Vitebsky railway station is the oldest railway terminal in St. Petersburg and the first railway station in Russia. The railroad that connected Tsarskoye Selo and St. Petersburg became the first public railway in the country in 1837. The first wooden building of the station was constructed specifically to service this area.
The modern building was built in 1904 by the design of the architect Stanislaw Brzozowski. The major reconstruction of the station took place in 2001 – 2003. The historical decor and architectural features of the building — the dome, original windows, the front marble staircase, stucco moulding on the facade and its original colour — were completely restored.
Vitebsky railway station is not only an amazing monument of architecture but also a popular attraction. We have collected 13 interesting facts about the station, which is one of the visiting cards of St. Petersburg.
1. Vitebsky railway station changed its name twice
It became known as Detskoselsky in 1918 – after renaming Tsarskoye Selo into Detskoye, and since 1935 it has been named Vitebsky – after the name of the city of Vitebsk – the final destination of the route that existed at that time.
2. Emperor Nicholas I became one of the passengers of the first steam locomotive
The first steam locomotive, which left the Vitebsk railway station and opened the way along the Tsarskoye Selo railway in 1837, became known as the “Provorny”. One of his honorary passengers was Emperor Nicholas I, and the Austrian engineer Franz Gerstner, who led the construction of the road, became the train driver.
3. Vitebsky railway station has no station square
Vitebsky railway station, unlike other railway terminals, doesn’t have a station square in front of it – its main facade looks out onto the Zagorodny Prospect
There is a tower with a clock, above which is a relief figure of an owl with open wings on the left corner of the main facade. The semicircular passage between the main and western facades is decorated by Doric columns.
The architecture of Vitebsky railway station and technical capabilities were new for that time. Elevators for passengers, luggage, electric lighting, as well as the whole artistic architectural solution were surprising.
4. There is a lift for luggage at the station but it doesn’t work
Transporters and elevators were built in the railway station during construction. Currently, these elevators don’t function. And this poses a problem: heavy luggage has to be lifted manually to the second floor, where the platforms are located.
5. The royal family had a separate pavilion
On the shore of the Vvedensky Canal, which was subsequently filled up, a royal pavilion was built near the main station building. Trains with members of the imperial family approached it on separate railway tracks.
The modest one-story building is decorated in modern style inside. The interior was decorated with oak light shade, a fireplace was in the waiting room. The antique clock and barometer are preserved on the walls. Restoration works are taking place inside the pavilion, the historical situation is being restored now.
6. Vitebsky railway station has the most beautiful landing stages
In the second half of the 19th century, when the construction and development of railways in Russia began, there was a tradition to build over glass and metal awnings over platforms, which became known as landing stages.
The same construction is also at the Vitebsky railway station – three spans of light metal structures, the details of which are connected by in the flower-shaped rivets. The rail track of the station is raised to a height of five meters, the platforms are on the second floor of the building.
Landing stage covers the first four of the eight railway beds. The rest are electrified and under the open sky. They are used for commuter trains.
7. Vitebsky railway station looks like a palace
The main room of the station is the grand lobby for first and second-class passengers with 20-meter-high ceilings and stained-glass windows. The walls between them are decorated with stucco panels painted in the colour of bronze. You can see the god Mercury, who, according to ancient mythology, patronized commerce and travel, women’s heads surrounded by floral ornaments.
The main decoration of the lobby is a marble staircase, the railing of which is also decorated with filigree patterns. The central marching span ends with a platform on which the bust of Emperor Nicholas I is installed.
8. There is an Art Hall in the waiting room
Walking up the main staircase to the second floor, first-class passengers got into the waiting room intended for them. Now the Art Hall is arranged here: it is decorated with panels illustrating the history of the Tsarskoye Selo railway.
There are cast bronze chandeliers of the beginning of the 20th century on the ceilings in the hall, on the walls – wrought iron sconces with brass.
9. Poets, writers, and artists of St. Petersburg gathered in the restaurant of the Vitebsky railway station
The space of the Art Hall during the construction of the station building was connected to the adjacent hall where the restaurant was located. At all times it was the centre of attraction: the representatives of the St. Petersburg bohemia gathered here.
In Soviet times, the arch leading to the restaurant was closed, it has been empty since 2002 and has come to complete disrepair. Now the restoration work in the restaurant almost completed. A unique oak buffet – a carved counter and marble countertop has been preserved in the here.
10. There is a beautiful Light hall with an openwork spiral staircase at the station
The Light hall is on the second floor. The passengers of the station get to the platform from here. The glazed vaulted roof covers the room, because of this space is flooded with light. The bronze monument to Franz Gerstner, Austrian engineer first Russian railroad, installed in the hall.
A metal spiral staircase with wrought iron railings leads to the Light Hall from the first floor.
11. Concerts and exhibitions are held in the halls of the station
Vitebsky railway station is not just a terminal: various cultural events are regularly held in its halls. The Art Hall organizes traditional concerts of classical music, thematic exhibitions from museums and private collections.
The exhibition “Russian Modern Art” opened in the Art Hall on October 2018. It presents outfits and accessories of Alexander III and Nicholas II era. The place for the exhibition wasn’t chosen by chance: the Vitebsky railway station is an architectural monument of the modern era, the historical interiors of the station create a special atmosphere of that time.
12. Vitebsky railway station is a popular place for photoshoots
The interiors of the Art Hall and the Parade Lobby are suitable for thematic photoshoots. In addition, the station is never crowded, you can be the only guests in the main hall. Newlyweds love to arrange photoshoots in the atmospheric interiors of the station.
13. Vitebsky railway station organizes guided tours
There are guided tours around the territory of the Vitebsky railway station, where you can see not only public halls but also places that are inaccessible to ordinary passengers. During the excursion, you can visit the Grand-Prince’s chambers and the attic room, which is the ceiling of the waiting room for third-class.