Gdańsk is a peculiar place, as water and land transport systems meet here, including railway. The city is a large industrial, administrative, commercial and tourist centre. In 1847 it was decided to incorporate Gdańsk to the Prussian Eastern Railway (Ostbahn), going from Berlin through Piła and Bydgoszcz to Königsberg. Tczew was chosen as the place for a junction from which a branch line was to lead to Gdańsk. Geological and field conditions made it possible to build in Tczew the longest, at that time, railway and traffic bridge in Europe.
The first Prussian Eastern Railway train came to Tczew from Gdańsk in 1852, terminating at the station known as Lowland Gate. King Frederic William IV himself disembarked the train. The people of Gdańsk could reach as far as Malbork 5 years later, and in 1870 the Berlin-Stettin Railway Association built a line to Słupsk. In the interwar period the coal main line from Silesia reached Gdańsk.
In 1867 the first central station, Gdańsk High Gate, was built. In its vicinity there was a moat and western defensive fortifications of the city. The decision to expand the station was taken in 1894. The ceremonial opening of the new building (called the “welcoming”) for service took place on 30 October 1900, and it gathered thousands of Gdańsk citizens. The whole complex was very modern. Five roofed platforms were built, as well as two pedestrian subways. Ticket offices were placed in a separate, smaller building. At the station there were also waiting rooms for passengers of the first, second, third and fourth class, buffets for men and women, a police station, and a telegraph and post office. This characteristic and beautiful facility, built in the Gdańsk Renaissance style, was designed by Aleksander Ruedell, Paul Thoemer and Georg Cuny. The whole structure was integrated between the urban buildings and Gradowa Mountain.
And here comes the surprise: according to the same plans, an almost identical station, Gare de Colmar, was built in France. The Neo-Renaissance and Baroque architecture of the railway station in Gdańsk also impressed… the Japanese, who built a wedding palace in the town of Imari. It is difficult to say what captivated them more: clinker brick combined with sandstone from Wartkowice, or the eclectic ornaments? Or maybe a 164 ft (50 m) tall clock tower, hiding water line equipment typical for a water tower? Certainly the passengers appreciated the large reception hall, luggage storage, washrooms and toilets.
Similarly to Wrocław, here also building of a railway station influenced urbanisation of the surrounding area. Hotels and shops appeared, and access roads were built. As in many other cities, 1945 left a mark of tragic events on the building. The retreating German army were destroying railroads, and the Russians burnt the station. Only the tower mentioned before survived. The building, clearly, was reconstructed, and it underwent certain modernisation in 1965 and 1996.
Presently, the whole complex contains ticket offices of two Polish State Railways (PKP) companies, small food outlets, railway guard station and a post office. Restaurants have a permanent place in the station building. The costs of necessary repairs are covered by the money from rents.
The relation of the Gdańsk station with the sea is visible in quite a different way. In 1471, Hans Memling painted the “Doomsday” triptych for the Badia Fiesolana church in Florence. At that time the sea blockade of England was in progress, and one of the blocking ships was the “Piotr z Gdańska” (Peter from Gdańsk) caravel, led by Paweł Beneke. It was the crew of this ship that captured the galleon transporting Memling's masterpiece. The painting was bequeathed to Saint Mary's Church. During World War II, the Nazis took it far into the Reich. The Russians took the triptych from there to the Hermitage, and only in 1956 Gdańsk regained the valuable work of art. Following the initiative of the National Museum in Gdańsk, PKP and local authorities, a copy of the painting was made on a semi-transparent foil, and then on 11 August 2006 it was glued into a semicircular window at the front of the station building. For many citizens of Gdańsk this has a symbolic meaning: Doomsday reminds about the duty to protect legacy, that is, the state of affairs left to subsequent generations, since the level of investment in the central station is considered to be insufficient.