A train station, or a railway station (in Commonwealth English) or a railroad station (in US English) or simply station,[note 1] is a railway facility where trains regularly stop to load or unload passengers and/or freight. It generally consists of a platform next to the track 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 often has a passing loop to facilitate the traffic. The smallest stations are most often referred to as 'stops' or, in some parts of the world, as 'halts' (flag stops).
The world's first recorded railway station was The Mount on the Oystermouth Railway in Swansea, Wales, which began passenger service in 1807. The two storey Mount Clare station in Baltimore, Maryland, which survives as a museum, first saw passenger service as the terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on 22 May 1830. The world's oldest station built for steam locomotives which is still in use is Broad Green railway station in Liverpool, England, which was built in 1830 and is on the Liverpool to Manchester Line. The joint oldest terminal station in the world (the other being Manchester's Liverpool Road, see below), 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 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, the joint oldest terminal station in the world (and the only surviving one), 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 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 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 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.
Stations usually have staffed ticket sales offices, automated ticket machines, or both, although on some lines tickets are sold on board the trains. Many stations include a shop or 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, bus bays and even car parks. Larger or manned stations tend to have a greater range of facilities. A basic station might only have platforms, though it may 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 businesses. This is especially true on tourist routes or stations near tourist destinations.
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 rolling stock and carrying out minor repair jobs).
Configurations of stations
In addition to the basic configuration of a 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 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 tracks. 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.
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 track 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.
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 Zürich Hauptbahnhof.
An American example of a terminal with this feature is Washington, DC's Union Station, where there are bay platforms on the main concourse level to serve terminating trains, and standard island platforms one level below to serve trains continuing southwards. Those tracks run in a tunnel beneath the concourse and emerge a few blocks away to cross the Potomac River into Virginia.
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. Often major cities, such as London, Boston, Paris, Istanbul, 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, taxi or ferry) from one terminus to the other. For instance in Istanbul transfers from the Sirkeci Terminal (the European terminus) and the Haydarpaşa Terminal (the Asian terminus) requires crossing the Bosphorus via alternative means. Though 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.
A junction is a station where two or more rail routes meet. It could be a terminus or an en-route station.
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 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 Commonwealth is a small 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 only two publicly advertised and public accessible national rail stations with the suffix 'halt' remaining: Coombe Junction and St Keyne Wishing Well 
A number of other halts are still open and operational on privately owned, heritage, and preserved railways throughout the British Isles. 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 had also sometimes been 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 I B M near Greenock - although this is no longer restricted - and British Steel Redcar), military base (such as Lympstone Commando) or railway yard. The only two such remaining "private" stopping places on the national system where the "halt" designation is still officially used seem to be Staff Halt (at Durnsford Road, Wimbledon) and Battersea Pier Sidings Staff Halt - both are solely for railway staff and are not open to passengers.
The Great Western Railway in Great Britain, began opening haltes 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 traditionally 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 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 1830 Park Lane Goods Station at the South End Liverpool Docks. Built in 1830 the terminal was reached by a 1.24 miles (2,000 m) 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, busiest and highest stations
- Tanggula Railway Station located in Amdo County, Tibet, China is currently the highest station in the world. As of 2010, no passenger transport service was available since the region is uninhabited. India's proposed Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Railway, once completed, will reach an even higher elevation.
- The world's busiest passenger station, in terms of daily passenger throughput, is Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. 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. But subsequent stations have also been claimed as larger than Beijing West; Beijing South, Guangzhou South, Nanjing South, Shanghai Hongqiao and Xi'an North all also claim to be Asia's largest.
- In terms of platform capacity, the world's largest station by platforms is Grand Central Terminal in New York City with 44 platforms 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 station by total passenger numbers.
- Clapham Junction, in London, is Europe's busiest station by daily rail traffic (one train every 13 seconds at peak times; one train every 30 seconds at off-peak times).
- Zürich Hauptbahnhof, Switzerland, is Europe's busiest terminus by daily rail traffic (Clapham Junction is a through station).
- Leipzig Hauptbahnhof in Germany is Europe's largest station by floor area (24 platforms and several levels of shopping facilities beneath).
- Berlin Hauptbahnhof is Europe's largest grade-separated and two-level station (6 upper and 8 lower platforms).
- Munich Hauptbahnhof is Europe's largest station by number of platforms (34, plus 6 additional platforms serving the U-Bahn).
- Penn Station in New York City is the busiest station in North America.
- Toronto's Union Station is the busiest station in Canada.
- Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue in New York City is the world's largest elevated terminal with 8 tracks and 4 island platforms.
- The Shanghai South Railway Station, opened in June 2006, has the world's largest circular transparent roof.
- Châtelet-Les Halles, in the centre of Paris, is the busiest underground station in the world. Approximately 750,000 passengers pass through it per day.
- The New Delhi Railway Station in New Delhi, India holds the record for the largest route interlock system in the world.
The Quetta railway station.
Baggage carts for refundable deposit in a German railway station
View of Alps from Brig railway station
Low-lying platform at a station in the outskirts of Bern
Milano Centrale railway station in Italy
Antwerp Central Station in Belgium, nicknamed the "Railway Cathedral"
- List of highest railway stations in the world
- Station building
- Bus station
- Bus stop
- Bus terminus
- Classification yard
- Goods station
- Interchange station
- Intermodal freight transport
- Intermodal passenger transport
- List of IATA-indexed railway stations
- List of railway stations
- Marshalling yard
- Metro station
- Public transport
- Railway station layout
- Signal box
- Station code
- Tram stop
- Train order station
- Paid area
- Train ticket
- "Station" is commonly understood to mean a railway station unless otherwise qualified; c.f. 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..."; "station" is also the universal English-language term adopted by the International Union of Railways.A proposed definition is offered at http://www.railchronology.free-online.co.uk/Definition%20of%20Railway%20Passenger%20Station.htm
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Railway station.|
- A comprehensive technical article about stations from Railway Technical Web Pages
- Branch Line Britain gives details of many railway stations throughout Britain
- Old photos of UK railway stations old photos of British railway stations before the Beeching closures
- Railway buildings photo album of railway buildings
- Railway stations photo album of railway stations around the world
- Heritage Railway Stations of Canada from Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
- Postcards of Railroad Stations, 1903 to 1972 from the Hagley Library's Digital Archives