Built in the first decade of the 20th century as Europe’s gateway to the east, Istanbul Haydarpasa railway station stands proudly on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, its gothic towers looming over the waters.
The imposing facade has witnessed and survived more than a century of turbulent and sometimes tragic history; the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, World War I, the deportation of Armenians, military coups and a devastating November 2010 fire that destroyed the roof.
But this most historic of railway stations now lacks its most fundamental component – trains.
Since 2013, the celebrated terminus has not seen any train traffic after being shut for restoration work and a major upgrade of Turkey’s railway network.
With the refurbishment stalling, top local officials openly spoke of plans to sell off the station, possibly turning it into a hotel, shopping centre or entertainment complex.
The situation sparked alarm among Turkish architecture and heritage activists, who staged weekly demonstrations to salvage its future.
In 2012, when the number of trains pulling in and out of the station had already dropped off, Haydarpasa – pronounced Haydarpasha and named after the neighbourhood where it is located – was placed on the watch list of endangered heritage by the World Monuments Fund NGO.
‘Trains to come back’