Belvedere Railway Station is the oldest railway building in Germany which is preserved in its original state. It is a rare example of an early type of suburban station for leisure travellers to the countryside and an outstanding architectural monument of the neoclassical period, both the building and its surrounding park.
The station was situated on the first cross border railway line worldwide, connecting Cologne and Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany with the Belgian cities of Liège and Antwerp. This railway line was the primary route of the so-called “Iron Rhine”, serving the purpose to link the Rhineland with a seaport – a way to avoid the expensive Dutch transport tariffs on the River Rhine. The cooperation between the Belgian State and the Rhenish Railway Company (Rheinische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft), a stock company, was an early example of a west European infrastructural public private partnership with the aim to enable free international trade. At the same time it set off Cologne’s development to the major traffic hub in the western region of Germany.
The railway building is located on a level terrace in the Rhine Valley. Erected in a right angle to the railway lines it offered a magnificent view over the city of Cologne, which did not only influence its architectural air, but also explains its name “Belvedere”. On its western side the building harmoniously merges with its parklike garden by reaching down over three levels from the staircase, via an open loggia down to the garden terrace which was once sheltered by trimmed plane trees providing shade.
The architectural design of the building was projected by government officials of the Prussian State having been seconded from their normal positions to carry out the project for the Rhenish Railway Company. The garden was designed by the known landscape architect Jacob Greiss, director of horticulture of the City of Cologne.