Anneleen Arnout (Radboud University) and Nicolas Kenny (Simon Fraser University)
Emotion, Neighborhoods, Mobility infrastructure
In their seminal study, Richards and Mackenzie (1986) argue that the social, cultural, and economic shifts embodied by the spread of the railway system from the early 1800s onwards were not just produced through railway routes and rolling stock, but also in and through the railway stations. In towns and cities around the world, the station was a “gateway” for untold numbers of people going about their daily business, performing both routine habits of going to and from work and exceptional travels. It was “a place of motion and emotion, arrival and departure, joy and sorrow, parting and reunion.” Railway stations were critical public spaces of modern cities, the setting of daily personal, even intimate, experiences that were also shaped by the massive flows of people on an ever-broader scale.
Movement by train involved moving through the neighbourhood in which the train station was situated. This panel follows the flow of people in and out of the station to explore the ways in which the motion and emotion generated by the railway station transformed the neighbourhoods surrounding them. The papers of this session will work through some of the following questions:
- How did the movement, activities, personal dramas, political conflicts, and social relations that played out in stations spill out into neighbouring districts and reconfigure the urban experience?
- How did the sights, sounds, smoke and other perceive nuisances associated train traffic affect life in surrounding urban spaces?
- How were these highly localised encounters and interactions shaped by the transnational movement of people, goods, and, ideas that railway travel embodied?
- How did these intimate connections and global flows produce the social and economic geography of the railway neighbourhood?
- How were the ideas of modernity and progress often associated with railways challenged by perceptions of danger, criminality, and illicit activity in station neighbourhoods? How can we explain chronological shifts in emotional experiences, practices and associations?
Emotions and Railway Stations, Montreal 1850s-1920s
Nicolas Kenny (Simon Fraser University)
Railways, Emotions, Montreal
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Montreal reigned as the undisputed metropolis of Canada, a major manufacturing centre that attracted an ever-growing population. Central to the city’s economic importance was a vast network of railways that spanned the North American continent and formed a critical linchpin in the federal government’s policy of economic and territorial expansion. While the historiography has considered the railways in terms of nation building, economic growth, and political scandal, this paper shifts the focus to the street level, asking how Montrealers saw, heard, and, felt the trains and stations as a daily indicator of metropolitan life. Based on extensive research in print sources including newspapers, popular magazines, and professional journals, I argue that in transforming Montreal into a burgeoning metropolis, the experiences associated with railways and stations also changed the inhabitants themselves, shaping the emotional connections through which they forged a sense of place within the city.
Although political and economic elites imagined the railway in terms of nationhood and boundless economic opportunity, of imperial grandeur and prestige the sources show that daily interactions upon the iconic structures of railway development – tracks, cars, stations, bridges – challenged notions of British superiority through encounters between the purveyors of this imagery and a host of Others whose presence fragilized its hegemony: Indigenous peoples, Asian migrants, black porters, carousing soldiers, petty thieves, confidence men, etc. By focussing on emotional and sensory experiences elicited by these encounters in and around Montreal’s train stations as represented in the sources, this paper will show how the significance of railways defined in the realm of high politics depended on a host of day-to-day experiences with the crowds, movement, noise, celebrations, and personal dramas, that played out in these spaces. It was by offering a stage for these complex social relations that the railways, and stations in which a diversity of people met, had a deep and lasting impact on Montreal’s metropolitanism.
Railroad Urbanism: Terminal Stations in the Nineteenth-Century American City
David Schley (Hong Kong Baptist University)
Race, Steam power, Mobility infrastructure
The nineteenth century witnessed profound transformations in urban form and mobility as the compact walking city of the eighteenth century gave way to the sprawling, mechanized metropolis of the twentieth. At the core of this transition was the railroad, which combined straight iron rails and fossil-fueled engines to bind cities together in novel ways. This paper examines the challenges and controversies that accompanied the introduction of rail technology in American cities by focusing on a key site in the advent of railroad urbanism: the terminal station.
