Visiting Cornavin Station, Geneva: a major Swiss rail hub since 1858
Clean lines, and clean and efficient operations
Swiss railroads have a deserved reputation for punctuality and efficiency, and a major hub is Cornavin Station, Geneva (French: Gare de Genève-Cornavin). The Station is situated at Place de Cornavin, 1201, Geneva.
First opened in 1858 (1), its current main building dates from 1931.
The architect responsible for the building was Julien Flegenheimer (1880-1938), who with other architects also designed the Palais des Nations, Geneva (2), completed in 1938. The main frontage of the Station building is noted for its clean, geometric, neo-Classical lines (3). Interestingly, in its day its style was considered very 'modern', although this term has become subject to many qualifications in the intervening decades.
In fact, 'clean' would seem to be a leitmotif for the building: clean, stylistic lines and clean and efficient operations. When I travelled by train to Geneva Cornavin Station I was struck by how clean the Station and the train seemed. I understand that this impression is not an isolated one among visiting users of the Swiss rail network.
In addition to photos of exterior views of the main station building, I have supplied one (below) which shows an impressive mural map in the interior of the building. This striking mural is pleasing and accurate in many ways; on closer examination, it is clear that the countries which border Switzerland have all been named, with the exception of the Principality of Liechtenstein, the territory of which is indicated as supposedly being part of Austria!
As well as a photo of a Paris TGV Express, I have also supplied a photo of a red Swiss locomotive with the letters 'SBB - CFF' clearly written on its side; these letters stand for 'Schweizerische Bundesbahnen' and 'Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses' in German and French respectively ('Swiss Federal Railroads').
In addition I have supplied a photo, dating from circa 1906, of the Simplon Express arriving at Cornavin Station.
I must add another almost indefinable quality: when one emerges from Cornavin Station, Geneva, the cool mountain air adds an elusive sense of clarity (and even urgency?) to the atmosphere that greets the visitor.
March 16, 2017
(1) In 1858, a rail link with Lyons, France, was established. It is interesting that, when the original station was opened with this link to France, Geneva had been confederated with Switzerland for only 44 years.
(2) Now occupied by the UN, it was formerly the seat of the pre-World War Two League of Nations.
(3) See also (in French): http://www.notrehistoire.ch/medias/84254
Also worth seeing
In Geneva itself, a few of the outstanding visitor attractions are: St Peter's Cathedral, associated with John Calvin; the Mont-Blanc bridge and the famous water jet (French: Jet d'eau) on Lake Geneva (French: Lac Léman); the United Nations building; the University of Geneva building and the Reformers' Monument, among many others.
Ferney-Voltaire , France (distance: approx. 8 kilometres) has the castle in which the philosopher Voltaire once lived.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York, Newark to Geneva International Airport (Aéroport International de Genève ) at Grand-Saconnex, where car rental is available. The Swiss railroad company CFF maintains a service between Geneva Airport and the Downtown station of Genève-Cornavin . For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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This is an outstandingly clear and well illustrated guide to Switzerland, with copious details. If it is not currently in print, it ought to be!