Cathedrals of mobility
Grand Central Terminal (officially opened in 1913, photographed in 1930)
Liège-Guillemins (opened in 2009)
Antwerpen-Centraal (opened in 1905)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (opened in 1888 as Victoria Terminus)
The vision of a Transpod Hyperloop terminal
67 tracks! 75 meters (246 ft) tall!
180 (591 ft) meters of façade! 2,600 trains and and two million passengers daily! No matter in what era they were built: Train stations are still breaking records today. Their history is inseparably tied to the rapid growth of worldwide rail transportation. As important elements of our cultural heritage, the most beautiful, extravagant stations symbolize the era of a world in motion.
Nobody had any idea of how the summer of 1835 was going to fundamentally change the world. The first railroad established in Continental Europe from Nuremberg to Fürth is deemed to have been one of the central events marking the birth of rail transportation – which goes on to see a truly explosive development. In 1840, only 8,591 kilometers (5,338 mi) of railroad tracks exist in Europe and as early as in 1880, a railroad network of more than 365,000 kilometers (226,000 mi) opens the door to the world. Sheer endless bands of steel make the remotest corners accessible, shortening what used to be week-long journeys to the length of day trips. Far-away cities are now nearby; railroad tracks make people’s dreams of distant places and yen for travel reality.
Marble, domes and baroque style
This rapid breakthrough development is synchronously reflected in the station architects’ zeal to build. Train stations are the central anchoring points of this novel and interurban mobility. And these anchoring points nurture the evolution of the cities that surround them in ways that only ports did before them. The big wide world is now moving into the space behind the doors and facades of the stations’ concourses. They deliver on the railroad’s promise of overcoming space and time. Many cities stage their participation in this Europe-wide and global journey into mechanized mobility in stone, marble and glass. Antwerpen-Centraal receives its 75-meter (246-ft) tall domed concourse as early as in 1905 the Gare du Nord in Paris a 180-meter (591-ft) long neo-classicistic façade in 1864 and the western terminal Nyugati Pályaudvar in Budapest begins to boast its neo-baroque glass façade in 1877 by Gutave Eiffel. In 1888, the Victoria Terminus in Bombay manifests the splendid Indo-Saracenic architectural style in which cultures merge into an all-new entity – today, 1,300 trains are still beckoning two million travelers daily to enter its concourses.
Train stations are abodes of wanderlust
Train travel anticipates what we call globalization today. Railroads pave the way into continents, overcome distances and make it possible to experience cultures in other parts of the world: The Orient Express invites travelers to visit Constantinople. Between New York and Seattle, Los Angeles and Miami trains with names like California Zephyr, Flying Yankee, Silver Meteor or Empire Builder rush through the United States. Many of them are headed for the Grand Central Terminal of 1913, the world’s largest train station with 67 tracks. The Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow with the far eastern lands of the Russian Empire and in 1957 the Trans-Europ-Express begins to traverse at high speed countries that are just slowly beginning to grow together politically.
Even to those who couldn’t afford to travel in those days train stations would offer the chance to indulge in a little bit of wistful wanderlust – by walking through awe-inspiring portals, window shopping in the classicistic sandstone concourses, sharing the dreams of far-away places and adventures with the people in the waiting halls. Train stations provided the appropriate setting for nurturing the hopes linked to departures, feeling the pain of farewells, and the shedding of tears of joy upon the arrival of loved ones returning from a journey.
A standard time
Train stations in the course of time
And then the automobile appears on the scene and redefines all dreams of long-distant travel and mobility. From the 1950s on, its triumph causes one rail service after another, one rail line after another to disappear and train stations are falling victim to the mass of cramped suburban trains that degrade from being a symbol of the pleasures of travel to a symbol of the daily grind. Only when high-speed trains make cities increasingly fast to reach and the railroad pits its fortes against the over-abundance of automobiles the tables turn again. Today, masterpieces of engineering – just having traveled as swift as arrows at 300, 350 kilometers (180, 220 mi) per hour – are rolling into the familiar stations, reviving the travel bug inspired by the trains of old and again evoking the feeling that distant places and regions can be reached, except much faster now than even the most imaginary visionaries were able to foresee.
At the end of the 20th century, train stations again become heralds of a new age. Architects like Santiago Calatrava recognize their mission of turning train terminals into symbols of forward-thinking mobility. Modernity and mobility once again are mutually dependent. At Liège-Guillemins – opened in 2009 as a terminal for the Thalys and Intercity high-speed trains – the filigree, modernistic architecture stands for new departures: Trains have long begun to outperform cars and are serious competition for airliners. Calatrava, in 1994, had already expressed this futuristic vision in the architecture of the Lyon Saint-Exupéry terminal and, in 1998, in the Lisbon Expo terminal Estação do Oriente. A little later, this trend was continued in the design of the Southern Cross Railway Station in Melbourne, Australia, and the symbiosis between train stations and shopping malls brought to the fifth continent.
Connecting links to a mobile future
Today, both upmarket and normal shopping complement the pleasure of traveling before we nestle into an upholstered seat in the compartment of a train that seems to be flying toward our destination at magic speed. Thus, train stations will continue to be places of transition and transformation, connecting links of stone or steel between the past belief in progress and the future viability of modern engineering achievements.
Mammoth marshaling of goods
Speed records in the course of time
Rolling giants – Schaeffler in rail transportation
As a central development partner of traction system and vehicle manufacturers Schaeffler makes rail transportation more sustainable, efficient, quieter and safer. The portfolio extends from axlebox bearings, traction motors and transmission bearings to wheels and components for vehicle articulation joints, braking and door systems. In addition, railroad operators are able to capture condition data of entire bogies using the Schaeffler Condition Monitoring System to achieve longer mileages and maintenance intervals while increasing operating reliability.
Rail transportation in and between conurbations requires shorter and shorter passenger-service intervals, enhanced riding comfort and more eco-friendly technologies. We support traction system and vehicle manufacturers with increasingly powerful components and integrated systems, also, by the way, as mileage-extending retrofit solutionsDr. Michael Holzapfel,
Vice President Business Unit Railways Europe
With a research team on the campus of the Chinese Southwest Jiaotong University (SWJTU) Schaeffler is intensifying its collaboration in research and development of axlebox bearings for rail-bound vehicles. SWJTU is regarded as one of the world’s leading universities in the field of railway engineering. “The challenges facing future extra-urban mobility are enormous, as interurban transportation is heavily increasing,” says Professor Peter Gutzmer, Chief Technology Officer at Schaeffler and visiting professor at SWJTU. “With its expertise in manufacturing bearings for rail-bound vehicles Schaeffler has been active in this industry for more than 100 years. The collaboration with SWJTU makes it possible for us to create solutions for interurban mobility of tomorrow. We bring together the university’s research expertise and our mechatronics know-how as well as our expertise in systems for predictive maintenance of axlebox bearings.”