hauptbanhof1

A trip to Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof

If you’re looking to visit one of Europe’s historical railroad stations, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof probably isn’t it. Opened in 2006, the city’s “main” or “central” station is a modern mix of rail and commercial space, encased in glass. There is, however, something to be said about the station’s upper floor, with a dome that evokes the train sheds of yesteryear (the glass is, however, thoroughly modern and contains 2700 square meters of solar paneling). While several tracks are located below ground, and there is a U-Bahn station further underground that will transport you to the Reichstag or Brandenburg Gate, the station’s most photogenic spot likely can be found under that dome.

The Lehrter Bahnhof in 1879
The Lehrter Bahnhof in 1879

Historically, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof was constructed on the former site of the Lehrter Bahnhof, which dated back to 1871. Unfortunately, that station was heavily damaged in World War II, and after the partition of Germany – which wreaked havoc on the city’s transportation systems – it was ultimately decided to demolish it. The last train departed the station in August of 1951, and by 1959 the station was completely gone, though the Stadtbahnhof viaducts which ran overhead were preserved.

Lehrter Stadtbahnhof
The Lehrter Stadtbahnhof in 1998, photo by Röhrensee.

The adjacent Lehrter Stadtbahnhof station, opened in 1882, lasted longer than the Lehrter Bahnhof, but ultimately met the same fate. Carrying suburban traffic, these trains were electrified and were given the name S-Bahn in 1930. Although surviving World War II intact, the division of Germany similarly affected the station. After the construction of the Berlin Wall, West Berliners boycotted the S-Bahn, as it was operated by the state railway of East Germany, which further took its toll. Although West Berlin assumed control of the station in the 1980s, and it was subsequently renovated for Berlin’s 750th anniversary, the Lehrter Stadtbahnhof finally met its end in 2002 to make way for the Hauptbahnhof.

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A Farewell to White Plains station staple – Waxman’s News

Any regular commuter through White Plains is likely familiar with Gary Waxman, proprietor of the station’s newsstand. And if you were a real regular, chances are Waxman even knew you by name. Last night, however, marked the end of an era – it was Waxman’s final day of work in the station.

Waxman's News
Some final sales are made at Waxman’s News in White Plains.

Years before Metro-North was even established, Gary Waxman’s father purchased the retail space for the newsstand in the long-gone Warren & Wetmore-designed White Plains station. The younger Waxman spent weekends working the newsstand, and ultimately opted to work there full time instead of heading off to college. The elder Waxman bowed out of newsstand operations in 1986 due to illness, and Gary has run the business ever since. Much has changed since then, most notably the old station being torn down and a new one constructed in 1987. Waxman’s News was, of course, reestablished in the new White Plains station.

Alas, after many years Waxman has called it quits. With the rising cost of rent, and the falling sales of newspapers, Waxman opted not to put in a bid for a renewed contract with the MTA. Reunion Coffee, the other establishment in the station, also did not get a renewed contract and the space has been sitting vacant since January. Plans for a Tim Horton’s in the space have not yet produced anything, leaving many commuters disappointed. The transition for the newsstand, however, will be far smoother. In fact, the new proprietor took over today. Undoubtedly some folks probably never even noticed, with the exception of some potentially higher prices, and an operator that didn’t know your name.

Although his job is done, Gary Waxman made an appearance at the station this morning to bid regulars farewell. Tom Roach, mayor of White Plains, will be holding a small farewell ceremony at the station for Waxman this morning. President of Metro-North Joseph Giuletti, who met Waxman when hosting a commuter forum at the station in April, was invited to attend.

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A Railroad Journey to Ukraine: Chernihiv

Roughly a hundred miles north of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv is the city of Chernihiv. Chernihiv has quite a long history, dating back to the medieval times, and it is also home to Ukraine’s oldest church. In terms of railroads, the first station in Chernihiv was established in 1893, part of a narrow-gauge branch line of the Moscow-Kiev-Voronezh Railway. Passengers were carried into the city proper by horses until the 1920s when a bridge over the Desna River was constructed, allowing trains into the main part of the city, where a new station was constructed. By 1928 there were connections from Chernihiv to Gomel, in present-day Belarus, to the city of Ovruch in Ukraine, and to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

The Chernihiv – Ovruch line was a relatively unimportant one, primarily constructed for military purposes, but in the most coincidental sense had drastic effects on the Soviet Union and the world. The rail line played a part in the decision of where to locate Ukraine’s very first nuclear power plant, a place the world knows as Chernobyl (Chornobyl would be the proper Ukrainian transliteration). Since the nuclear reactor explosion in 1986, a portion of that rail line was abandoned – a story I’m hoping to flesh out over several posts in the coming weeks.

