While states undertook railway construction targeting economic and military objectives, this article questions whether and to which extent their symbolic territorial cohesion was also at stake. The hypothesis we aim to verify is that railway buildings acted as recurrent visual signifiers of territorial coherence and had, therefore, the potential of being instrumental as state-building tools. This research explores how an architectural reading of railway networks can inform our understanding of state-building projects and processes. We expect that geographically scoped railway architectural history is capable of cross-fertilizing political and planning history, through a better understanding of empire, state, and regional building discourses. The investigation focuses on the stylistic architectural choices of edifices on two trunk lines in Transylvania, North-West Romania, before World War I, while this territory belonged to the Habsburg then, as of 1867, Austro-Hungarian Empire. The large-scale analysis of railway architecture is discussed in relation to railway-line ownership, political (central, regional, and local) agency, economic development, and architectural Zeitgeist, highlighting state-building and territorial integration patterns. The mapping carried out reveals two successive architectural layers. These denote a shift in the role of railway architecture from an initial liberal phase, before the 1880s, to a bloom phase, prior to World War I. While during the former there was little state control over architectural aspects, during the latter architecture became a foremost representation instrument for the state railway administration. At the same time, the extant railway architecture appears as a palimpsest, a genuinely cross-border, European heritage, documenting the dynamics between imperial, state, regional, and local agencies.