Many famous trains, including the “Flying Silesian”, passed through the Main Railway Station in Wrocław

Wrocław Główny

Silesia is a vast land with an eventful history. Regardless of the vicissitudes of history, it is worth realising that from the point of view of technical development and civilisation standards, it never fell behind Europe. It is from Wrocław that the first railway line on the territory of present-day Poland was led, namely the Upper Silesian Railway. In June 1842 it joined Wrocław with Oława, and was later extended through Brzeg and Opole, as far as Mysłowice. The line started in Wrocław at the first railway station in the city, known as the Upper Silesian station (presently it houses an outpatient clinic). Almost at the same time the Wrocław-Świebodzice Railway was created (1843), also starting at its own railway station, and then other lines followed. To this date, there are as many as 26 stations in Wrocław, but the most recognisable is the one where the beautiful and very functional Main Station was built.

The restored railway station in Wrocław is admired by travellers and tourists

The need to serve a rapidly increasing number of passen-gers was the stimulus to replace the first Upper Silesian Railway station with a new one. In 1856 a building was constructed according to a design by the royal architect, Wilhem Grapow. The platforms were located in a hall. At the beginning, the station served one platform and three tracks. The hall, the neighbouring concourse and the main building together became the biggest facility of that kind in Europe. The flagship part, that is the mentioned station building, was built in the Neo-Gothic style, imitating the Tudor era style, which was uncommon in German architecture of that time.

The coffer ceiling in the Art Nouveau Hall

The building is unique on a global scale, because no solutions from any other railway station in the world were used here. The whole complex resembled a small, fortified town.

 

With the passing of time, the Main Station was extended. In 1899 – 1904 it was thoroughly modernised under the supervision of architect, Bernard Klüsche, the changes included adding pedestrian subways, Art Nouveau ornaments, and extending the station by several tracks and platforms. Everything was covered by glazed platform halls, one of the most recognisable elements of the Wrocław station. Between the bigger and the smaller hall a few-metres-wide gap was left, so that drivers could place the chimneys of the steam locomotives there. It helped to avoid smokiness.

Restored vaulting in the waiting lounge

The station strongly influenced the well-thought-out urbanisation of the area. There were also green areas, ponds and gardens nearby. At the turn of the 19th century it was rebuilt again, combining elements of historicism and Art Nouveau. It was extended by five platforms, covered by the hall. During the reconstruction, five tunnels were run under the platforms, serving as passages leading to the platforms and used for mail transport.

The platforms of the railway station in Wrocław covere d with huge carports with glass elements

The Wrocław station was full of life, as would become the capital of Silesia. Steam locomotives breaking speed records passed through it: the “Flying Silesian”, which covered the distance from Bytom to Berlin in four hours, or electric trains going towards the Owl Mountains. During World War II, the square in front of the station was dug up, and huge shelters were built underneath. Unfortunately, after the war the façades were damaged, as the ornamental elements were removed, and the station lost its appeal.

The famous neon sign over the ticket windows

Since 1947, over seven million people visited the cinema in the west wing, where films were played all the time. The station's relationship with film was confirmed by a tragic accident: Zbigniew Cybulski was fatally injured here, while he was jumping on the train in 1967. In 1997, Andrzej Wajda uncovered a memorial plaque in the platform floor commemorating the actor.

The neon sign over platforms

Comprehensive revitalisation of the station, supervised by a building restorer, who oversaw the reconstruction of details, was started in 2009, because of the approaching European Football Championship. The design prepared by the Grupa 5 company from Warsaw was subsidised from European Union funds. The building was fitted with air conditioning and solar collectors were installed on the roof the south pavilion to heat water, the underground shelter under the station was replaced by an underground parking lot. The new, sixth platform serves the city lines.

 

Thus, Wrocław – a city organising matches during Euro 2012 – can take pride in its historic, beautiful yet passenger-friendly station building, combining in a unique way tradition with modernity.

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© Całość praw autorskich - Antoni Bochen, Filip Wiśniewski