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A train station (alternatively station,[note 1] railway station or railroad station) 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 building (depot) providing related services such as ticket sales and waiting rooms. Connections may be available to intersecting rail lines or other transport modes such as buses.
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. 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. 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".
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. Countries where railways arrived later may still have such architecture, as later stations often imitated 19th-century styles.
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.
Stations built more recently, like Berlin's new Hauptbahnhof station, 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.
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 back to the station to pick up departing passengers.
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:
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 newly rebuilt Antwerp station 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 Florida or Virginia. Auto Train uses Lorton, Virginia Station for three primary reasons:
The largest and most famous rail terminus in the United States is Grand Central Terminal in New York City, United States. 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, switching operations.
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 some 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.
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).
See also railway station layouts
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.
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.
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, is a small railway station, usually unstaffed and with few or no facilities. In some cases, trains only stop "on request"; i.e. when a passenger on the platform indicates that they wish to board, or a passenger on the train informs the crew that they wish to alight.
In the United Kingdom, most former halts on the national railway network have had the word halt removed from their names. Historically, in many instances the spelling 'halte' was used, before the spelling 'halt' became commonplace. The only passenger station with the name 'halt' still in use today on the national network is (on the station platform sign) Manchester United FC Halt, which has a service only on football match days at Old Trafford stadium. However, 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 (e.g. IBM Halt)(British Steel Redcar railway station), military base (e.g. Lympstone Commando) or railway yard. The only such station where the "halt" designation is still officially used is 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.
In many Commonwealth countries, the term "halt" is still used.
In the United States, such stations are now referred to as a flag stop.
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 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.
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.
Baggage carts for rental in a German Train station
Early stations were usually built to handle passengers and goods. Today goods are usually only unloaded at big stations. Stations are next to a railway line, or they are the terminus for a route. Usually there are platforms to let passengers get on and off the train easily and safely. Many stations have things such as shelters, ticket sales and benches.
The busiest railway station in the world is Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan. The largest station is Nagoya Station in Nagoya, Japan. The busiest station in Europe is Clapham Junction in south London in the United Kingdom. At peak times, there is one train every 13 seconds there.
Gare de Lyon (nojhan).jpg
This is a terminus station (one of six in Paris). Trains that go through (and do not terminate) here have to change their direction. On the other hand, people can walk from one track to another without the need to cross tracks.
Railway stations usually have either ticket booths, or ticket machines. Ticket sales can also be together with an information desk or a shop. Many stations have a shop or a kiosk. Bigger stations often have fast-food or restaurants. In some countries these stations also have a bar, or a pub. Other station facilities are: toilets, left-luggage, lost-and-found (lost property office), timetables, trolleys, waiting rooms, taxi ranks and bus stops.