It looks particularly on Baltimore, Maryland, the birthplace of American railroading. In the early 1850s, the city’s premier railroad corporation, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, announced plans to build a new depot called Camden Station in a downtown lot located in the heart of the city’s African American community. Soon after the company cleared the lots, it set about transforming the surrounding neighborhood, introducing tracks, widening streets, and adopting other measures to accommodate the steam engine. These efforts aimed to integrate Baltimore into an expanding national system of rapid transportation, but they engendered opposition from an interracial contingent of residents who felt that their mobility and livelihoods had been sacrificed for the corporation’s benefit.
The struggles that accompanied the creation of Camden Station highlight the uneven effects of the city’s transition from horse power to steam. The rise of fossil fuels increased the pace of travel nationwide only by disrupting movement in the city streets; the company provided a station that could serve the city as a whole only by displacing a disenfranchised segment of its population. Turning to Baltimore in the nineteenth century highlights the conflicts and negotiations that accompanied the rise of corporate capitalism and the onset of mechanized movement.
In Bad Odor… On the Emotional and Sensory Topography of a Railway Station in Eastern Poland. The Case of Lublin in the 20th Century.
Stephanie Weismann (University of Vienna)
Emotional Topographies, Olfactory Othering, Poland / East Central Europe
The smell of lubricants, coal, piss, decomposing sugar beet roots and yeast were the dominant smell marks around the railway station in question. Lublin’s station is located at the very margins of the city (for former military reasons). The neighborhood was (and still is) inhabited by social margins, considered dangerous and of bad reputation. Additionally, until recently the area was dominated by the strong organic exudations of the surrounding industry ranging from a major sugar beet plant to a yeast and a spirit factory. The railway station of this Polish city never had much in common with an epitome of modernity and progress, instead it has been literally in bad odor ever since.
The paper discusses the perception and embodied experience of the neighborhood surrounding Lublin’s railway station throughout the 20th century – thus following the emotional and sensory standing of this place in this Polish city.
Based on narrative interviews with Lublin citizens as well as newspaper articles and archival sources the paper asks (among others):
- Under which circumstances an alleged place of ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’ turns out an emotionalized space of threatening backwardness?
- Which practices (and related smells) were shaping the emotional approach toward this area?
- What impact do odors have on the atmosphere of a neighborhood?
The case of the Polish city of Lublin here stands exemplary rather than exceptionally for the troubled, yet ordinary history of the 20th century in East Central Europe.
Gare du Nord: Havoc and Haven in a Paris Neighbourhood
Jacob Paskins (University College London)
Social Unrest, Community, Building Europe
Paris Gare du Nord is celebrated for its innovative nineteenth-century iron architecture; its expansion into France’s primary rail transport hub; and for its role as an international transport gateway. But what is the impact of the railway station and its 700,000 daily passengers on the surrounding neighbourhood? The Gare du Nord quartier—defined for this paper as districts within 500 metres of the station or tracks—covers areas that are often associated with criminal activities and social problems. Yet this area has also been long distinguished as a place of refuge and permanent home for a number of minority communities. Focussing on the period from 1944 to the present, this paper asks how the neighbourhood became, on the one hand, a site of unrest in the city as a whole, and on the other hand, a haven for Maghrebin, black, Jewish, Tamil and Turkish populations.
Research in press archives reveals recurring criminal activities in the area during the past seventy years, including theft, vandalism, racist attacks, under-age prostitution, arms trafficking, murder, rape, gang violence, and illegal taxis. Frequent evidence of social unrest in the station’s vicinity includes street demonstrations, confrontations between youth and police, the accumulation of rubbish, homelessness, drug use, and the establishment (and dismantling) of migrant camps. The area’s problems coexist alongside the neighbourhoods of ‘Little India’, ‘Little Turkey’ and the Goutte d’Or that are principal focal points of different ethnic groups in France. The overwhelming majority of criminal activity and unrest in the area is unrelated to the local population and community groups, but is intensified by the presence of the station.
