10 Abandoned (& Repurposed) Railway Stations of the World


There’s nothing quite so final as an abandoned station. Spectacular, ornate temples to the early 20th century, their collapse into ruin is often as heat-breaking as it is beautiful. Made to demonstrate the industrial might of a new city or the inevitable march of progress, they now slump helplessly into the ground: victims of de-industrialisation and the slow death of public transport. Yet even in death many of them retain a grandeur both poignant and deeply haunting:

Soviet Station, Sukhumi (Abkhazia)


railway-station-russia-abandoned-3 (Images: Ilya Varlamov (website), reproduced with permission)

On the fringes of the Caucasus region, the disputed former-Soviet republic of Abkhazia contains one of the most-beautiful abandoned structures anywhere on Earth. Built many decades ago to connect the capital of Sukhumi with Russia, this station fell into disuse during the devastating early 90s civil war that saw Georgia and Abkhazia split apart. Never repaired or put back to use, it now simply sits: a fabulous, ornate ruin that looks more like the palace of some forgotten Sultan than a simple train station.


railway-station-russia-abandoned-6 (Images: Ilya Varlamov, reproduced with permission)

Constructed during Stalin’s love-affair with elaborate, ornate and somewhat degenerate architecture, it was the perfect stopping point for trains bringing the Soviet high-command to the Black Sea for their holidays. Within sight of the bluer-than-blue waters and framed by a dramatic, mountainous backdrop, it was designed to show what the Soviet Union could pull off when it really put its mind to it. Now, crumbling and faded, it feels like a metaphor for the entire Communist dream.

Canfranc International Station (Spain)


canfranc-station-abandoned-9 (Images: Dummy, cc-sa-3.0; Thierry Llansades, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

High up in the snowy wastes of the Pyrenees sits the Canfranc International Station: a vast slice of Art Nouveau magnificence now falling to pieces. Opened in 1928, its chequered history saw it closed for civil war, commandeered by Nazi soldiers and eventually shut for good in 1970 following a dramatic train derailment. Now it simply rusts, its ticket offices gathering dust, in the shadow of the mountains separating France from Spain.

canfranc-station-abandoned-4 (Image: Brian Simmons (website), reproduced with permission)

However, below ground the story hasn’t ended. Since 1985, Spanish particle physicists have used a gigantic lab under the station for conducting complex tests that may one day tell us more about dark matter. The lab is accessed via the station; although Canfranc International itself remains a model of disrepair.

Liberty State Park Station (New Jersey)


liberty-state-park-station-abandoned-2 (Images: Adam Jones, Ph.D, cc-sa-3.0;  Vilseskogen, cc-nc-sa-4.0)

Built in 1889, this historically-listed station manages the brilliant feat of being both beautifully abandoned and wonderfully easy to get to. In operation until the late 1960s, the station has been carefully preserved ever since, with the result that its interior remains in excellent condition – aside from the copious amounts of vegetation protruding through the floor. The overall effect is of somewhere impossibly old that’s only recently been abandoned: a station left unattended for a week or so that was subsumed by foliage the moment everyone’s backs were turned.


liberty-state-park-station-abandoned-3 (Images: Peter Miller, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

For the past few years, there have been on-and-off plans to reopen the closed areas of the station; either in a form approximating their intended function or as part of a redevelopment. At the time of writing, few of these plans seem to be going anywhere, and the Liberty State Park Terminal remains easy to reach and sublimely melancholy.

West Oakland 16th Street Station (California)

16th Street Oakland Train Station and Tower

west-oakland-16th-street-station-abandoned-2 (Images: David Brossard, cc-sa-4.0; Bethany, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

Lost in the middle of a concrete wasteland, hemmed in by barbed wire and cut off from the rest of civilisation, West Oakland 16th Street Station is a sad reminder of when the railroad was king of California. One of the biggest employers in the Bay Area between 1912 and the late 1950s, it finally fell into decline in the latter half of the 20th century. Eventually, following a battering from a 1989 earthquake and the construction of a newer station nearby, it closed altogether.

west-oakland-16th-street-station-abandoned-3 (Image: Bethany, cc-nc-nd-4.0)

Like many of the stations on our list, 16th Street has been earmarked for development for some time. Purchased by a community project nearly 10 years ago, it nonetheless continues to stand empty; its high vaulted ceilings concealing little more than spider webs and brightly-coloured graffiti. Even the broken remains of the elevated rail track continue to stick out into the night air, as if expecting a new arrival at any moment. Large, desolate and unloved, the station remains an excellent example of urban decay in the heart of a thriving area.

Mapocho Station, Santiago (Chile)

Mapocho-Station-Santiago-Chile (Image: Eduardo Zárate, cc-nd-4.0)

Unlike most of the structures on our list, Mapocho is still in use – although no longer as a station. Listed as a landmark by the Chilean government, it was once one of the most-important transit points in the whole of southern Latin America. Nowadays the 101-year old building retains its magnificent exterior and historical copper roof, while inside it caters to lively art events. Musicians play in the hollowed out platform area, expos set up shop and other “cultural events” are squeezed in wherever there’s room.

