The unique structure of Tutuban Center amidst the bustle and traffic throughout Divisoria. Back then, this used to be the “Manila Central Station” or simply, the Tutuban station of the Manila Railroad Company. Markers also indicate the building’s historical significance at its brick wall entrance.
This is not to say that Tutuban station is no longer a thing. Meanwhile, the present-day Tutuban station is at the rear end of the Tutuban Center. Furthermore, the bustling marketplace of Divisoria and nearby locals benefit from the direct access to the first intercity railway in Manila and the Philippines.
Inception and operations
Furthermore, Tondo appears to be a strategic location for a railway terminal. The area is quite close to the banks of Pasig River at San Nicolas and Binondo as a commercial center. Likewise, this makes it viable for a profitable transport demand. In general, the railway station is also accessible from Calle Azcarraga (now C.M. Recto Avenue).
Full steam ahead
Meanwhile, here is a more general account leading to the formation of the ferrocarril, and PNR today.
Tracing the history of the Philippine National Railways typically begins in 1875. King Alfonso XII during that year issued a royal decree for a railway plan to be drawn for Luzon. Subsequently, Engineer Eduardo López Navarro submitted a Memoria Sobre el Plan General de Ferrocarriles en la Isla de Luzón (General Plan for Luzon Railways). In 1883, the plan was approved later.
The British obtained the concession, as Spanish public works officials drew up the plans. Initially, the term Ferrocarril de Manila–Dagupan (Manila–Dagupan Railway) referred to the British-run railway company, later to become the Manila Railway Company, Ltd. of London, on June 1, 1887. This was also the same year of the cornerstone laying. And as the inaugural train first ran on November 24, 1892; the rest is history.
Interestingly, the Malabon steam railway had been a few blocks away from Tutuban station. (So at some point of time, Tondo has seen not just Tutuban as its railway station!)
Railway amenities at Tutuban
Tutuban station not only is a station, but also is the site of the main depot for the whole stretch of the Philippine National Railways. Additionally, the depot goes by the terms “Tayuman Shed”, and formerly “Manila Train shed”.
The vicinity of Tutuban station features a wye or “triangulo”, where trains can either go north or turn east to the south line. Furthermore, to the northern direction, the Caloocan workshops can be accessed.
The areas Tutuban Center today occupies also used to house the freight sheds, based on digitized archives. In the same vein, Manila Railroad used to provide freight services before road-based trucks dominated and took over the demand. Meanwhile, the “Prime Block” and “Cluster” were occupied by a freight shed and a warehouse respectively.
Nearly half of the Tutuban depot’s length had to make way for the redevelopment, when the original Tutuban station was later integrated for a shopping center. Moreover, the trains run by PNR also significantly decreased, compared to the heyday of the Manila Railroad before World War II.
Juan José Hervás Arizmendi designed the old Tutuban station. Meanwhile, the year 1887 saw the completion of the original station’s structure.
From 1882 to 1896, Hervas served as Municipal Architect. Hervas also designed other buildings such as the Hotel de Oriente and the La Insular cigarette factory, and also the original Monte de Piedad (which would be later built on as the Roman Santos Building)
Echoing the structure of a bahay na bato, the station bears a lower floor “stone skirt” which is actually a “brickwork veneer” typical of British construction standards at that time. Other stations along the Main Line North also employ the use of brickwork as construction material.
The shape of its roof also follows suit, but it also features “stylized exhausts”, likely to allow more air circulation as an open-air building. Additionally, wood makes up the upper structure, and media agua or overhangs shade its large windows.
Inside, “riveted steel columns with acanthus capitals” support the structure, according to the BluPrint article featuring the edifice. Furthermore, the old Tutuban station was an open-air structure with several island platforms.
A few more notes
The Manila Railroad saw the postwar days as a transitory period. Diesel locomotives replaced the steam locomotives that survived the war. Moreover, in 1964, the Manila Railroad Company was renamed as the “Philippine National Railways”. Subsequently, the PNR saw its eventual decline from the 70’s and onwards.
The old Tutuban station continued to fulfill its purpose until in the 1990’s. During that time, Prime Orions Philippines acquired the old Tutuban station and then made this a shopping center, hence the term “Tutuban Center”.
Nonetheless, what is more obvious is the relocation of Tutuban station. The “PNR Executive Building” was built sometime in the 1990’s, which also houses other offices and amenities. Consequently, as implied above, the PNR Tutuban depot has been cut in size. The new Executive Building does not reflect the rather elaborate design of the old Tutuban station.
The Spanish-era Tutuban station-turned-mall can be a fair example of adaptive reuse. The facade may have been incorporated in this development, but the riveted columns were retained, as well as the shape of the structure and how it can be seen from its surroundings.
As for the new Tutuban station housed in the PNR Executive Building, steam locomotives on display will greet the passers-by.
- PNR in Philippine History. Pnr.gov.ph
- Urban Roamer. The Story of Tutuban Center
- Bautista, K.Y. (2018) Tondo’s Old Tutuban Main Station goes from rail to retail. BluPrint Magazine
- Corpuz, A. (1989) Railroads and regional development in the Philippines: Views from the colonial iron horse, 1875-1935. Rizal.library.ateneo.edu
- Gonzalez, M.M. (1979) The de Manila a Dagupan. asj.upd.edu.ph