Madrid Atocha is the biggest railway station in Madrid, situated in the centre of the capital, and operated by the Spanish national rail company, Renfe (Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Espanoles). The station serves suburban trains of the local Cercanías system, as well as intercity and regional trains from the south. AVE high speed trains from Barcelona, Saragossa, Seville and Valencia also stop here.
Madrid's first railway station was opened on 9 February 1851 at this site, under the name of Estación de Mediodía. Unfortunately, the building was largely destroyed in a fire. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1892. Its name was also changed to Madrid Atocha, because of the name of the nearby Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha. The man behind the new design, in the wrought iron style, was architect Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, known for his collaboration with Gustave Eiffel and engineer Henry Saint James. Between two red brick buildings, at ca. 89 feet (27 metres), there is a roof in the form of an inverted hull. The steel and glass roof over the platforms spans over the length of 515 feet (157 metres). The original façade of the station faces the Emperor Charles V square, where the city's main streets converge.
The complete remo-delling of the station building started in 1985, based on the design by Rafael Moneo. As a result, in 1992 the original building was taken out as a terminal, and transfor-med into a shopping and entertainment centre. Inside, covering 13,124 sq ft (4,000 sq m), a tropical garden was opened with amazing exotic plants and turtles swimming in small ponds. The platforms in the new terminal are located underground, and the trains enter the station through a tunnel under Paseo de la Castellana, one of Madrid's major streets.
A tragic moment in the history of Spanish rail was 11 March 2004. On that day a terrorist attack took place at the Madrid Atocha station, in which 192 people were killed, and over 1,800 injured. Ten bombs exploded after they had been planted in trains by Al-Qaeda bombers. Three of the explosive devices were defused. After the tragic event a monument for the victims of the attack was erected at the station, and 192 olive trees and cypresses were planted in their memory in the nearby del Buen Retiro park.