Train station

Train station
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A train station, also called a railway station (mainly British Commonwealth) or railroad station (mainly US), and often shortened to just station,[note 1] is a railway facility where trains regularly stop to load or unload passengers or freight (goods). It generally consists of a platform next to the tracks and a station building (depot) providing related services such as ticket sales and waiting rooms. If a station is on a single track main line, it usually has a passing loop to facilitate the traffic. The smallest stations are referred as stops or mainly in the British Commonwealth, halts (flag stops). Connections may be available to intersecting rail lines or other transport modes such as buses or rapid transit (metro) systems.



Built in 1830, Liverpool Road station in Manchester is the oldest surviving railway terminus building in the world.
Broad Green station, Liverpool, shown in 1962, built in 1830 is the oldest used station in the world
Opened in 2006, Berlin Hauptbahnhof is a large station at the crossing point of two major railways and features modern, abstract architecture. Berlin used to have a ring of terminus stations, similar to London and Paris, but these were gradually replaced with through stations over the period of 1882-1952.

The world's oldest railway station built for steam locomotives still in use is Broad Green railway station in Liverpool, which was built in 1830 and is on the Liverpool to Manchester line. The world's oldest terminal station was Crown Street railway station in Liverpool, built in 1830, also on the Liverpool to Manchester line. The station was the first to incorporate a Train shed. The station was demolished in 1836 as the Liverpool terminal station moved to Lime Street railway station. The station was converted to a Goods station terminal.

The grand Retiro railway station in Buenos Aires, 1915, was the largest station in the world at the time. The station was built in Liverpool in England and shipped over to Argentina.
Liverpool Lime Street Station is fronted by a chateau
The Vitebsky station in Saint Petersburg, an example of a grand Russian terminal.

The first stations had little in the way of buildings or amenities. The first stations in the modern sense were on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, opened in 1830.[1] As of 2008, Manchester's Liverpool Road Station is preserved as part of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. It resembles a row of Georgian houses. Early stations were sometimes built with both passenger and goods facilities, though some railway lines were goods-only or passenger-only, and if a line was dual-purpose there would often be a goods depot apart from the passenger station.[2]

Dual-purpose stations can sometimes still be found today, though in many cases goods facilities are restricted to major stations. In rural and remote communities across Canada and the United States, passengers wanting to board the train had to flag the train down in order for it to stop. Such stations were known as "flag stops" or "flag stations".[3]

Many railway 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.[4] Countries where railways arrived later may still have such architecture, as later stations often imitated 19th-century styles. Berlin Central Station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof), Various forms of architecture have been used in the construction of railway 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.[5]

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, TGV lines in France and ICE lines in Germany.

Station facilities

The typical non-terminus Lewes railway station in East Sussex, United Kingdom. Passengers reach the island platform (on right) by a pedestrian footbridge. Two further platforms are out of view.

Railway stations usually have ticket booths (British English: "ticket office" or "booking office"), ticket machines, or both, although on some lines tickets are sold on board the trains. Ticket sales may also be combined with customer service desks or convenience stores. Many stations include a form of convenience store. Larger stations usually have fast-food or restaurant facilities. In some countries, stations may also have a bar or pub. Other station facilities may include: toilets, left-luggage, lost-and-found, departures and arrivals boards, luggage carts, waiting rooms, taxi ranks and bus bays. Larger or manned stations tend to have a greater range of facilities. A most basic station might only have platforms, though it might still be distinguished from a halt, a stopping or halting place that may not even have platforms.

The interior of the Chennai Central one of the busiest train stations in India.

In many African and South American countries, and in many places in India, stations are used as a place for public markets and other informal business. This is especially true on tourist routes or stations near tourist destinations, as souvenirs can be made and sold to "wealthy" visitors to the country.

As well as providing services for passengers and loading facilities for goods, stations can sometimes have locomotive and rolling stock depots (usually with facilities for storing and refuelling locomotives and rolling stock and carrying out minor repair jobs).

