Unlike Europe, train travel in South America is not connected by a cohesive network between countries, and often not even within countries. In some countries like Argentina, train travel is experiencing a renaissance, yet in many others, train travel is more of a rarity.
Nevertheless, South America has a wealth of stunning stations throughout the continent. From a station dreamed up by the designer of the Eiffel Tower, to one in the Victorian style like stations in London, the variety of styles is expansive.
For train enthusiasts, architecture lovers, and general amateur historians, we dip back in time and look into some of the most beautiful train stations in South America.
1. Estação Júlio Prestes
The wealth of the Brazilian coffee bean business paved the way for this station. It was originally a hub for transporting that precious source of caffeine.
Displaying an undeniable grandeur and inspired by Grand Central Station in New York, this station is characterized by neoclassical planar columns. More recently, the main hall became a Louis XVI European styled concert hall featuring 22 balconies and an adjustable ceiling.
Don’t forget to check the time on the clock towering above to make sure you catch your train.
2. Estación de Desamparados
Translated to English, this name means "Homeless Station" - which doesn't necessarily line up with the fine architecture.
This colorful three-story station was the first of many public works by Peruvian architect Rafael Marquina
. Constructed with modern materials, the monumental facade adheres to the symmetry and elaborate ornamentation of the timeless Beaux-Arts architectural standards.
3. Estación Constitución
With approximately half a million passengers passing daily, this Argentinian stop is one of the busiest stations in South America.
The station has continually adapted to meet the needs of travelers through four noteworthy construction stages dating back to 1865. The result? A seamless blend of different architectural periods from Neoclassical to Renaissance and Greco-Roman forms.
On top of that, the Great Hall alone is an elaborate construct. It stands a stunning 25 meters high (almost 9 stories).
4. Estación de la Sabana
The country mascot, a sculpted condor, wings spread wide, perches atop the Estación de la Sabana in western Bogota. How's that for a welcome?
In the early 1900s, the Bogotá Savannah Railway was at the dawn of branching out across Colombia. This particular station took the rails west of the city and is an undeniable tribute to the golden days of rail travel.
Now, the station is primarily a transit stop for the tourist line TurisTren where you can catch a ride on a classic, steam locomotive.
5. Estación Central
Designed by the one and only Gustave Eiffel (after whom the Eiffel Tower is named), this National Monument is a pride of Santiago.
Not to mention, since 1983 the site has been historically protected and can never be demolished or even remodeled. As a result, the crisp, stately buildings will be there for years to come.
There is one more significant feature we don't dare leave out: the elegant metal canopy fabricated over the train platforms. This canopy was engineered by the industrial giant Schneider of Le Creusot (now Schneider Electric).
6. Estação da Luz
The Station of Light previously served as the main entrance to São Paulo, a sort of "Ellis Island" for importing and exporting (coffee namely).
This Victorian icon respects the traditional styles of British stations like St. Pancras in London. Showcasing ornamental and rhythmic features, the building is accompanied by an iron-roofed platform with soaring glass.
A point often overlooked, as now it is surrounded by much higher buildings, is that for many years it was the highest structure of São Paulo. With this in mind, you can imagine the clock tower facing out above the city and setting the standard time for the entire city to follow.
7. Estación Retiro
This Edwardian Baroque building was imported straight from Britain. For this reason, the world-renowned design plan includes very Britsh high windows and a signature domed great hall.
At the time, it was one of the largest construction feats to date. In addition, all the materials, including 2 massive parallel iron beams measuring 250 meters long, were shipped directly from Britain.
For years it was esteemed as one of the most important examples of structural engineering in all of South America.
8. Estação Central do Brasil
Visible from almost every part of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this bright art-deco style station is 32 floors high. From the top of the central tower, four clocks,
whose dials measure 10 meters in diameter, face out to the entire city.
Originally named the Estação Dom Pedro II, following its feature in 1998 as the setting for the Academy Award-winning film “Central do Brasil”, the name was officially changed to reflect the film.
9. Estação Ferroviária
A bright yellow, sleek form stands out in the relatively ordinary farm town of Goiânia.
This one of a kind train station is a true emblem of the Art Deco movement in Brazil. No longer active, having operated from 1950 until the 1980s, it is now preserved as a community center.
Established during the 1930s, Goiânia was once a thriving stylistic, colonial city. As a result, there are 22 remnants of the Art Deco period sprinkled throughout the city, some of which are: The Goiânia Theater and The Grande Hotel.
10. Estación Mapocho
By Jaime Soto Ceura
- Own work
, CC BY-SA 3.0
Opened in 1914, the station celebrates the first 100 years of Chilean independence.
The Chilean architect Emilio Jacquier, who constructed this station, studied in France at the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts
consequently bringing back with him neoclassical influences. In essence, it is an architectural homage to the iconic Eiffel and Creusot legacies.
For many years it was the main rail hub in Santiago. After falling into disuse for some time, it has now been revived as a thriving Cultural Center
for the region.
Although the railway as a major transport system has faded from use in South America, the historical remnants still stand strong.
There are many opportunities for travelers to take a peek back in time, from scenic tourist train rides
with unbelievable views to stations rededicated as community centers. What better way to learn about culture and history than by visiting these romantic fragments of the Industrial Revolution?