About railway stations

Station buildings are a kind of gateway in the fabric of a city, and, as well as the coming and going of departures and arrivals, they are sometimes the site of our forced waiting. Interestingly, this waiting was not always a burden, and in the days of civilised waiting rooms, the Royal waiting halls and the “resti” (small railway inns), it was even a way of passing the time. The buildings of railway stations were, of course, primarily functional, and although the form of railway stations has been influenced by history, our travel habits have changed at least as much as these stations. 


It is perhaps obvious also to laypersons that station buildings are type buildings, but this was not always the case. Before the monopoly of MÁV, there were several large state-owned and countless small private railway companies in our country, such as the Hungarian Central Railway, the Southern Railway, or the Tisza Regional Railway. Not surprisingly, the buildings of these companies may have differed considerably. What was definitely agreed was that the size of the buildings was designed to take into account the volume of passenger traffic.
What were the type designs like? The common feature was that the buildings were classed, so that the first-class buildings were the largest, while the passenger areas of the class V and class IV stations sometimes consisted of a single waiting room, with only a few steps separating the ticket office and the staff accommodation.
Fortunately, several railway station buildings survived and can still be seen today, having been renovated, which is why expert eyes can conclude from the station buildings not only to the railway company but also to the age of constructions. As far as the style of railway houses is concerned, they bear the taste of Ferenc Pfaff, the chief architect of MÁV. Pfaff studied at the University of Technology and after designing a few small buildings, he joined the MÁV in 1887 as chief architect. From Kolozsvár to Pécs, from Arad to Miskolc, he and his colleagues designed and remodelled 38 station buildings in historical Hungary.

2015197_2.jpgHe was first entrusted with the station building in Fiume, which was completed by 1890. He also designed the Transport Museum in Budapest, which was built for the Millennium celebrations. Unfortunately, many station buildings were destroyed in the Second World War. Because of the Trianon peace treaty earlier, a large part of their locations was across the border. All of the buildings still standing today are protected as historical, local or railway heritage monuments. In our selection, the first station (designed by him) along the line No. 100 is the one in Cegléd.

Line 100

VF_32118.jpgThe railway station of Cegléd was completed in 1909. According to the press of the time, there were some problems with the location of the building: the main entrance was not on the axis of the Rákóczi Road originally. If we are to believe recollections, the plans were modified so that the orientation of the building is now correct, owing to the Minister responsible for railways and transport. It is still one of the most beautiful station buildings due to its distinctive red brick cladding. It stands out a little from our selection, and not just because it is the only station house that has not suffered any permanent damage, although the boiler house and sidetracks were demolished during the renovation in 2007. 

50100418541a.jpgIn the 1840s two groups of capitalists wanted to build railways in Hungary, one was the Viennese banker György Sina, a business associate of István Széchenyi, the other was the banker Móric Ullmann from Pest. Parliament gave Ullmann the right to build the railway, and so the Hungarian Central Railway started building the line to Vienna first. Its first section was the well-known line to Vác, but at almost the same time, work began on the line to Szolnok in the east as well. The Pest-Szolnok line was opened to traffic on 1 September 1847, a year after the Vác line. The first railway station in Ószolnok - which is not the predecessor of the present station building in Szolnok - was built by the Hungarian Central Railway company based on Wilhelm Paul Sprenger's plans in the classicist style.
dia_010225.jpgThe second railway station, built in 1857, was built by the Tisza Region Railway Co. on the approximate site of the building that stands there today. Its special feature was the wooden train reception hall, which was intended to demonstrate the importance of the station. The ancestor of the present building, the third railway station, was built in 1908, based on the plans of Ferenc Pfaff. In 1944, the station was so badly damaged by a bomb attack that it was demolished. The bombing of Szolnok during the Second World War was of terrible power. First, hundreds of British and American planes attacked the area around the Tisza Bridge and the railway station, but later, when Soviet troops occupied the city, the Germans began bombing, and the station and its surroundings were almost completely destroyed. The station building, which can still be seen today, was designed by Ybl Prize-winning architect Vilmos Schneller and was inaugurated in 1975, the 900th anniversary of the founding of Szolnok. The building covers an area of 13,000 m2, a size that is not exaggerated, since at that time Szolnok was the most modern railway junction in Central Europe. 


Continuing along the line, the railway station building of Debrecen was arranged by the Tisza Region Railway, when the company's first railway line was built from Szolnok to Debrecen. As an innovation, the railway company had a wooden platform roof built over the station tracks.

As the railway expanded in many directions, the need to extend the building arose naturally. Ferenc Pfaff was entrusted with the plans, and he wanted to reinforce the hall-like character of the building with a huge two-storey arched glass wall around the entrance. It was heavily bombed during the Second World War and was demolished in 1958. The new complex, designed by László Kelemen and István Sajó, was completed in 1961. The most prominent part is the waiting hall covered with three cross-vaulted reinforced concrete shell domes, but the interior is also grandiose, with Endre Domanovszky's giant sgraffitos (Debrecen Fair) still decorating the two side walls of the hall. The walls are still covered with Siklós marble and the floor with red marble. The building complex once included a workers' hostel and an inn. In terms of its operation, it had passenger service shops, 'futurist' tables and a 'cultural lounge'.

67230111.jpgThe last station on the railway line we are following was Nyíregyháza, whose first reception building, built by the Tisza Region Railway in 1858, must have looked like the present-day station in Püspökladány. The second station was designed by Pfaff and was opened in 1910. During the Second World War, during the British bombardment, the station house was destroyed, and the new building (now the third) was inaugurated in 1951. It was built by Jan Bahradniczky, a Polish railway engineer, and owes its structures to Boldizsár Vásárhelyi, a professor at the University of Technology. According to architect Attila Kulcsár, the building was one of the first representatives of so-called modern architecture in Hungary. The newest station building, which is still in use today, was inaugurated in 2002, designed by architects of Nyíregyháza Rita Kovács and József Végh. The somewhat austere, modern building is a functionalist creation and, despite initial aversions, is now an integral part of the city image.

Rail transport has changed a lot in recent decades, freight is no longer transported by rail alone, but the range of passenger services is not what it used to be either. Perhaps the biggest change, much to our annoyance, is the disappearance of waiting rooms and their seats, but one thing that fortunately has not changed is the desire to travel.

Translated by Zita Aknai







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