Configurations of railway stations

The Platform No.10 of the Secunderabad Railway Station at twilight

In addition to the basic configuration of a railway station, various features set certain types of station apart. The first is the level of the tracks. Stations are often sited where a road crosses the railway: unless the crossing is a level crossing, the road and railway will be at different levels. The platforms will often be raised or lowered relative to the station entrance: the station buildings may be on either level, or both. The other arrangement, where the station entrance and platforms are on the same level, is also common, but is perhaps rarer in urban areas, except when the station is a terminus. Elevated stations are more common, not including metro stations. Stations located at level crossings can be problematic if the train blocks the roadway while it stops, causing road traffic to wait for an extended period of time.

Occasionally a station serves two or more railway lines at differing levels. This may be due to the station's position at a point where two lines cross (example: Berlin Hauptbahnhof), or may be to provide separate station capacity for two types of service, e.g. intercity and suburban (examples: Paris-Gare de Lyon and Philadelphia's 30th Street Station), or for two different destinations.

Stations may also be classified according to the layout of the platforms. Apart from single-track lines, the most basic arrangement is a pair of railway tracks for the two directions; there is then a basic choice of an island platform between, or two separate platforms outside, the tracks. With more tracks, the possibilities expand.

Some stations have unusual platform layouts due to space constraints of the station location, or the alignment of the railway lines. Examples include staggered platforms, such as at Tutbury and Hatton railway station on the Derby - Crewe line, and curved platforms, such as Cheadle Hulme railway station on the Macclesfield to Manchester Line. Triangular stations also exist where two lines form a three-way junction and platforms are built on all three sides.


Aerial view of the Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) in Zurich, Switzerland; As well as being a terminus, the station now has underground S-Bahn platforms serving a newer line that runs beneath the city centre.

A "terminal" or "terminus" is a station at the end of a railway line. Trains arriving there have to end their journeys (terminate) or reverse out of the station. Depending on the layout of the station, this usually permits travellers to reach all the platforms without the need to cross any tracks – the public entrance to the station and the main reception facilities being at the far end of the platforms.

Sometimes, however, the railway line continues for a short distance beyond the station, and terminating trains continue forwards after depositing their passengers, before either proceeding to sidings or reversing to the station to pick up departing passengers. Bondi Junction is like this.

Many terminus stations have underground rapid-transit urban rail stations beneath, to transit passengers to the local city or district.

A terminus is frequently, but not always, the final destination of trains arriving at the station. However a number of cities, especially in continental Europe, have a terminus as their main railway stations, and all main lines converge on this station. There may also be a bypass line, used by freight trains that do not need to stop at the main station. In such cases all trains passing through that main station must leave in the reverse direction from that of their arrival. There are several ways in which this can be accomplished:

  • arranging for the service to be provided by a multiple unit, or push-pull train, both of which are capable of operating in either direction. The driver simply walks to the other end of the train and takes control from the other cab. This is increasingly the normal method in Europe.
  • by detaching the locomotive which brought the train into the station and then either
    • using another track to "run it around" to the other end of the train, to which it then re-attaches;
    • attaching a second locomotive to the outbound end of the train; or
  • by the use of a "wye", a roughly triangular arrangement of track and switches (points) where a train can reverse direction and back into the terminal.
Grand Central Terminal in New York City is the world's largest railway station by number of platforms, having 67 tracks on two levels.

Some former termini have a newer set of through platforms underneath (or above, or alongside) the terminal platforms on the main level. They are used by a cross-city extension of the main line, often for commuter trains, while the terminal platforms may serve long-distance services. Examples of underground through lines include the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras in London, the Argyle and North Clyde lines of Glasgow's suburban rail network, the recently built Malmö City Tunnel, in Antwerp in Belgium, the RER at the Gare du Nord in Paris, and many of the numerous S-Bahn lines at terminal stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, such as at Zurich Hauptbahnhof.

