America’s Train Stations: A Trip Back in Time

America’s Train Stations: A Trip Back in Time

The United States offers some of the best train rides around. You will get to see a side of the country you have never seen before, ride over valleys and peaks, through tunnels, and snaking rails. It is unlucky that only a few people today consider Amtrak when they go cross-country. They either book a plane ticket or go on a long drive.

Even if it is not the first in the world to lay down tracks (that distinction belongs to the UK), America now has the longest rail network in the world, followed by China, Russia, and India.

Overall, the entire network covers more than 250,000 kilometers, although a large swathe only operates to deliver cargo. Passenger cabs, meanwhile, only cover a track that spans 35,000 kilometers. Amtrak is the leading service provider with over 30 routes that connect 500 cities and towns in 46 states.

These hand-drawn images show the blueprint of the terminals, junctions, and yards. In fact, you can take a trip back in time and see how it all developed using railroad track charts.

However, most people who take the train would probably overlook the stations and terminals that they pass by. It is unfortunate since they should be revered for their place in America’s history.

Here are some of the iconic train stations that should be on your bucket list of selfies:

  1. Jackson Station, MI — The station opened on Sept. 1, 1873, and still retained the original architectural design, described as “Victorian-Italianate.” Most of the materials, particularly the wood, are sourced in Michigan.
  2. Grand Central Terminal — Found in midtown Manhattan, it is probably the most iconic and recognizable of America’s train stations. The station is also one of the most visited tourist attractions, hosting 21.6 million visitors in 2018.
  3. Main Street Station, VA — The station opened in November 1901 and is renowned for its Renaissance Revival architecture. The building itself is made from brick and terracotta. The most unique feature is the six-story tower with four clock faces.
  4. Mount Clare Station, MD — The terminal in Baltimore holds the distinction as the oldest station that is still operating today. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company officially opened it to the public in 1830.
  5. 30th Street Station, PA — Go inside its cavernous halls and you will immediately be transported back in time, particularly in the early 1930s when it was founded. The 95-foot ceilings will make you feel small and the chandeliers only added to the old-world charm.
  6. King Street Station, WA — The station was founded in 1906. The clock tower is distinctly a Seattle feature, and used to be the tallest structure in the city when it was built.
  7. South Station, MA — Your visit to Boston would not be complete without visiting this iconic structure, which opened on New Year’s Day in 1899. The building was designed in a Neoclassical Revival style with a Bald Eagle perched on top of the clock on the structure’s facade.

Of course, it is not by no means a definitive list of the train stations in the US. There are hundreds of terminals in America, each with its own story.

Anyway, if you are a railway enthusiast, you would love the railroad track charts. You can purchase a scan of the original track chart, depending on the year, and take a glimpse into how the minds of the early planner’s worked. You might even retrace the tracks now and get to see the changes, if there are any.


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