Mapocho-Station-Santiago-Chile-2 (Image: Eduardo Zárate, cc-nd-4.0)

The upshot is that getting access to Mapocho is incredibly easy, and as these photographs attest, it still has enough empty glamour to make such a trip worthwhile. Although it may not technically be abandoned, Mapocho remains a grand example of what early 20th century Chilean architecture was capable of.

Petite Ceinture Stations, Paris (France)


Chemin-de-fer-de-Petite-Ceinture-2 (Images: Jef Poskanzer, cc-3.0; Thomas Claveirole, cc-sa-3.0)

A 20 mile stretch of overgrown, disused track winding through Paris, the Petite Ceinture is a marvel in its own right. Hidden in tunnels, on elevated tracks and at the bottom of lush green artificial valleys, this old railway remains virtually unknown to most of the local population. Officially off-limits, it’s also a relatively popular haunt for urban explorers, drawn in by the silence and atmosphere of something lost.

Chemin-de-fer-de-Petite-Ceinture-5 (Images: Jef Poskanzer (top, bottom), cc-3.0)

Originally intended to connect up the multiple rail networks around Paris, it became unnecessary by the mid-20th century. Today, it still retains the skeletons of around 17 stations: all artfully kept concealed from the eyes of modern commuters. Little more than platforms these days, these old alighting points still occasionally have their staircases intact – puzzling things that rise to nowhere. Taking a walk along this lost track feels like nothing less than slipping through a crack in time into a bizarre eco-dystopian future.

Helensburgh Station (Australia)


helensburgh-station-abandoned-4 (Images: Matthew Jeffery, reproduced with permission)

An overgrown remnant of the 19th century, Helensburgh Station was opened in 1889 before being closed down a mere 26 years later. Left to rot at the bottom of a cut between two rock faces, it’s now in the process of being reclaimed by nature. Foliage erupts from every surface; water pools between the rails; and the ancient welcome sign slowly fades away to nothing.

helensburgh-station-abandoned-6 (Images: Matthew Jeffery, reproduced with permission)

Although any trace of the station building (if there ever was one) is long gone, the place still has an incredible, almost-haunted feeling. The old tunnel the train would emerge from also remains intact and open (and apparently home to some glow worms), although it would be a very brave soul indeed who ventured into that inky blackness. Off the beaten track and seemingly forgotten, the station is nonetheless considered a local site of historical interest; and it’s not unknown for interested people to nip down for a look.

Tintern Station (UK)


tintern-station-uk-2 (Images: Nicholas MuttonGareth James; cc-sa-4.0)

A low chocolate box station outside Monmouth in the UK, Tintern Station is abandoned only in the sense that trains no longer run past it. Instead, a twee set of English shops have taken up residence in the building: serving cakes and crafts and ice creams to a succession of elderly visitors. However, step away from the station building itself and you’ll uncover some glorious crumbling remains.


tintern-station-uk-4 (Images: Tricia Neal; Gareth James; cc-sa-4.0)

The decaying tracks themselves continue to run through the nearby woodland, winding away to a ruined bridge and old turntable. A pier that used to connect the station to a river is still in evidence as well – although it is by now little more than an overgrown stone pillar. Away from the crowds, the remains of Tintern regain some of their timeless glory: a perfect example of the sort of tiny local stations that once covered the whole of the UK.

Rochester Subway (New York)


rochester-subway-abandoned-ny-2 (Images via Fotopedia, cc-licensed)

The first thing that strikes you about the abandoned subway in Rochester, NY is simply how much of it there is. Forget the idea of one lonely station lurking at the end of a forgotten tunnel: this disused (and frankly dangerous) complex sprawls on seemingly forever.


rochester-subway-abandoned-ny-4 (Images via Fotopedia, cc-licensed)

Operating between 1927 and 1956, this gigantic subway shuttled residents all over every corner of the city. Even today, large tracts of these tunnels lead off in the most-unexpected directions, traversing bleak semi-flooded caverns, concrete bridges and wooded areas on the fringes of the city. Since 2008, a comprehensive plan to fill in and block off most of the area has been underway, although large parts of it do remain accessible. A gigantic, puzzling, empty mess, this system and its multiple stations are some of the most otherworldly areas you can likely visit in the whole of New York State.

Michigan Central Station, Detroit (Michigan)

michigan-central-station-detroit-abandoned (Image: Albert Duce, cc-sa-3.0)

Gigantic, imposing, fairly oozing ideas of wealth and progress, and now lost in the middle of a desert of concrete; no other station is quite as peculiar as Michigan Central in Detroit. Built in 1913 with its interior modelled on (in parts) a luxurious Roman bathing house, the station’s history now functions as a sort of blunt metaphor for Detroit’s fortunes this past century.


michigan-central-station-detroit-abandoned-3 (Images: Albert Duce (top, bottom), cc-sa-3.0)

Once the workplace of 3,000 people, the station saw 200 trains pass through it every single day at its height. However, even in those halcyon days there were problems. The grandiose 18 storey tower on top of it was never properly finished and couldn’t be rented out and the whole thing became a kind of investment sinkhole. With the collapse of the Detroit dream, the station went with it and now stands empty, waiting for someone to come in and fix it up. Will it ever regain its former glory? We can only hope.

Like us on Facebook!


About the author: Morris M




Latest Articles




Send this to friend

Urban Ghosts uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience and to serve you with advertisements that might interest you. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Privacy Policy

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.