Unknown Wrocław: Main Railway Station - a railroad gem

The place, visited daily by thousands of people, still has a lot of beauty and secrets. This week we looked at places the passengers using the Station do not normally go to. Away from the area opened for the public there are architectural treasures, rooms with gorgeous decorations, and unique staircases at the upper floors of the building.

Nearly 7 million bricks

The Wrocław Main Railway Station (Dworzec Wrocław Główny) was built in the years 1855-1857 based on a design prepared by Wilhelm Grapow, the royal architect, in the Tudor Gothic style. The building is extraordinary due to its style and scale. It was made from 6,774,000 solid bricks, 94,000 perforated bricks, 120,000 shaped bricks, 124,600 cubic feet of lime, 1,100 tons of Portland cement, 425 tons of gypsum, and 2,333 cubic perches of masonry sand, and the entire project cost 449,000 thalers, which was an astronomical sum at that time, not counting the furniture and the lighting, which cost an additional 26,400 thalers.

There are no underground vaults, but

In the late 1930's, bomb shelters were built near the station. The first was built along ul. Sucha. The second one, which was connected to the main building, was located under the station's yard.

There many legends about the shelters after the war. They said that they were as deep as 7 stories underground. Some said that there was another underground station below and that it was that station where the treasures of Wrocław were transported from. During the reconstruction of the station and the research work, these legends were verified. The researchers drilled several dozen holes reaching as far down as 20 meters below the ground level. The drills also tested the ground down to five meters below the floor of the shelter. Nothing was found. During the demolition of the shelter under the station's yard, which took over six months, nothing was found either. An underground car park was built in the former location of the bomb shelter.

Valuable findings on ceilings and walls

The restorers working at the station encountered many interesting findings - we were able to see them. One of the most important was the paintings on the ceiling (as it turned out later, in the Emperor's Room whose presence no one expected). When one enters the room, it is hard not to look up. The paintings charm with their texture, colour, and harmony. The Emperor's room located in the eastern part of the station was prepared for the visit of Emperor Wilhelm II with his wife Augusta Victoria, at the so-called Kaiser Tage in 1906.

Another item that attracts one's attention in that part of the station is the historical staircase and the walls with renovated paintings of the emperor's eagles intertwined with floral motives with acanthus leaves. The wooden ceiling, consisting of four parts, is very unique. The element that connects all its parts is the column with paintings of four emperor's eagles. At the coping of the column, on the ceiling, there are four angels inscribed in the sun, which hold, on red cushions, the insignia of power: a crown, a sword, a sceptre, and an apple. On the ceiling there are coats of arms: four central ones (one on each part of the ceiling) are coats of arms of the kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Württemberg. The remaining ones are coats of arms of duchies. In the vestibule, there is a more local accent, dated by historians to go back to 1871. These are the two black eagles of the Kingdom of Prussia, with the FR (Fredericus Rex) initials on their chests. Below are two coat of arms shields with letter W (Wrocław) and the eagle of the Silesian Province.

Discoveries in unexpected places

During the restoration works, it was discovered that the 155 years old coffer ceiling in the Session Room is not made from wood, as was universally believed, but from zinc-coated metal sheet. The ceiling was made in a rolling mill in Katowice and the author of the clever trick that made it "become" wooden was most likely the painter H. Vogel from the Rumsch company. He made a decorative painting in which a hard brush was used to imitate the structure of wood extending in different directions.

This is not the only interesting discovery made in that room. In the ceiling of the lower part of the Session Room, the restorers found a board that indicated that some work was performed there just after the war. The text inscribed on the board says that on 6 June three persons worked in the Session Room: "in 1946 Ludwik Kubala, Jan Wis - Poles worked here and on that day they were fired... and one Dushe Rozbigan Paul." The inscriptions on the board say that Ludwik Kubala and Jan Wis came from Kraków.

Advertisements, Art Nouveau, glass panes, and unexpected explosives

There were some more discoveries during the revamp of the Wrocław's railway station. In the summer of 2010, during the demolition works, the workers found pieces of Art Nouveau ticket office glass panes dating back to the early 20th century. Based on the rich iconography, the wooden Art Nouveau glass panes were reconstructed in the workshop of a Wrocław carpenter. Wherever it was possible, the original elements were renovated, used in the new panes, and reinstalled at the station.

During the works on the ground floor of the central break, two advertisements dating back to the 1930's were discovered. The first one shows boys dressed like a soldier and a sailor and encourages customers to buy clothes made by the Bleyle company (which still exists). The second one is an advertisement of the Nordhotel hotel located at Gartenstrasse (the present ul. Piłsudskiego). The advertisements will not be seen any more, as they were preserved and covered up.

The platforms and the passages, as well as the revamped yard in front of the station also have many secrets. For example, on the platforms where passengers wait for trains, the original dragon heads were restored. They were forged by a smith on the basis of a single original head which was located on platform 5. Whey you come to the station, take note of the little Wrocław's friends, the gnomes. There are three of them there. The station is also decorated by the original neon lights, among others those that read "ticket offices" and the huge "Wrocław Main Railway Station". In the tunnels there are also German inscriptions and Wrocław's coats of arms, and at the end of the station's hall there is a peculiar crane for filling steam locomotives with water.

Based on the text of Bartłomiej Sarna of PKP S.A. (prepared by JK)

Janusz Krzeszowski