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article imageHistoric Haydarpaşa railway station in Istanbul damaged by fire Special

By Michael Werbowski     Nov 29, 2010 in World
Istanbul - An Istanbul landmark, the Haydarpaşa railway station was the site of a major fire which severely damaged the magnificent structure. The railway station is a mecca for tourists and travellers alike.
One of Istanbul's most prominent historical and functional landmarks, the Haydarpaşa railway station was damaged by a blaze which began on Sunday afternoon. The neo-Gothic style station building built by German architects and given as a gift to the last Ottoman Sultan at the turn of the last century, has been closed to railway passenger traffic since the calamity.
The roof was badly damaged according to local news reports, and those who witnessed the fire on site. Parts of the top floor which house administrative offices, and also control rooms which monitor railway traffic suffered both fire and water damage . It remains unclear, what was the exact cause of the blaze. However, there is speculation it may have started due to spark(s) from faulty electric circuits or due to an accident which may have occurred as a result of (possibly criminal) negligence.
Ironically, the roof was undergoing renovation at the time of the blaze. Fire boats were dispatched from the European side of the Bosporus to deal with the huge conflagration. In the wake of the fire, transportation officials have asserted the structure is sound and that the partially destroyed roof, will eventually be completely restored to its original state. This remains to be seen.
The historical station located on the Asian side of Istanbul is the gateway to Turkey's capital, Ankara and to eastern and southern parts of the country. The station was the starting point of the historical Istanbul to Baghdad railroad line. In recent years there have been plans and discussion to privatise the Turkish state railways and in the process alter the function and purpose of the railway station itself.
According to Mete Kiyan, a local architect interviewed by phone from Istanbul today, the structure and foundation of the building itself, apprently remains solid despite the intensity of the fire. For their part, other architects and heritage preservationists including Mr. Kiyan, are concerned the station itself may be mothballed as part of privatisation plans ( envisaged by the AKP- ruling party) of the national railways, one day. There are also unconfirmed reports circulating among local activists, of converting the station into a railway museum, or even make it part of a luxury condominium and shopping and recreational project. The fire adds to the uncertainty over the railway station's future.
As well, this fire and its causes remain suspicious and arson has yet to be ruled out by the police investigating the scene of the blaze.
The Haydarpaşa railway is magnificently situated, and can be seen from just across the historical "Golden Horn" district. Since 1908 Haydarpaşa station has witnessed many memorable events, both tragic and joyful. During World War I troops boarded trains for the front from here, many never to return, and in 1917 it was badly damaged in a bomb attack. Exuberant crowds welcomed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk here on many occasions when he arrived from Ankara.
Once upon a time, passengers of the "Orient Express" arriving at Istanbul from Europe and those who wanted to continue towards Baghdad, had to take a boat across the Bosphorus and board a train from Haydarpaşa station.
In the 1979, the railways station was rocked by an off shore explosion which took place on a freighter which was passing through the Bosporus straits.
More about Istanbul, Haydarpasa railway, Fire
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