The earliest railway systems in North America were wooden railroads, popularly known as wagonways, which date as far back as the 1720s. For example, a railroad was used to construct a French fortress in 1720 in Louisburg, Nova Scotia, Canada. A gravity railroad or mechanized tramway was constructed by British engineers between 1762 and 1764 on the steep escarpment of the Niagara Falls in the US state of New York. Additionally, railroads played a significant role in the development of the US, particularly from the Industrial Revolution onward. The first common career railroad in the United States was the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which received its charter in 1827 and began operating in 1830. Now, vast railroads exist across the continent. Some of North America’s busiest railway stations are highlighted below.
New York Penn Station
New York Penn Station, which opened in 1910 and was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR), is the leading intercity railroad station in New York City, and is by far the busiest rail station in the Western Hemisphere. As of 2019, the station served more than 600,000 passengers each weekday, although it was built to handle only 200,000. Each day the number of people that pass through Penn Station is greater than all three major airports in New York combined. Penn Station has 21 tracks and is served by seven tunnels. The station is located in Midtown Manhattan, near the Empire State Building, and is located entirely underground, beneath Madison Square Garden.
Toronto Union Station
Union Station is Canada’s busiest railway station and the second busiest in North America, serving more than 300,000 daily passengers. The station opened in 1927, and was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1975. Located in Toronto, Ontario, the station building is owned by the City of Toronto, while Go Transit owns the trackage and train shed. Every year Union Station serves more than 72 million passengers.
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal, also known as Grand Central Station, is a commuter rail terminal in Manhattan, New York City. It serves the northern part of the New York metropolitan area and connects to the New York City Subway. Grand Central Terminal is the third busiest railway station in North America, serving an estimated 66,952,732 passengers in 2017. The station has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is among the ten most visited tourist destinations in the world. In 2013, it received 21.9 million visitors, which excludes train and subway passengers. The main concourse of the terminal is often a meeting place, and has been featured in numerous television programs and films. Grand Central Terminal features 44 platforms, which is far more than any other railroad station in the world.
Jamaica Station in Jamaica, Queens, New York City, is one of the busiest railway stations in the United States. Serving more than 200,000 daily passengers and nearly 60 million each year, Jamaica Station is the third busiest in the country and fourth busiest in North America. Additionally, more than 1000 trains pass through the station every day. As of 2019, $380 million had been set aside to modernize Jamaica Station, such as increasing amenities and track infrastructure, plus building additional platforms for riders. The station is now 106 years old, and improvements are anticipated to be completed by 2021. The new platform will cost approximately $302 million, and $17 million will be spent on designing future improvements.
Chicago Union Station
Chicago Union Station serves an average of 140,000 daily passengers, ranking as the fourth busiest rail station in the United States and the fifth busiest in North America. The station began operating in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, and replaced an earlier station that was built in 1881. The station is located between West Jackson Boulevard and West Adams Street, on the west side of the Chicago River. Chicago Union Station is one of the most iconic structures in Chicago, and reflects the city's strong architectural heritage.
Ogilvie Transportation Center
Ogilvie Transportation Center is a railway station in Chicago, Illinois, that is located underneath the 500 West Madison Street building. It is currently the second busiest railway station in Chicago and the sixth busiest in North America, serving an average of 31.905 million passengers each year. Ogilvie Transportation Center was built in 1911, but has since been renovated multiple times. Major renovations occurred in 1991, which took four years to complete and cost $138 million.
Newark Penn Station
Newark Penn Station is located in Newark, New Jersey, and is served by numerous rail and bus carriers. The station handles approximately 17.88 million passengers each year, ranking as the fourth busiest railway station in the New York metropolitan area and the seventh busiest in North America. The station was built in 1935 by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR), and initially ran 232 weekday trains to New York Penn Station in New York City. The station has changed ownership several times and underwent significant renovations in 2007.
World Trade Center Station
World Trade Center is a railway station located in the Financial District of Manhattan, New York City. More specifically, the station is situated within the World Trade Centercomplex, and is part of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) railway system. In 1909, the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad (H&M) opened Hudson Terminal, which was purchased by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) in 1961 following the bankruptcy of H&M. Hudson Terminal was rebuilt and replaced by the World Trade Center Station in 1971, as part of the World Trade Center complex. The station has five tracks and four platforms, and it serves an average of 17.159 million passengers annually, ranking as the eighth busiest railway station in North America.
Hoboken Terminal is located in Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey, and is among the major transport hubs in the New York metropolitan area. Approximately 50,000 passengers use the station every day, ranking as the ninth busiest rail station in North America. It is also the second busiest railway station and the third busiest transport facility in the state of New Jersey. Hoboken Terminal serves 14.950 million passengers each year.
Washington Union Station
Washington Union Station is a train station in Washington, D.C., that opened in 1907. It is the tenth busiest train station in North America, as it is used by 13.66 million passengers each year.
World’s Largest Railway Station
According to Guinness World Records, the largest railway station in the world, in terms of the number of platforms, is Grand Central Terminal in New York City, USA, which includes a total of 44 platforms. Each year an average of 19,000 items are lost in the station, and about 60% are returned to their owners.
List of the 10 Busiest Railway Stations in North America.
|Rank||Railway Station||Average Annual Entries/Exits (millions)||City||Country|
|1||New York Penn Station||107.416||New York City||United States|
|2||Toronto Union Station||72.410||Toronto||Canada|
|3||Grand Central Terminal||66.952||New York City||United States|
|4||Jamaica Station||59.803||New York City||United States|
|5||Chicago Union Station||43.948||Chicago||United States|
|6||Ogilvie Transportation Center||31.905||Chicago||United States|
|7||Newark Penn Station||17.881||Newark||United States|
|8||World Trade Center Station||17.159||New York City||United States|
|9||Hoboken Terminal||14.950||Hoboken||United States|
|10||Washington Union Station||13.665||Washington, D.C.||United States|
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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