BAGHDAD - The marble floors have been polished, the chandelier hangs again from the main lobby's dome and the ticket counters boast a fresh coat of paint.
The only thing missing from Baghdad's 1950s train station after a US$60 million refit is passengers.
So scared are travellers of insurgent ambushes and bombs that Iraq's sole passenger train, which links Baghdad with Mosul, runs empty.
Yellow-and-green locomotives sit idle under the scorching sun at the weed-covered platforms outside the Art Deco-inspired station.
"We don't have passengers. They are too afraid to travel. Maybe in the future people will have the courage," said Mohammed Ali Hashim, Baghdad director for Iraqi Republic Railways.
The station, a large building framed by two identical clock towers in a dangerous Baghdad neighbourhood, is open to the public and sells tickets, but nobody dares to show up.
Decades of wars, sanctions and the looting that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's rule in 2003 have crippled Iraq's once-proud rail system.
US reconstruction officials, who toured the station last week, said rebuilding Iraq's 2000km of railway was essential to reviving the economy by hauling fuel, food and passengers.
About US$53 million ($87 million) was spent on a control room and US$6 million on refurbishing the station, which was looted after Saddam's fall.
But other rail repairs have been hit by the insurgency and fear of attack.
The Baghdad to Basra line was disrupted three months ago after saboteurs destroyed rails.
Aladdin Sadiq Khanak, the IRR deputy director general, was shot and wounded by gunmen two years ago while he was supervising repair work on a bombed-out bridge in the area.
A postwar survey estimated that restoration of Iraq's railroad system would require US$2 billion.
"The stations have been looted and the trains bombed," Khanak said.
Built by imperial German and British engineers in the first two decades of the 20th century, the Baghdad Railway was once a vital link between Europe and the Middle East.
Thomas Cook offered London-Baghdad train packages for rich clients boasting "Safety, Rapidity, Economy". Crime writer Agatha Christie, who had a house in Baghdad, was inspired to write Murder on the Orient Express after an eight-day trip in 1928.
The present station, built 25 years later while Iraq was still ruled by a British-installed monarchy, once had telegraph services, banks, a post office, shopping areas and restaurants.
Today, posters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr decorate the main lobby. Sadr's followers control the Transport Ministry.
The daily 10-hour, 400km ride from Baghdad to Mosul, stopping at Samarra and Tikrit, costs 50 US cents but the two coaches go empty.
Engineer Ahmed Ibrahim said: "It's like having a car - even if you don't drive it you have to keep the motor running."