© 2012 ed. David Naylor
For the past couple of weeks I've been slowly enjoying Railroad Stations: the Buildings that Linked the Nation, a collection of photographs of the United States' wide variety of railroad stations, from humble one-room shacks in the desert to astounding works of art that must rival even the cathedrals of Europe with their grandeur. It was released just last year, and appropriately timed given that Grand Central Station in New York is celebrating a hundred years of service. The book is a feast for architectural admirers and railfans alike: after an opening section that gives a history of rail in the United States, and stations' role in public and economic life, a tour of the US's depots, stations, and terminals follows. The photos range from the beginnings of rail days to the early 1980s, and while the majority portray the stations at their best (with crowds, families included, waiting to go on a trip, dressed in their Sunday best...including straw boaters for the men), a few in the southwest section offer a sad look at roundhouses and tracks overgrown by weeds. Aside from the southwest and Alaska, though, the buildings are magnificent, and often connected to other forms of transit. In New York, for instance, a train station also had ferry landings, and quite a few were visibly part of a trolley ("light rail") network. The photos included often cover a given site from multiple angles, building plans, and offer views of fine details, like a GC mongram emblazoned on the doorknobs at the Grand Canyon station. The editor sources the photos as well, so those curious can look for the original collections.
The four-page treatment of Union Station in Montgomery especially delighted me. I only discovered that the station was still standing a few weeks ago, and immediately took a trip there.