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10 former train stations put to creative new uses
By Angela Nelson,
Mother Nature Network, 29 July 2016.

Surely you've been inside a railway station of some sort. They're often, but not always, massive places - huge buildings with giant rooms, high ceilings and rows of tracks, whether outside or underground. Throughout history, some of these places have stopped operating for various reasons - a company goes bankrupt, populations shift or transportation preferences change. Cavernous spaces are left empty and unused as a result.

So what happens to them? Some sit empty to this day, like these abandoned stations in New York City, but others are being put to creative new uses. When it comes to "reduce, reuse, recycle," these 10 former railway stations are nailing reuse.

1. La Recyclerie in Paris

Photo: Franek N/Flickr

France's national rail company, SNCF, is turning several derelict rail sites in Paris into music venues, gardens, bars and restaurants. One of them, La Recyclerie (pictured above), is an eatery that has been open for two years in the abandoned Petite Ceinture line.

Other projects include a music venue called Grand Train, which "now features a train exhibition, live music and other events as well as various restaurants and a bar. A produce market and urban farm are also said to be joining the venue in the future," according to The Telegraph. It's built on the site of a former SNCF depot.

Coming next year will be Le Hasard Ludique, a bar, restaurant and music venue inside a train station that's no longer in use.

2. The Lowline in Manhattan

Photo: The Lowline

The Lowline is an underground park proposed for Manhattan's Lower East Side neighborhood. The 60,000-square-foot site is hidden under Delancey Street in a transit station that's been abandoned for 80 years. The ambitious proposal calls for piped-in natural sunlight (fiber optic cables and solar collection dishes would transport sunlight into the park) and a variety of plants and trees to bring some green to an otherwise tree-deprived area of New York City.

If it comes to fruition (the plan got a thumbs-up only recently), it would be the world's first underground park, according to City Hall.

3. Musée d’Orsay in France

Photo: Moonik/Wikimedia Commons

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris is one of the largest art museums in Europe. It's home to France’s national collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography from the impressionist, postimpressionist and art nouveau movements between 1840 and 1914. How fitting that the building, constructed by Victor Laloux, is now an art museum as the building itself is an art nouveau masterpiece.

Once upon a time, it was a railway station called Gare d'Orsay, built for the 1900 World Fair. By 1939, the station's short platforms were no longer big enough for the longer trains of the day and it became a mailing center during World War II. Decades later, it was used as a movie set for several films, including "The Trial" in 1962, directed by Orson Welles.

The building became a historical monument in 1978, and the renowned art museum opened in December 1986.

4. Long Melford Station in England

Photo: Ben Brooksbank/Wikimedia Commons

Long Melford railway station in Suffolk, England, opened in 1865 and operated for more than 100 years before closing in 1967. It was then used as a bus station and a kennel for greyhounds, according to The Telegraph, but around 1994 the property caught the eye of Anna and Mark Gudge. The couple purchased the station building, a platform with a set of waiting rooms and the gap where the train tracks used to be for about US$131,000.

Over the years the Grudges renovated the entire property, creating a four-bedroom station house, a garden and a pool. But after 17 years of making memories, the house went on the market in 2012 (with an asking price of about US$648,000).

5. Pittsburgh-area restaurants


At least five defunct train stations in the Pittsburgh area have been converted into restaurants that serve up a side dish of history with the meal. DiSalvo's Station Restaurant (pictured above) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, is an Amtrak station-cum-upscale Italian restaurant, with the eatery opening in 1990.

The Tribune-Review reports diners can see many remnants of the building's former role, including old-fashioned suitcases stacked near the bar, a train chugging along the wall of one room, and a low-ceiling tunnel between the dining area and parking lot. But the most telling signs are the small, simple train station that still operates above the restaurant and the reservations-only fancy dining experience in a restored, historic train car from 1901.

6. Hamburger Bahnhof in Germany

Photo: Jacklee/Wikimedia Commons

Berlin's contemporary art museum, housed in a former 19th-century railway station, is "dedicated exclusively to contemporary art from the 1950s to the present," according to the museum. One of the oldest station buildings in Germany, the building hasn't been used for trains since 1884. In 1906, it became a railway museum and went through two expansions before being bombed during World War II and closing. After a complete renovation from 1990 to 1996, the contemporary art museum opened.

7. Júlio Prestes Cultural Center in Brazil

Photo: Ed1983/Wikimedia Commons

This gorgeous building in São Paulo, Brazil, started off as Julio Prestes Station, a railway station built around 1936 to house the headquarters of the Sorocabana Railway. But by 1999, when a complete restoration and renovation was finished, it became the Júlio Prestes Cultural Center. The cultural center houses the Sala São Paulo (pictured above), which has a capacity of 1498 seats and is the home of the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra. Like similar concert halls in Boston, Vienna and Amsterdam, the Sala São Paulo has a "shoebox" style, meaning the room is tall, narrow, with parallel side walls, and most of the audience is situated in front of the orchestra.

8. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

Photo: wrightbrosfan/Flickr

Yes, Cincinnati's Union Terminal is still a train station, but for a few decades it wasn't. We'll explain.

Union Terminal was built from 1929 to 1933 at a cost of US$41 million. As far as structures go, it's impressive to say the least: It is the "largest half-dome in the Western Hemisphere" and remains "one of the most widely regarded examples of the Art Deco style," according to the railway station. But from 1972, passenger train service stopped until 1991, when Amtrak began operating there.

Most of the colossal building houses other attractions, such as a history museum, a children's museum, an OMNIMAX theater and a library. However, Union Terminal is currently undergoing a massive renovation and many of those attractions are temporarily closed.

9. Dent Station in England

Photo: Andrew/Flickr

England's Dent Station, located on the famous and scenic Settle to Carlisle line, first opened in 1877. It closed in 1970 and reopened in 1986, which of course technically means it's still in use as a railway station. In fact, up to six trains a day pass through. However, like Cincinnati's Union Terminal, it has another fun and unique function: The property is also a vacation rental.

Dent Station calls itself "the highest mainline station in England" at 1,150 feet above sea level and boasts three bedrooms, a lounge and a kitchen. This privately owned station, which offers stunning views, is about five miles from the village of Dent.

10. Union Station in Denver

Photo: Amy Aletheia Cahill/Wikimedia Commons

Union Station is Denver's central transportation hub, so the 120-year-old building is hardly an out-of-use railway station. But like the others on the end of this list, it bears mentioning.

It was built in 1868 to serve the Denver Pacific Railway and had many busy years before traffic dropped off in the second half of the 20th century due to competition from airplanes and automobiles. Eventually, Amtrak became the only rail provider operating with just two trains a day.

From the 1980s through 2000, small improvements were made, such as adding a bus line and light rail service. However, in 2004, an ambitious plan was approved for a major redesign of the 19.5-acre site, and in 2012, it went through a US$500 million renovation to redevelop the former railyards as a mixed-use property. Union Station reopened to the public in the summer of 2014 with the addition of The Crawford Hotel, several restaurants (pictured) and stores and a train hall.

Top image: The Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Credit: Monica Arellano-Ongpin/Flickr.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited.]