An American example of a terminal with this feature is Washington, DC's Union Station, where there are higher-level platforms, Gates A through G serving the terminating trains, such as some Northeast Regionals, the Vermonter and all Acela Expresses. Some other Northeast Regional trains and Atlantic Coast service trains use lower-level platforms, Gates H through L (there is no Gate I), that tunnel right under the station concourse and continue to Virginia and beyond. Auto Train uses Lorton, Virginia Station for three primary reasons:

  • the tri-level auto racks used to carry the cars are too tall to fit in the tunnels;
  • the platforms would be too short to accommodate the 30-60 coach trainset;
  • there is not enough room and there are too many tracks, trains, buildings and people around, so loading cars would be quite tricky.

Terminus stations in large cities are by far the biggest stations, with the largest being the Grand Central Terminal in New York City, United States.[6] Often major cities, such as London, Boston, Paris, Tokyo and Milan have more than one terminus, rather than routes straight through the city. Train journeys through such cities often require alternative transport (metro, bus or taxi) from one terminus to the other. Some cities, including New York, have both termini and through lines.

Terminals that have competing rail lines using the station frequently set up a jointly owned terminal railroad to own and operate the station and its associated tracks and switching operations.


main article Junction (rail)

A junction is a train station where two or more rail routes meet. It could be a terminus or an en-route train station.


A small terminus station is St Ives, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.
A remote railway halt in Wales, United Kingdom.

During a journey, the term station stop may be used in announcements, to differentiate a halt during which passengers may alight from a halt for another reason, such as a locomotive change.

A railway stop is a spot along a railway line, usually between stations or at a seldom-used station, where passengers can board and exit the train.

While a junction or interlocking usually divides two or more railway lines or routes, and thus has remotely or locally operated signals, a station stop does not. A station stop usually does not have any tracks other than the main tracks, and may or may not have switches (points, crossovers).


A halt, in railway parlance in the British Commonweath, is a small railway station, usually unstaffed and with few or no facilities. In some cases, trains stop only on request, when passengers on the platform indicate that they wish to board, or passengers on the train inform the crew that they wish to alight.

In the United Kingdom, most former halts on the national railway networks have had the word halt removed from their names. Historically, in many instances the spelling 'halte' was used, before the spelling 'halt' became commonplace. There are three national rail stations with the suffix 'halt' remaining: Coombe Junction, St Keyne Wishing Well and IBM.

A number of other halts are still open and operational on privately owned, heritage, and preserved railways throughout the British Isles, and the word is often used informally to describe national rail network stations with limited service and low usage, such as the Oxfordshire Halts on the Cotswold Line. The title halt is also sometimes applied colloquially to stations served by public services but not available for use by the general public, being accessible only by persons travelling to/from an associated factory (for example IBM near Greenock and British Steel Redcar), military base (such as Lympstone Commando) or railway yard. The only such stations where the "halt" designation is still officially used are IBM Halt and Hoo Junction Staff Halt on the North Kent Line, which is used by staff to access marshalling yards and is not open to passengers.

The Great Western Railway, in Great Britain, began opening haltes [sic] on 12 October 1903; from 1905, the French spelling was anglicised to 'halt'. These GWR halts had the most basic facilities, with platforms long enough for just one or two carriages; some had no platform at all, necessitating the provision of steps on the carriages. There was normally no station staff at a halt, tickets being sold on the train. On 1 September 1904, a larger version, known on the GWR as a 'platform' instead of a 'halt', was introduced; these had longer platforms, and were usually staffed by a senior grade porter, who sold tickets, and sometimes booked parcels or milk consignments.[7][8]

In many Commonwealth countries, the term "halt" is still used.

In the United States, such stations are now referred to as flag stops.


Accessibility for people with disabilities is mandated by law in some countries. Considerations include: elevator or ramp access to all platforms, matching platform height to train floors, making wheelchair lifts available when platforms do not match vehicle floors, accessible toilets and pay phones, audible station announcements, and safety measures such as tactile marking of platform edges.

Goods stations

Goods station with fan of sidings and hump signals at Rostock, former East Germany, 1986

Goods or freight stations deal exclusively or predominantly with the loading and unloading of goods and may well have marshalling yards (classification yards) for the sorting of wagons. The world's first Goods terminal was the Park Lane railway goods station at the South End Liverpool Docks. Built in 1830 the terminal was accessed by a 1.25 mile tunnel.