Train from Slavutych arrives at Chernihiv
Train from Slavutych arrives at Chernihiv. Slavutych is the “replacement” city for those that worked at the Chernobyl plant, constructed after the disaster. The rail line again played a part in the location of this place.

The station that one finds in Chernihiv now was built in 1950. The previous station at that location was destroyed during World War II, or as it is known in former Soviet locales, the Great Patriotic War. Chernihiv was occupied by Nazi forces from 1941 to 1943, and the retreating Soviet army practiced a scorched Earth policy, which included the destruction of railroad infrastructure. The station was destroyed at some point in 1941, either by Nazi bombardment, or by the retreating Soviets themselves to prevent the Nazis from getting any use out of it. The station was rebuilt in 1950, using the labor of German POWs. The attractive design comes from Ukrainian Soviet architect Gennady Ivanovich Granatkin, who is responsible for the designs of several stations throughout the Soviet Union, in today’s Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine.

Old paint scheme of Chernihiv station

Old paint scheme of Chernihiv station
Old paint scheme of the station, it was repainted to a solid reddish orange around 2003. Photos circa 1970s.

Over the years, several modifications have been made to the station at Chernihiv, primarily being the scheme in which it is painted. Originally red and green, the station is now a solid reddish orange after renovations in 1999 and 2003. While sculptural elements featuring the Soviet hammer and sickle have been left intact, more current coats of arms have been added to the front and back. The city’s 1992-established coat of arms – a black eagle with a crown and cross – can be found on both sides, and the coat of arms of Ukraine is visible on the back side of the building. The station is generally regarded as one of the more beautiful stations in all of Ukraine, and is certainly one of my favorites.

Diagram of Chernihiv station
Map diagram of the station in Chernihiv, showing the building’s old red and green paint scheme. The line listed above the station is the remnants of the Chernihiv – Ovruch line – trains from Chernihiv go no further west than Iolcha since the Chernobyl disaster. The 20 kilometer branch line extending from Zhukotky (on the top left of the diagram) to Zhidinichi was closed in 2006 and dismantled around 2008. View translation of Cyrillic station names.

Today one can board long-distance trains at Chernihiv for destinations like Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Minsk, and Odessa. Despite being roughly forty miles south of the border, the station serves as a border control point for trains arriving from neighboring Belarus. Two commuter operations, one to the city of Nizhin, and another to Iolcha on the former line to Ovruch, also operate from Chernihiv. Though a portion of the aforementioned line was abandoned after the Chernobyl disaster, it is still possible to take a train to the Chernobyl plant, although not directly from Chernihiv. Several daily trains operate from Slavutych to Semikhody, which is adjacent to the Chernobyl plant – though that is a story for another day.

 
 
   
  
   
 
  
   
  
 
  
   
 

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A Fiery Centennial – Hartford Union Station

Exactly one hundred years ago, Connecticut was gripped in a frigid and snowy winter, much like the one we are currently experiencing. And exactly one hundred years ago last Friday, Hartford’s Union station was ablaze. On its own, a fire can be pretty devastating enough, but coupled with the snow, firefighters had difficulty getting to the station to put the fire out. Ultimately there were several small explosions, one of which displaced a large section of the roof, pieces of which fell and destroyed the ticket office. The station was heavily damaged, and much of the items in the baggage room – where the fire started – were destroyed.

Hartford Union Station Fire
Hartford Union Station Fire Hartford Union Station Fire
All fire photos are from the Connecticut Historical Society, accessible at CTHistoryOnline.org

Originally constructed in 1889, Hartford’s Union station was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which first gained popularity in the Boston area and was used for several stations along the Boston and Albany Railroad. Conceptually designed by local architect George Keller, the bulk of the design work fell to architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, successors of Henry Hobson Richardson (which is where the “Richardsonian” part comes from. Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge also designed a few stations we’ve featured: Chatham, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown). The station featured the typical arches and rusticated stonework characteristic of his style, using stone quarried in Portland, Connecticut.

