Estacion Central ("Central Station") is a railway station in Santiago, Chile, and, as the name suggests, is the central and most important railroad station for Santiago, and for all of Chile. It is located less than two miles west of downtown Santiago, on the border between the comuna of Santiago, and the comuna of Estacion Central.
The station was opened in the late 19th century, and was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. While I am not an expert on architecture, the station's appearance seems to have a lot in common with his most famous project, as seemingly raw, utilitarian iron beams create something starkly beautiful. Train travel in Chile is not what it once was, and the only time I used the station was to board the MetroTren, a commuter train that ran only 20 kilometers to the south, to the suburban comuna of San Bernardo. There are trains that go further, to Rancagua and Chillan.
Even with train travel not as common as it once was, the train station, and its environs, are still a landmark in Santiago. There is a station on the Santiago Metro, just outside the station (Estacion Estacion Central, perhaps?), and even in Santiago's usual staid social climate, it is a whirlwind of social activities and hawking street vendors, and is one of the few places that I still had trouble navigating due to the simple crush of people who were swarming around the station day and night. The train station also immediately adjoins a bus terminal, Terminal San Borja. While long distance train travel might have passed its peak in Chile, bus travel is a cornucopia of possibilities. The Terminal San Borja, while it does not have the architectural pedigree of the Estacion Central, is also an interesting choice of design, because the bus station is built over a very active shopping mall, with the crowded concrete pillars and ramps rising out over the crowded shops and kiosks. This arrangement must work, because all of these stations have survived several of Chile's massive subduction earthquakes.
I remember many weekends of going down by the Santiago Metro to Estacion Central, walking through the dense crowds of workers, tourists, vacationing families, and food and beverage hawkers, passing under the flaring iron yawning of the station, and then going to the bus terminal, walking among the bays of buses, and picking one, at random, to get on and ride out into the country, hoping that a mixture of my poor Spanish and google maps would guide me to a good destination.