Architect draws from experience at over 20 train stations to discuss common design challenges
Years ago, a client showed me his elaborate model train set. As his Lionel train—the engine even puffed smoke!—circled the track, he reflected on the history of rail. We also discussed the architectural styles of some of the buildings within his display.
This train buff is one of many for whom enthusiasm for rail travel runs deep. Despite Uber, electric vehicles, and the approaching self-driving car, the heyday of train travel remains deeply embedded in the public consciousness. For many communities, the most prominent symbol of their connection to rail travel is the train station.
In some cases, that station is a neglected shack in dire need of repair or replacement. In others, it’s a beautiful gateway to the community, an icon that builds pride and, sometimes, an inspiration for future development. I’ve even seen communities use a station as a venue for wedding receptions!
Unfortunately, many stations have lost their allure for a variety of reasons: lack of maintenance, a careless design, etc. Every day across the nation, hundreds of thousands of commuters drift through stations to catch a ride to work. But these stations can be so much more than places to buy a ticket and wait.
The beloved train station might apply the Richardsonian Romanesque style with masonry and arches. Or, it might be a steel and glass expression of forward movement. Regardless of whether it’s historic or contemporary, a train station makes a statement about its community’s values.
I’ve been involved with the design over 20 train station projects, ranging from façade repairs and interior renovations to brand new stations. Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about some of the problems that communities face with train stations, as well as the most important parts of train station design. I do hope that you’ll join me for the journey.