Combining archival research, urban topographical analysis and other documentary evidence, this paper will analyse how insecurity, agitation and shelter can coexist in this contested neighbourhood. It will trace social changes in the neighbourhood through the parallel experiences of apparently contradictory phenomena of unrest and refuge. Ultimately, the paper asks to what extent does the urban geography and architectural typology of the Gare du Nord district at once facilitate so-called anti-social behaviour, while also providing spaces for community building.
Railway Station Neighbourhoods in West Germany as Spaces of Arrival and Migration, 1960-1990
David Templin (Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), University of Osnabrück)
Immigrant Neighbourhoods, Spaces of Arrival, Urban Transformations
The paper examines the history of railway station neighbourhoods in West Germany from the early 1960s to the late 1980s with a perspective on the impact of immigration. By looking at the cities of Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich as case studies, I examine how these neighbourhoods turned into “arrival neighbourhoods” and how practices, experiences and emotions linked to transnational migration shaped these urban spaces. Just like railway stations embodied spaces of “coming and going”, of arrival and departure, the surrounding neighbourhoods turned into quarters of arrival (as well as departure) for a lot of migrants from different countries and continents.
The presentation will focus on three aspects of this development: (1) transformations in the urban structure, for example regarding the supply of housing, plans for restructuring, the emergence of an “infrastructure of arrival” (consisting of small businesses, meeting points and religious facilities), but also early signs of “gentrification” and displacement; (2) practices and perceptions of the newcomers as well as established inhabitants and contemporary observers, focusing on the emotional appropriation of urban space but also articulations of anxiety, rejection, love and nostalgia; (3) medial representations of and perspectives on these neighbourhoods, in many cases evoking associations of criminality, prostitution and foreign cultures, thereby producing emotionalized pictures of the urban space and its inhabitants.
The paper focusses on West German neighbourhoods, but will also take similar urban spaces and developments in other European countries into account. While urban transformations, changes in the local population and manifestations of deviance were present in railway station neighbourhoods already before 1960, the paper asks how the increasing importance of transnational migration since the 1960s affected these neighbourhoods in a material as well as a symbolic and emotional way.
Motion, Emotions and Ambiances around the Brussels Central Station. Reconfigurations of the Urban Experience and Spatial Articulations between Fast and Slow Mobilities (1950-1980)
Claire Pelgrims (Université Gustave Eiffel)
Fast and Slow Mobilities, Urban Design, 20th Century
Brussels is one of the few European capitals to have set up a central station a few steps away from its historic centre. The construction of this station and of the North-South junction, which linked the railway network in the north of the country to the south, and which was intended to promote national integration, had a strong impact on the neighbourhood in which it was located for more than a century. In particular, we will look at the successive developments, in the second half of the 20th century, of the spaces on the border between the tourist and heritage neighbourhood surrounding the Grand-Place of Brussels and, on the other hand, the district of the institutions and the major national mobility infrastructure that were developed along the boulevard built on the underground railway junction.
Between this new monumental ensemble and the historic heart of the city, there is a third element made up of emptiness, which will animate the Belgian urban design scene until the beginning of the 21st century and within which the international positioning of the Belgian capital will crystallise. The gaping hole of the 'Carrefour de l'Europe', which was used for car parking for years, was cutted by an exit path from the central station towards the historic quarter known as the 'Ilôt Sacré'. A shopping arcade was built at the end of the 1950s in the extension of this exit towards the Grand-Place to solve the problems of pedestrian traffic on the congested pavements. The ambition of the public authorities also was to create a continuity of green spaces in this area, supporting qualitative pedestrian paths and linked to the construction of underground car parks. At the end of the 1970s, "pedestrian" spaces appeared on the fringes of the area, extending the shopping arcade outwards. The extension of the pavement in front of the gallery and the creation of a central square organised around a fountain were intended to encourage people to slow down and stop. All these projects illustrate the different ways in which the experiential quality, the speed or slowness of movement and the fluidity of the pedestrian flows between the central station and the Grand-Place have been envisaged over time and how these different aesthetic conceptions have had a strong impact on the development and the urban ambiances and experience of the 'Ilôt Sacré' and the Carrefour de l'Europe neighbourhood.