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Around railway station

Tamanian's plan was for a new central railway terminus but this was never realised and the main station is in an industrial area south of the centre. The fine station building dates from 1956 and is a striking structure though it now sees much less traffic because of the closure of the border with Azerbaijan; there are now only nine departures each day and consequently few visitors ever come here. The long facade has, uniquely for Armenia, a tall central spire that would not be out of place in St Petersburg. The finial of this spire is, equally unusually, still topped by a purely Soviet symbol being a form of the design of the coat of arms of Soviet Armenia adopted in 1937 and replaced after independence in 1992. The coat of arms was based on a design by the well-known Armenian artist Martiros Sarian and depicts the five-pointed Soviet star above Mount Ararat with a bunch of grapes and ears of wheat below. The coat of arms also bore the well-known slogan 'Proletarians of all lands, unite!' but the railway station does not appear from ground level to enjoy this embellishment.

In front of the station is Ervand Kochar's very fine equestrian statue of David of Sassoun mounted on his horse Dzhalali. The epic stories of David of Sassoun date back to the 10th century though they were not written down until 1873. They recount the fortunes of Davids family over four generations, Sassoun symbolising Armenia in its struggle against Arab domination. The statue shows David brandishing a sword which is ready to fall on the invaders while water flows from a bowl over the pedestal, symbolising that when the patience of the people is at an end there will be no mercy for the oppressors. David's crest of honour was a sword of lightning, belt of gold, immortal flying horse and sacred cross.

More prosaically, on one of the tracks away from the station platform is positioned a steam engine. It is E" class number 705-46, built in 1930 and one of around 11,000 E class 0-10-0s built between 1912 and 1957 as the standard design for hauling heavy freight trains. This is the largest number of any steam locomotive design ever constructed. In the Eu variant, to which this particular example belongs, the superscript U stands for usilennyi - 'strengthened'. The last driver of the train, born in 1927, has a collection of personal memorabilia, including photographs of Stalin, in the train which he is happy to show anyone who is interested. Like many Armenians he is more than willing to pose for photographs: he insists on wearing his uniform jacket with his medals for the occasion. A small railway museum has been established in the station building. Only railway enthusiasts would make a special journey to see it but it might be worth a quick look while waiting for a train. If it is closed, ask at Enquiries.

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