simply stunning architectural statements from lavish classic behemoths to ultra-modern masterpieces. Behind these stations lie incredible design and engineering marvels, social considerations, environmental reflections and more importantly nowadays, seamless convenience. Here are some train stations with great features and memorable stories.
London St. Pancras International Station, UK
Named after the 3rd Century Roman martyr, St. Pancras’ red Gothic facade remains a testament to Britain’s Victorian architecture and a romantic addition to the London skyline with its glorious structure of red bricks, marble clock towers, spires and pointed arches. Completed in 1868, it was the largest enclosed space in the world at the time, connecting London with other major cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford and Edinburgh.
St. Pancras become a Grade 1 listed building in 1967 and went through major transformation to become the gateway to Europe with the inception of Eurostar train services in November 2007. The station doubled in length and six new platforms were added. Today, it is used by approximately 45 million passengers annually.
Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, India
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this gigantic train station is Mumbai’s most extravagant Victorian-Gothic building boasting quintessential colonial-era architecture. Formerly known as the Victoria Terminus, this yellow sandstone, granite and basalt station was opened in 1887 coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Considered as the younger sibling of London’s St. Pancras, this architectural marvel was the work of the architect-engineer Frederick William Stevens for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway.
Inside, it displays a wealth of Victorian craftsmanship - tiles, ironworks, high vaulted spaces, long crowded platforms with gargoyles adorning the magnificent central tower and peacock-filled windows above the central courtyard. The station is India’s busiest train station serving three million passengers daily for both long-distance and commuter services. It links central Mumbai with the residential outskirts providing a crucial connectivity to the business hub of the city.
Antwerp Centraal Station, Belgium
Antwerpen-Centraal is often dubbed the Railway Cathedral due to its monumental size and is known as one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. Built between 1895 and 1905 by King Leopold II to replace the original Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp railway terminus, the station was designed by the Bruges architect L. Delacenserie. Boasting neo-Baroque opulence, the station has over 20 types of marble and stone features within its four levels and 14 tracks.
In 1986, restoration and expansion works took place changing it from a terminus into a station, with a tunnel excavated between Berchem station in the south and Antwerpen-Dam station in the north. In March 2007, the new railway tracks opened for service allowing high-speed trains to travel through the station. Today Antwerpen-Centraal serves more than 50,000 passengers daily.
Kanazawa Station, Japan
Kanazawa Station is one of Japan’s most aesthetically pleasing train station with the architecture perfectly blending modern style with a reverence to tradition. Unveiled in 2005, the ultra-modern station welcomes passengers with its large vermilion wooden gate built in the form of a traditional torii gate, which is usually found outside of Japanese shrines. The station’s drum-shaped wooden Tsuzumi Gate and glass and steel Motenashi dome roof highlights the fusion of contemporary technology with old-fashioned design to retain the essence of this historic samurai quarters and geisha district.
Kanazawa preserves its traditional characteristics in this modern station by embedding local artistic designs. The central concourse roof is supported by a series of 12 sets of cypress wood gates, each set bearing a beautiful piece of local heritage element. These artworks represent Kanazawa’s artistry of lacquerware, woodwork and ceramics. Other traditional crafts such as yuzen silk fabric and washi papers dotted around different parts of the station as décor, including the pillars decorated with Kanazawa’s prized gold leaf which adorn the high-speed shinkansen platforms.
New York Grand Central Terminal, USA
Big Apple’s iconic landmark and busiest train station in the country, the Grand Central Terminal is an architectural grandeur with its 44 platforms and split levels. The aquamarine ceilings are lavishly decorated with the chart of the constellations and gold-leafed signs of the zodiac. Its magnificent gold chandeliers, popular restaurants, and antique gold-barred ticket windows are a time capsule to the city’s illustrious past.
First built in 1913, Grand Central was saved from destruction by New York’s landmark laws and vocal New Yorkers. Extensive efforts to restore and revive this National Historic Landmark lead to its re-dedication on October 1, 1998 when Grand Central Terminal had been restored to its original glory. The terminal is spread over 49 acres and is used by more than one million people a week.
Melbourne Flinders Street Station, Australia
Flinders Street Station is Australia’s oldest train station built in 1854. Recognisable by its unique green copper domes and distinctive bright yellow facade, it is one of Melbourne's most recognisable heritage landmarks. Inside the station, hidden from view on the third floor, lies a grand ballroom where there were once concerts, dance lessons, and ballroom competitions. The ballroom, abandoned since early 1980, has recently been brought back to life and renovated to host various exhibitions and events.
The station is the one of the busiest suburban railway stations in the Southern Hemisphere with over 100,000 commuters passing through each day. Its 708-metre main platform is the fourth longest railway platform in the world.
Thumbnail & Slider 1: https://stpancras.com/getting-here
By Adam.J.W.C. - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6869829