The first freight railways in the Habsburg Empire began functioning in the early nineteenth century, but passenger trains only started to operate in 1837, several years after the launch of the Manchester–Liverpool passenger train in 1830. While the most advanced provinces of the Empire, Austria and Bohemia, were the first to benefit from the construction of railways, for Transylvania, a peripheral province, the introduction of this type of transportation was discussed only in 1847, in the Diet of Bratislava (Pozsony). The plans were postponed by the outbreak of the revolution in 1848-49. In 1850, the government in Vienna intended to begin a vast programme of railway construction throughout the empire, including Transylvania. Two projects envisioned train connections between the province and the rest of the empire. The first project proposed a railway in the province’s southern part, on the route Arad – Simeria – Alba Iulia – Sibiu. The second project planned a connection from the north-western part, on the route Oradea – Cluj – Brașov. As Cluj had been the capital of the Hungarian revolutionary aristocracy in 1848-49, after 1850, during the Austrian neo-absolutist regime, Sibiu became the residence of the governor of Transylvania and of the financial administration, as well as becoming the judicial centre. Furthermore, as Vienna did not intend to pay any favours to the Magyar nobility of Hungary and Transylvania, noting also the lower costs of the “governmental” compared to the “Transylvanian’s” railway, on 10 August 1865 the emperor sanctioned the concession of the Arad–Alba Iulia line, which was known as the “first railway of Transylvania”.
Alba Iulia benefitted from its proximity to Sibiu, as the construction of the railway line was completed in 1868. The construction of the segment from Alba Iulia to Sibiu came to fruition in 1872, the inhabitants of Alba Iulia and the surrounding area thus becoming the first Transylvanians to have access to the “benefits of railway transportation”. The railway station, completed in 1868, had a covered platform for passengers and two identical halls connected by a vestibule. A steel bridge over the Mureș river, with a length of 41.2 m, was built according to the Schifkorn system. On 8 December 1868, the first freight train entered the station and, two weeks later, on the platform of Alba Iulia station stopped the “Radna” passenger train.
Alba Iulia railway station is connected to many important events. It witnessed the arrival of participants to the Great National Assembly on 1 December 1918; that of General Henri Berthelot in January 1919; that of the royal family, which on several occasions travelled to Alba Iulia by train; and that of the Bucharest officials arriving in Alba Iulia in 2003, on the occasion of 85 years since the unification of Transylvania with Romania.
The station was renovated and enlarged in 1922, on the occasion of the crowning of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary. In 1929, on the celebration of one decade from 1 December 1918, it was once again redecorated. The current appearance of the station is the result of the last arrangements made in 2003. (S.A.)