We are used to looking at railway stations from a practical point of view, but actually they do have as much aesthetic and architectural value, as some museums and palaces. They are silent witnesses of revolutions, wars, technological and cultural breakthroughs. Besides, some of them offer new attractions to travellers, interested in engineering and history of railroad making, such as theme museums and antique locomotives. In this post we invite you to discover the beauty and the history of Moscow stations, as well as look into the history of Russian railway development from its beginning.
- Leningradsky station
This was the first Moscow station built in the 1840s by an outstanding architect Konstantin Thon, famous for constructing the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin Armory. Most of the station is decorated in the style of the Russian Revival, like the rest of his projects, while a clock tower mimics Western European town Halls.
In 1855 the station and the railway itself was named in honor of the Emperor Nicholas I, commemorating him as a founder of railways in Russia. After the Revolution and the Civil War shook the country it was impossible for the main capital’s station to bear the emperor’s name, so it was renamed into Oktyabrsky terminal to commemorate the October Revolution. The present name was given a year later when the city of Petrograd became Leningrad (yes, Bolsheviks loved to give their own names to street, squares, and even cities that they did not found or created).
It is noteworthy that Leningradsky railway station is the only one in Moscow that is operated, as it was a century and a half ago, by the St Petersburg department of Russian Railroads.
2. Kazansky Station
Back in 1859, The Emperor Alexander II launched the construction of the Saratov railway, which was extended in 1894 to Kazan, hence comes the modern name of the station. But at that time the station did not look as spectacular as it does today. It wasn’t until 1911 that a tender for a new building was published.
Russian traditional architecture was taken as a dominating theme for its facades, and a 73m high replica of Söyembikä Tower tower of Kazan Kremlin, as a reminder to the passengers about where they are traveling. Arriving at the station, you may always check the precise time on a zodiac clock tower.
3. Yaroslavsky Station
The development of railroads in Russian Empire was intensive and rapid. In 1862 another branch of railway opened, connecting Moscow to Sergiev Posad. Back then the trains arrived to a small station, that proved to be too tiny when the rail was extended to Yaroslavl and Arkhangelsk.
The growing Russian transport system required bigger and more efficient constructions to meet the requirements of boosted passenger flow. Architect Shekhtel used the favorite Emperor’s Russian Revival style, bringing Komsomolskaya square (informally known as Three Station Square) to architectural consonance. The stations façade was inspired by the pavilion of the Russian North from Nizhny Novgorod Fair 1896, and included elements of traditional northern architecture. In 1966 there was an extensive reconstruction, that gave Yaroslavsky station an up-to-date look, but you can still see façades of the original building.
4. Belorussky station
Its history began in 1869 under the name Smolensky Station. Though soon after, the rail line was extended till Brest and the railway station was renamed Brestsky. This branch became the longest one in the country counting 1100 km. The case with it was similar to Yaroslavsky: by the 1890s the station could barely hold the passengers of one train. The reconstruction began only in 1907.
In 1912 the railway station and the rail line were given new names commemorating the name of Alexander I who conquered Napoleon in 1812. But as well as Nikolaevsky, Alexandrovsky terminal was doomed to lose its Imperial name after the revolution and the civil war. The station left a mark in the history of Great Patriotic War, as on June 26, 1941 the song “Holy War” was sung for the first time on the square in front of it as Soviet soldiers were going to the western front from Belorussky terminal.
The Aeroexpress trains to Sheremetyevo (search for code SVO on your air ticket) are operated from here.
5. Kiyevsky Station
In 1898 Moscow was finally connected with Kaluga and Bryansk, so the station was called Bryansky at the beginning. The building was often mocked at as it was just a wooden construction that contradicted the style and the very status of a capital’s station. Everything changed in 15 years. One interesting detail that the reconstruction brought, was a tower with a mechanic clock. It is the second authentic mechanic movement after The Kremlin carillon, that is preserved in Moscow.
To commemorate the Patriotic War of 1812, Borodinsky bridge was built in 1912, which connected the reconstructed station with Moscow center. The station and the bridge became a unified architectural and memorial complex, dedicated to the events of 1812. In 1934 the station was finally given its modern name. From this station you may board an Aeroexpress train to Vnukovo airport (if this is your airport, there will be VKO code on your air ticket).
6. Rizhsky station
In 1897 the decision was made to connect Moscow with Ventspils, which is located in modern Latvia. Russian Revival took the lead again in decoration of the station façade, bringing back elements of Russian architecture before Peter the Great. Innovation was there as the building and the platforms were lit by electricity generated by the station’s own power plant.
You would be surprised to know that Rizhsky railway station is one of the quietest in Moscow as there are only two trains departing from it daily. This station also left a substantial mark in history, thanks to the art of cinematography as it became a staging area for famous Soviet and Russian movies such as “Seventeen Moments of Spring”, “Station for Two” and “Admiral”. Recently it became popular among tourists since the Museum of Railway Technique was opened here, containing over 60 exponents of real retired trains and locomotives.
7. Kursky Station
Kursky terminal enables long-distance trains from St. Petersburg and other northern cities to pass through Moscow to southern cities. With its three directions (to Kursk, Nizhny Novgorod & to the north) Kursky is one of Moscow’s busiest and most important railway stations.
Kursky started as Nizhegorodsky Station that launched the first trains to the south and south-east direction in 1860s. The newly built combined station was opened for passengers only in 1896. The brand new building had a pretty classical look that hardly could be seen now. Two major reconstructions completely changed the look of the station in 1938 and in 1972.
8. Savelovsky Station
The first trains set off from here in 1902, making it the youngest and quietest Moscow station. It was vividly described by famous Soviet writers Ilf and Petrov in the satirical novel The Twelve Chairs. Its one and only reconstruction took place in 1987. In 1999 all long-distance trains were eliminated from this station. This made Savelovsky special in its own way as now it is the only terminal in Moscow that receives suburban trains only.
9. Paveletsky station
By the end of the 19th century Russian Railways have already put enough rails to form regional affiliates in order to operate numerous long-distance trains. The longest private stretch of rails went through the Central and Black Earth region and Volga region all the way to Ural mountains, but it wasn’t connected with the Empire’s soul, Moscow.
Finally in May 1897 the decision was made to link a small town in the Tula region, Pavelets, connecting Moscow to these regional affiliates (hence the name of the station). Paveletsky station opened in 1900 and experienced only one reconstruction in 1980. Nowadays it also operates Aeroexpress trains to Moscow Domodedovo airport (search for DME code on your air ticket).
Not too far from the station you may find The Museum of the Moscow Railway formerly known as Museum of Lenin’s funeral train. It still houses exhibits relating to Vladimir Lenin’s Funeral train including the steam locomotive U-127 and Lenin’s funeral van No 1691. But it’s not only Lenin’s death that makes U-127 locomotive unique. Today it is one of the two preserved passenger locomotives left that were built before revolution. The collection of exhibits has been expanded and it now also houses many artifacts concerning the Moscow Railway and the history of Russian Railways from the beginnings to the present day.
Got inspired by this article & ready to start your Moscow adventure?