As goods have been increasingly moved by road, many former goods stations, as well as the goods sheds at passenger stations, have closed. In addition, many goods stations today are used purely for the cross-loading of freight and may be known as transshipment stations. Where they primarily handle containers they are also known as container stations or terminals.

Largest and busiest stations

Nagoya Station in Japan is the world's tallest railway station building.
The Gare du Nord in France is Europe's busiest station.
Clapham Junction, in South London, United Kingdom, is the busiest station in terms of rail traffic with an average of one train every 13 seconds at peak times.


  • The world's busiest passenger station, in terms of daily passenger throughput, is Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.[9] The station was used by an average of 3.64 million people per day in 2007.
  • As of 2006, the world's largest station was Beijing West station in Beijing.[10] But today, many new stations are larger than Beijing West; Beijing South, Guangzhou South, Nanjing South, Shanghai Hongqiao and Xi'an North all also claim to be Asia's largest.[11]
  • In terms of platform capacity, the world's largest station by platforms is Grand Central Terminal in New York City with 44 platforms[12] and, as part of the East Side Access Project, the MTA will be adding 4 more platforms to accommodate future Long Island Rail Road trains.



  • The Gare du Nord, in Paris, is Europe's busiest railway station by total passenger numbers.
  • Clapham Junction, in south London, is Europe's busiest railway station by daily rail traffic (one train every 13 seconds at peak times; one train every 30 seconds at off-peak times).
  • Zurich Hauptbahnhof, Switzerland, is Europe's busiest railway terminus by daily rail traffic (Clapham Junction is a through station).


  • Leipzig Hauptbahnhof in Germany is Europe's largest railway station by floor area (24 platforms and several levels of shopping facilities beneath).
  • Berlin Hauptbahnhof is Europe's largest crossing station and two-level station (6 upper and 8 lower platforms).
  • The Gare du Nord, in Paris, is Europe's largest railway station by number of platforms (44 - two not in service).

North America

Other records


See also


  1. ^ "Station" is commonly understood to mean "railway station" or "train station" unless otherwise qualified. This is evident from dictionary entries e.g. Fowler H W and Fowler F G, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed., 1995, where the primary meaning is given as "a regular stopping place on a railway line..." and "bus station" and "coach station" have separate entries under "bus" and "coach" respectively. "Station" is also the universal English-language term adopted by the International Union of Railways.


  1. ^ Moss, John (2007-03-05). "Manchester Railway Stations". Manchester UK. Papillon. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  2. ^ "The Inception of the English Railway Station". Architectural History (SAHGB Publications Limited) 4: 63–76. 1961. doi:10.2307/1568245. JSTOR 1568245. 
  3. ^ "Stations of the Gatineau Railway". Historical Society of the Gatineau. Retrieved 2006-05-11. 
  4. ^ Miserez, Marc-André (2004-06-02). "Stations were gateways to the world". SwissInfo. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  5. ^ "Italian Railroad Stations". History of Railroad Stations. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ MacDermot, E.T. (1931). "Chapter XI: The Great Awakening". History of the Great Western Railway. Vol. II (1st ed.). Paddington: Great Western Railway. p. 428. ISBN 0711004110. 
  8. ^ Booker, Frank (1985) [1977]. The Great Western Railway: A New History (2nd ed.). Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0 946537 16 X. 
  9. ^ "Machines & Engineering: Building the Biggest". Discovery Channel. 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  10. ^ "Shanghai to have Asia's largest railway station". Xinhua. 10 August 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "State begins public review for new Moynihan Station" (Press release). Empire State Development. 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  14. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T., ed.. Encyclopedia of New York City,. pp. 891. 
  15. ^ "The railway station with world's largest transparent roof". People's Daily. 2006-06-26. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  16. ^ "Un pôle de transport d'envergure régional" (in French) (PDF). RATP. Archived from the original on 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 

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