What is a Train Shed?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A train shed is an area in a train station where the tracks and platforms are covered with a roof. Train sheds range in design from literal sheds which provide no more than crude shelter to elaborate constructions which are among the most photographed and filmed buildings in the world. Waterloo Station in England is a particularly fine example in which architectural aesthetics and function dovetailed to create an iconic structure which is recognizable to many people all over the world thanks to the number of times it has appeared in films.

A train shed is an area in a train station where the tracks and platform are covered with a roof.
A train shed is an area in a train station where the tracks and platform are covered with a roof.

When railways were initially developed, stations consisted of little more than a platform next to the rails where people could wait for trains with their luggage. Over time, station design began including shelter for staff and passengers, and eventually many stations started erecting roofs which would cover at least part of the tracks and platform to provide shelter from the weather during periods of rain and snow. The train shed allowed people to wait and board in comfort.

Commuter trains are often parked in a train shed when not in use.
Commuter trains are often parked in a train shed when not in use.

The construction of early train sheds was significantly hampered by the need for proper ventilation. The structures often had to be very high to accommodate tall smokestacks, and they had to have ample ventilation to allow smoke and steam to escape, or the environment inside the train shed would have been unbearable. As train technology has improved, train sheds have become more enclosed, with systems of ventilation which do not rely solely on having large openings for fresh air.

Designing modern train sheds often includes considerations such as security, with many nations being concerned about the vulnerability of transport and putting measures in place to limit access to authorized personnel and passengers. A train shed is often beyond a barrier of some kind, with people being required to show proof of payment before they can pass onto the platform and board a train. In addition, train sheds need to have room for indicating signage, ranging from platform numbers to help people find their trains to status boards alerting people to incoming trains.

Train sheds can be built from wood, steel, and concrete. To keep the environment inside pleasant, many have plastic and glass windows which allow natural light in, and some have views which allow people to watch approaching trains or to look onto neighboring uncovered platforms. Some include environmental features such as green roofs which are designed to make the station more environmentally friends and to add aesthetic interest to the appearance of the train shed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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