In 1877, Monet painted the open hangar and trains of Paris’s Gare Saint-Lazare, clouds of steam rising like ghosts among the passersby. In 1929, while traveling with his wife, Josephine, from New York to Charleston, South Carolina, Edward Hopper painted lonely signal towers and idle passengers, subjects he would return to throughout his life. Paul Delvaux was similarly taken with train stations—his etching from 1971 sees a train near an empty platform, a lone dark figure looking on.

Hubs for the world’s oldest public-transportation systems, train stations have an enduring mystique. Last year in London, for instance, crowds flocked to the Elizabeth Line to celebrate the city’s new Underground opening.

It was exactly 160 years ago, in 1863, that London’s first Metropolitan Railway, which ran between Paddington and Farringdon, was unveiled. Charles Holden, the railway’s principal architect from the 1920s until World War II, was born a dozen years later, in 1875. A timely new book, London Tube Stations: 1924–1961, out from Fuel Publishing, chronicles the history of the London Underground through Holden, who designed dozens of stations across the city, stretching from Piccadilly Circus to Clapham South. “This army of people,” the author, Joshua Abbott, writes, “created what [Frank] Pick would term ‘Medieval Modernism.’”

Medieval modernism—a combination of Gothic and Romanesque styles—brings to mind the large and austere Milano Centrale station, built in 1931. The Memory of Stations, a new book published by Marsilio Editori, tells the story of the eight main Italian hubs, among them Milano Centrale, Venice’s floating Santa Lucia, Naples’s recently renovated Stazione Centrale, and lesser-known architectural marvels such as Messina Centrale and Trieste Centrale. Essays by well-known Italian authors—including Enrico Brizzi, Mauro Covacich, and Sandro Veronesi—accompany the archival photographs.

Flipping through both of these books, one may think of Veronesi’s musings on Florence’s Santa Maria Novella. “It is one of the few masterpieces in Florence that every day, for almost a century, is admired and enjoyed by those who use it, not by those who visit it.” —Elena Clavarino

The Memory of Stations, published by Marsilio Editori, and London Tube Stations: 1924–1961, published by Fuel, are out now

Elena Clavarino is the Senior Editor for AIR MAIL