Hartford Union Station Fire
Hartford Union Station Fire Hartford Union Station Fire

Besides the 100th anniversary of the fire, the station is also celebrating the centennial of its rebirth. The entire building was not completely destroyed by the aforementioned fire, but the roof and interior were both gutted. Though some of the decorative arches at roof level were only slightly damaged, it was decided that the rebuild would not be to the exact specifications of the old station. Roof-level decorative elements were removed, and stonework was repaired – now bearing the date “1914″. The “new” Union Station boasted a full third story, and, as one would imagine, a fireproof roof.

Hartford Union Station Fire
The station after the fire was put out. Note the detail on the roof that no longer exists.

Despite spending the first twenty plus years of my life living in Connecticut, I am mildly embarrassed to admit that I had never visited Hartford’s Union Station until recently. Likewise, I must also admit that I was unaware that Hartford’s Latin motto is Post nubila, phoebus (after clouds, the sun). That motto can be found within the station, above the doors that once led out to the platform, flanked between the past and present of railroading – steam and electric.

Train at Hartford
A northbound train at Hartford in the late 1940s. Note the Capitol visible in the background. [image source]

These days, Hartford is not the hub it once was. No longer are the days where trains were plenty, and it has been many decades since quasi-celebrity citizens like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe called Hartford home. About twelve trains stop daily at the station, the station is along Amtrak’s Vermonter, and Northeast Regional routes, and is a station stop on the New Haven – Springfield shuttle. Technically trains don’t run from the historical building – Amtrak occupies out of an addition underneath the viaduct carrying the railroad over the city, along with bus operators and a few fast food kiosks. One can, however, enter the addition from the historical depot.

If you’re ever passing through Hartford, the old station is at least worth a look. The stonework and detailing found on the exterior is undoubtedly beautiful, only marred by a few trappings of today – you’ll find security cameras just above decorative elements, and a garish Subway logo above a once more graceful arch. Be sure to check out the artwork at the top of the steps, and keep your eyes peeled for views of the the Capitol building from the platform.

 
  
   
  
   
  
 
 
 
  
 
  
  
 

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Taking a ride on Denver’s Light Rail, Part 2

Today’s Friday afternoon photo tour takes a quick visit back to Denver to catch the new West Rail Line, or W Line. Construction began on this line in 2007, and it was finally opened at the end of April, 2013. The 12.1 mile route runs from the Jefferson County Government Center to Denver’s Union Station, and added eleven new stations to the light rail system.

All of today’s photos are from the new W Line, including some photos of two Art-n-Transit pieces. Over 900 application were received from artists looking to create something for the new rail line. Artworks were commissioned for each of the new stations, though a few have yet to be installed. Found at the Lakewood-Wadsworth Station is a glass sculpture titled “Rain and Sun” by artist John Rogers. Colored pieces of glass are suspended on wires, which reflect sunlight onto the platform in an array of colors.

 
Concept art for the art at Lakewood-Wadsworth Station

 
 
Installed kinetic glass sculpture by John Rogers found at Lakewood-Wadsworth Station.

A mosaic titled The Winds of Change can be seen in the photos of the new Garrison station, created by Mike Squared Mosaics. Mike Squared Mosaics are the works of two Colorado artists – Mike Cody and Mike Juarez. The duo fire their own custom made mosaic tiles, all of which are hand-cut. The 220 foot “mosaic mural” combines tile, glass, and even pottery in a colorful and somewhat abstract portrayal of the area’s natural history.


Concept art for the mosaic at Garrison station

   
 
 
Installed mosaic by Mike Squared Mosaics at Garrison station.

Besides the full commissioned artworks, you’ll notice that there are various pleasingly aesthetic elements found at the stations. Benches at several stations feature imagery of tall grasses on panels of layered glass. Other benches have cutouts that carry a similar theme. Concrete panels with stylized grass in relief can also be found in places along the line. All in all the new line turns out to be a nice ride, complete with nice views of downtown Denver’s skyline.

  
 
   

 

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