A railway station is a place where trains stop to pick up or drop off passengers. It is a complex facility with passenger amenities such as waiting rooms, ticket offices and facilities to handle baggage. It is also where the train’s drivers change over (transfer). In addition, many stations have shops and restaurants to make it a more attractive and comfortable place for passengers to wait. Some stations are designed to look like the buildings they house, while others are a bit more utilitarian in style. Some of the more stunning stations are landmarks in themselves, while others evoke an era or movement.
There are different types of railway stations and a lot depends on what the railway line is used for. In the early days of railroads, there were generally separate passenger and freight stations because the lines were either passenger-only or goods-only. However, as the industry grew, companies began to standardize station designs and layouts for certain purposes. A typical large city or suburban station may include many different facilities such as baggage rooms, lounges, telegraph offices, ladies’ sitting areas, smoking rooms, ticket offices, lodging for crew and more.
In terms of architectural style, stations often follow a modernist or postmodernist aesthetic. Some of these include glass and steel buildings, while others are more reminiscent of the past with their brick or stone construction. There are even stations that combine elements of different styles such as the Victorian-Gothic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, India. It was built in a lavish, Victorian-Gothic design and is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Many stations also offer amenities for people with disabilities, including elevator or ramp access to platforms, platform heights that match the floor of train cars, audible station announcements, tactile marking of platform edges and covering of the third rail. These features are typically mandatory in many countries as they improve accessibility for people with physical or cognitive disabilities.
In the case of through stations, a basic choice is whether to build island platforms between tracks or side platforms on each side. Some stations are designed with a combination of both, which can add to the confusion for passengers. Other options are to use a passing loop or to have one track that continues off the straight main line and merges back into the main track on the other end. In some cases, this allows for a long exit track so that departing trains can pull away from the station before they reach a red signal, thus freeing up the platform for other trains entering. This is called an escape depot and is useful when a station is too busy to have enough space on each platform for all the trains that need it. This type of station is particularly effective for ro-ro ports that serve both goods and passenger trains.