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Train stations then and now

Train stations then and now

5 June 2013

We look at some of Europe's finest train stations, and see how they've changed over the years. Please note: This blog was originally written by Kate Andrews, co-founder of Loco2 which then went on to be rebranded as Rail Europe. Our editor has just tweaked it to make sure links are up to date, otherwise the content remains unchanged.

Few would deny the thrill of travelling by train, and arriving at your destination in the heart of the city, but how much has the experience changed over the years? We know that modern trains are a world apart from their steam-powered ancestors, but what about the train stations? We've gathered these fascinating images, old and new, showing how Europe's railway stations have been transformed over time.

Luzern Station, Switzerland

Then: This old postcard of the main station in Luzern shows the distinctive cupola that sets it apart from others.

luzern then

Luzern Bahnhof from

Now: The glass and stone facade is all that remains of the grand station that once stood on the banks of Lake Lucerne. A new modern building now accommodates the trains that serve this lake-side station.

Bahnhof Luzern by Roger Witschi | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Gare d'Orsay, France

Then: Opened in 1900, Gare d'Orsay was the first electrified urban rail terminal in the world. But it has a rich history going back much further than that, as the grandeur of the building indicates. The site was originally known as the Palais d'Orsay, and housed the offices of France's state council.

Gare d'Orsay

Gare d'Orsay by Unknown (postcard) | CC BY-SA 3.0

Now: In 1939 the station became unsuitable for modern trains and the wrecking ball loomed. But in a stroke of good thinking the French government had the building listed, and in the 1970s converted it into an art museum. Quite the transformation!

Musée d'Orsay by Yann Caradec | CC BY-SA 2.0

Interlaken West, Switzerland

Then: When it was built, Interlaken West was the only station serving the area, and was thus known simply as 'Interlaken station'.

interlaken west 2

Interlaken Station from Adjusted Railways of Switzerland | 1935 Coll. BVA

Now: As more and more railway stations were built to serve the Swiss Canton Bern, the station was renamed Interlaken West. But the imposing building remains largely unchanged.

interlaken west now

Interlaken West by Craig Stanfill | CC BY-SA 2.0

Madrid Atocha, Spain

Then: When it was first inaugurated in 1851, the station we now know as Madrid Atocha station was known as Estación de Mediodía.

Estación del Mediodía by Postales de Madrid | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Now: A fire destroyed Estación de Mediodía and it was rebuilt in 1892 in the same style in wrought iron, and renamed Atocha, after a nearby basilica. Though seemingly unchanged from the outside, the addition of a sub-tropical garden on the main concourse in 1992 sets the modern station apart from its former self.

Atocha Station by Hugh Llewelyn | CC BY-SA 2.0

Estación de Atocha by Marc | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Basel Station, Switzerland

Then: Designed by Emil Faesch and Emmanuel La Roche, Basel station was built in 1907 in neo-Baroque style and is considered a heritage site of national significance.


Basel Station | Public domain from

Now: As can be seen from the picture below, not much has changed, although where there once stood a fountain you'll find tramways to explore the now much larger city of Basel.

Basel station now

Basel Station by Matt Thorpe | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Roma Termini, Italy

Then: The first incarnation of Roma Termini, Rome's largest and most central station, was completed in 1874 and was almost too big for the Papal State (which was home to just over 180,000 inhabitants). However, in fewer than fifteen years it had already proved inadequate for Rome's ever-increasing railway traffic and a series of enlargements began.

1857 roma termini

Roma Termini | Public domain from Roma Segreta

Then again: In 1947, plans to modernise and expand the station were opened up to competition. The result was a prime example of 'rationalist' architecture, which celebrated the functional aesthetic that was popular at the time.

termini old

Roma Termini from Angelo Trusiani

And now: The modernist curves and gravity-defying cantilevered design still remain and gave rise to a modern day nickname, the 'dinosaur'.

Roma Termini by Richard, enjoy my life! | CC BY-SA 2.0

King's Cross Station, UK

Then: In 1851 the station at King's Cross didn't have enough capacity to accommodate the stampede of visitors to the Great Exhibition, so a temporary station was built next door. "The London Temporary Passenger Station" remained for some years, later being converted into a potato warehouse as the permanent station established its place as the London hub for the Great Northern Railway Line.

Kings cross 1800

Kings Cross between 1870 – 1900. Courtesy English Heritage | London Reconnections 

Now: In 2005 a £500 million restoration project begun, scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. Earlier this year, another "temporary" station feature was removed at long last (this one lasted 40 years), bringing the new station design closer to completion.


King's Cross Station's public square | RailStaff.

St Pancras International, UK

Then: When it opened, the arched Barlow train shed in London was the largest single-span roof in the world.

old st pan

Trainshed, St Pancras Station | Public domain from Vichist

Now: As part of the station renovation, 20,000 litres of "Barlow Blue" paint were commissioned to repaint the ironwork and restore the station's former glory.

st pancras new

St Pancras Station by Przemysław Sakrajda | CC BY-SA 3.0 

Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Germany

Then: When it opened in 1871, the architecture for Berlin's Lehrter Bahnhof station was ahead of its time. Built in the French neo-Renaissance style, it was known as a 'palace among stations'.

Berlin Haptbahnhof before

Berlin Hauptbahnhof | Public domain from Wikipedia.

Now: After the fall of the Berlin wall, a new reunified transport plan for Berlin was put together, culminating in Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The new station opened in 2006 on the site of the old Lehter Bahnhof station.

Berlin Hauptbahnhof by Ansgar Koreng | CC BY 3.0 (DE)

Lille Flanders, France

Then: Construction ended in 1892 for Lille Flanders station. The station facade once belonged to Paris's Gare du Nord and was dismantled and rebuilt in Lille at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a large clock.

old lille station.png

Lille Flandres | Public domain from Wikipedia.

Now: Lille station still looks just as grand as it ever did!

Lille Flanders by Meri Tosh | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rostock Hauptbahnhof, Germany

Then: Rostock station was first opened in 1886, operating a combined railway/ferry line to Nykøbing Falster in Denmark.

Rostock Old

Rostock Hauptbahnhof 1920 | Public domain from Wikipedia.

Now: The station was heavily damaged in WW2 which saw extensive modernisation to the building after Germany was reunified.

Rostock NEWRostock Hauptbahnhof by Sludge G | CC BY-SA 2.0

Main image and thumbnail: Estación del Mediodía by Postales de Madrid | CC BY-NC 2.0

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