Many of you know that I have enjoyed rail travel in the past. Whether across our great country, or the famous Trans Siberian Railway across Russia, I have enjoyed most every trip. And for those of you still working, yes, train travel is for retirees, since it takes more time. Here are some interesting train facts.
Train stations, once quaint and archaic expressions of architecture and beauty, are becoming the bustling nerve centers of many of the world’s largest cities. Train travel is convenient and can be much easier than traveling by car or bus, but that does not mean it doesn’t come with a cost. Train travel makes it easy to connect parts of city, region, town or country. However, of the many train stations in the world, there are quite a few that currently run at full capacity.
More people than ever are traveling by train. As the transportation infrastructure continues to be tested, a number of major train stations around the world are nearing their maximum capacity. This development has led many stations to add new lines, platforms, and trains to help cope with the influx of passengers.
Of the world’s 51 busiest train stations, all but six are located in Japan. Connecting central Tokyo with the western suburbs, Shinjuku station was built to handle 3.5 million passengers. It has 10 platforms, 20 tracks, and five stations located within the hub. It is currently ranked as the largest train station in the world, and there are plans in the works to add a high-speed connecting line. This train station is enormous and can be difficult for some travelers, but it generally runs on time.
I have been here several times, and it is huge. But it has everything nearby, including some of the best izakayas in Tokyo. And it is an easy jaunt to either of Tokyo’s main airports. Staying at a hotel nearby is both fun and somewhat chaotic.
A close second to its sister station Shinjuku, Shibuya serves just under 2.5 million passengers annually. Many of the station’s train travelers are commuters coming in from the suburbs to Tokyo during the workweek. Opened over 100 years ago, Shibuya is owned jointly by three different companies and ranks as the busiest train station to connect to subway travel.
Shibuya is also home to the famous Hachiko statue, where people like to meet up before heading out to eat or play. Crossing this intersection is one of the most incredible movements of humanity, easily dwarfing Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, or the Champ Elysees. But again, it is both chaotic and fun. And it also has numerous places to eat nearby.
Almost 3,000 trains pass through this station (Zurich Hauptbanhof) daily, making it one of the busiest and most well traveled stations in the European Union. It is set between two rivers and has a busy tram stop right in front of it. It is the largest railway in Switzerland and serves as a major train travel hub for the rest of the EU with service to most neighboring countries. There are 26 tracks that serve almost 155 million passengers a year. There are currently projects in development to handle the large influx of passengers.
It has been a while since I have been here. Though a lovely city, it has rather strange memories for me. I learned on my birthday, back in 1971, that my father passed away while passing through Zurich. But I also had to “hide” two American girls in my room for the evening. They were being harassed by two swarthy locals, and sought refuge with me!
The Station of the North (Gare du Nord) is one of the six large end-line train stations in Paris, and it serves almost 200 million travelers annually. Following a major expansion in 1964, there are currently 44 full service platforms, making it the second-largest station in the EU. In addition to serving international lines, this train station also serves regional and national routes and bus routes. There are currently two subway lines. To handle the large influx of train travel passengers, there are plans underway to build a train corridor between the Station of the North and the Station of the East.
Yes, this is where you land when you take the Eurostar from London, or want to head out to the Champagne region. It has some decent shopping, and always some rather enticing bakeries. Things could be worse.
In less than two minutes, Penn Station serves almost 1,000 passengers. It is one of the busiest train stations in all of North America, connecting the biggest city (New York City) in the United States with many cities along the Eastern Seaboard. Serving as a connecting hub for the remainder of the country, there are plans to add many regional routes and Amtrak trains, which will increase the overall load of train travel coming into and out of the station. There are plans to expand Penn Station to be able to send off 33 trains every hour.
The thing about Penn Station, applies to New York City as well. It is high energy and tends to take over my emotions. I always find it difficult to stay calm here, or for that matter, anywhere in New York. But I figure that is why we visit, and something would be wrong with me if I did not feel that way!
An international station, Union Station (Toronto) serves over 2 million train travel passengers every day. Classified as a national historic site, Union Station is considered one of the most exquisite examples of Beaux-Arts. The train station is protected under an agreement that mitigates the changes that can be done to the station. The city of Toronto officially owns the station and can make the final decision on what enhancements and changes happen to it. The train station connects with the city subway, making it an easy choice for commuters and visitors.
Best part of this station is the ease of connecting to or from Toronto’s international airport via an inexpensive, fast rail line. But I spent too much time here last year, waiting for my VIA Canadian Rail trip form Toronto to Vancouver. It is a pleasant place to hang out, just not for several hours!
What I really want you to do is try this sometime, and soon. Who knows how much longer Amtrak will continue to operate. I have really enjoyed my time on the rails, met some rather interesting people, and may take one or two more before I hang up my train travels.