I got interested in trains at a young age. My dad was a commuter who took the same train in and out every day. My mom told me one time that if I listened real closely while I was in bed, I would hear the train whistle as it came near the station, and I’d know my dad was nearly home. She was right. I did this for many years, listening for that whistle.
When my parents thought I was old enough, my dad took me into work with him and I got to ride the train for real. I was impressed with the train itself, but not the station so much. We don’t live in a huge town, and so the station was very utilitarian. I remember thinking, “That’s it?” and going home to look up what some real stations look like. It is a hobby I continue to indulge in. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Grand Central, Manhattan, New York (or, as it is officially known, Grand Central Terminal). This historical landmark is probably one of the most famous in the country, and for good reason. The Main Concourse ceiling is a recently-restored work of art: a starry sky and the constellations that make up the zodiac. Then there is the iconic information booth clock in the Main Concourse, which may not sound impressive. But look at a picture of it and you’ll realize that, even if you live nowhere near midtown Manhattan, you know that clock – it’s been in lots of movies. Same goes for the Tiffany clock outside at 42nd and Park. You can also find one of the greatest train museums on this side of the world: The New York Transit Museum is an incredible destination all in itself. The terminal is a train lover’s dream with 44 different tracks, shops, dining, a ‘hidden bar’, an event hall, and even a tennis court. You never have to leave.
Antwerp Centraal Station, Antwerp, Belgium. This is another amazing station. Its opulence was in keeping with Belgium’s flashy ruler of the time, Leopold II. The dome over the waiting room hall and the architectural details are incredible, enough to give you a seriously stiff neck from looking up while you ogle all of it. They recently made some renovations to add room for super trains, which is really cool.
St. Pancras International, London, England. I am amazed that with all the bombings London received during WWII, and the significant role the station played for the Allies, that the Germans left this place standing. This wonderful red brick “cathedral of the railways” connects travelers from all over Europe, and is even home to a London Underground stop. It also has plenty of shopping as well as a champagne bar!
Gare Du Nord, Paris, France. Continuing into Europe, you cannot miss the many windowed-Gare Du Nord – and it’s pretty hard to avoid, as it connects different subway lines, regional trains, international lines, and a commuter train. Outside the entrance, you will see various statues depicting the different cities that you could visit from the station (Paris in the center, naturally). You might recognize it even if you know nothing about trains, as it has been featured in several Bourne Identity movies, Amélie, and even Ocean’s Twelve.
I know this is a really short list, but it’s the ones I’ve been able to see firsthand so far. Maybe one day soon I’ll get to visit more, or I’ll detail a wishlist of some stations I haven’t seen.