Amsterdam's Central Station dates from the year 1889, when it was first used for
the transport of goods. Designed by the architect P.J.H. Cuypers - well known in his
time -, who also designed the Rijksmuseum. The building's foundation consists of
8,687 wooden piles, because of the wetlands around 't IJ. The original construction
has been rebuilt more than once, due to rapidly expanding traffic and rail transport.
The Central Station terminal has recently been restored and can be admired in its
In spite of what the new train station did to Amsterdam's relationship to its heritage and
the sea, you cannot dismiss it's importance to the community. This is the central hub of activity in the city. It is where commuter, regional, and international trains arrive and
depart. It is also the central staging area for the city's busses and tram network. There
is virtually no point of The Netherlands that cannot be reached from the Centraal Station.
In order to handle such a vast transportation network (more than 1500 trains daily), the station had to be big. So big on Amsterdam's shifting soil that it takes 8,600 pilings to
keep the building stable. Outside, the red stone exterior is decorated with carvings, spires, and what appear to be a pair of clocks. One is indeed a chronometer. The other is a
read-out for the wind vane on top of the station. While totally impractical in this time of motorized transportation, it is a nice homage to the city's seafaring past. About the only
bad thing you can say about the building is it's unfortunate location. Built on the banks
the IJ river at the head of the Damrak out of necessity, it insulates the city from the
open water. But at the same time, it has had the effect of allowing the city core to turn
inward on itself rather than losing focus as has happened in so many other cities.