Customs station in the Skalmierzyce border station complex - Zabytek.pl
Nowe Skalmierzyce, Kolejowa 19
woj. wielkopolskie, pow. ostrowski, gm. Nowe Skalmierzyce - miasto
The architectural convention in relation to railroad buildings has no analogies in Poland, which makes the station in Nowe Skalmierzyce unique. Similar types of stations can be found in Mazury and Warmia, but they do not have an equally rich and impressive form. The station building is a key element of the urban layout of the border station, being its dominant feature in terms of volume, function and art. It constitutes the original element of the historical establishment of the border station complex, it is an original and authentic object in terms of materials and cubature, and due to its inclusion in the specific architectural context of the entire station also presents outstanding artistic qualities.
History of the structure
The Nowe Skalmierzyce railway station was built at the same time as the border station in 1905-1906. The customs station building is one of seven Prussian stations located at railroad border crossings with the Russian Empire, and one of six within present day Poland. The Skalmierzyce railway station was built last, but its form is most impressive due to its architectural setting, which places it among a dozen or so artistically richest railway station projects in our country.
It was built as an island station, i.e. one in which the platform with the station is surrounded on all sides by tracks (as in Poznań, Leszno, Jarocin or Piła). On its sides there were Prussian standard gauge tracks to the west and Russian broad gauge tracks to the east. Work on construction began in November 1905. After a year, the station building was ready. The pace of work was therefore tremendous. Construction was supervised by Ostrów mason masters Daum and Kuhnt. The construction project was prepared by building advisor Friedrich Blunck from the Royal Directorate of Railways in Poznań. The station became the largest building of the entire station and the spatial dominant of the layout. The building was designed in the March Neo-Gothic style, which is evident both in the external architectural form as well as in the interior decoration. Both the first and second class waiting rooms and the third and fourth class waiting rooms, as well as the huge customs clearance hall, were built as two-storey buildings without upper surfaces and were up to 9.0 metres high. This probably made a great impression on travellers and those passing through the customs hall. The hall itself had a surface area of 836.81 square meters. This is where baggage was checked and goods were cleared. As an international border crossing, the new station was intended to express and emphasize the importance of Prussia and to handle the intense train traffic that was anticipated. The choice of a particular style, Neo-Gothic, was meant to send a clear message - this is a German station and expresses the power of Germany. This style was widely regarded as the national German style. The new station was therefore significantly different from the station in Kalisz and many other neo-Renaissance stations on both sides of the border. As an island station, it received significant accents at the front - a high roof, two massive avant-corps topped with decorative gables. On the axis between the avant-corps was a slender tower with a high cupola visible from a considerable distance.
The side corridors were up to 4 meters high and were covered with shed roofs, covered with tar paper and then connected to the roofs of the platforms. The central hall part was braced with a double suspension-stretcher construction, on which a ceramic roofing was laid, made of glazed red and green ceramic overlapping tiles. Thus, the roof structure was based on the side walls, which on the ground floor were supported on rows of arched reinforced concrete columns made by Baugesellschaft für Lolat-Eisenbeton GmbH, a company from Wrocław. Such a solution is one of the first such bold examples of using reinforced concrete in railroad construction in Poland. The station in this form gained a basilica form, characteristic for religious buildings. The floors are made of modern and healthy xylolite material laid on a 2 cm insulation layer and cemented over a brick floor. Adjacent to the clearance hall were the customs counters, the search room and the baggage check room. The northern part of the building was for official purposes, and thus had customs-related functions, and the southern part was for railroad administration only. In this part there was a staircase, which does not exist now. The staircase led upstairs to the accommodation rooms and the station porter’s apartment, as well as to the coal cellars with a central heating boiler room for the station. Next to the staircase was the first and second class waiting room with an area of 182.60 square meters and the so-called prince’s room. The railway station in Skalmierzyce belonged to the category of princely stations - Fürstenbanhöfe, i.e. they had separate facilities to receive people with ducal titles and above - including the Prussian king or German emperor. These rooms had tile floors and richly decorated ceilings. In the third and fourth class waiting room, the ceiling had a much more modest decoration. Both waiting rooms had the same area and were accessible from the 40 meter long and 4 meter wide west aisle. This corridor led to the southern part of the station with a large hall with a skylight, from which the ticket office, baggage check and currency exchange office were accessible. From here, there was also access to the station ticket office, the station porter’s room and the station square in front of the station. Two identical staircases were located in the southeast and southwest corners, leading to the first floor apartments of the stationmaster/manager and the station restaurateur, allowing them free access to the apartments. These service apartments also included basements. In addition to the central heating system, the station had water-flush toilets. Additional restrooms with sewage pits were located adjacent to the stationmaster’s building on the north side of the station. The station building was connected to a water tower, which provided a supply of running water. The building was illuminated by gas lamps, as the station had a gasoline gasworks located in the water tower. The lamps took the form of wall lamps and chandeliers with milk glass shades. The modern customs station in Skalmierzyce, built on a grand scale, served its purpose for less than a decade. As a result of political changes after World War I, the station became an inferior transit station on the route from Ostrów Wlkp towards Łódź and Warsaw. There were no significant changes to the building during World War I. Only after 1923, when wagon workshops were built on its eastern side, the representative interior of the station began to be adapted to the function of workshops, forges, carpenter’s shops and warehouses. A tall hall building was also added on the north side of the station. In addition to the removal of the historic interior design, transformations were made to the interior, both on the ground and first floors. The central staircase was demolished and instead a large staircase was constructed in the northern part of the station. The northern part, which is a high hall, was divided by a ceiling of reinforced concrete construction, which was based on historical columns and reinforced concrete arcades. Thus, additional space, originally used for warehouses, was gained. Probably in the 1930s it was adapted into a meeting room and ballroom, the details of which are still visible today. Fortunately, the internal changes did not lead to any changes in the shape and details of the building. After World War II, the station building housed the Railway Surface Works (KZN) and warehouses. The first floor served as a cultural and entertainment venue until the 1990s. In the 1990s, the station building was leased by PKP to a company from Kalisz called “Piano-Fiks”, which dealt with the construction, renovation and reconstruction of pianos and grand pianos. The building and the land were handed over to the Commune and City of Nowe Skalmierzyce at the end of 2015.
Description of the structure
The station building is part of the spatial and technical layout of the Skalmierzyce border station, which is located in the town of Nowe Skalmierzyce on the eastern edge of the Ostrów Wielkopolski district. It includes a post office and telegraph station, a stationmaster’s building and station, a water tower, a signal tower, wagon workshops, and workshop and storage buildings. Housing estates for workers were also built next to the station. The station with the buildings of the post office and the stationmaster’s building was built on an island platform in an axial - meridian layout. Thanks to its large cubature and the scale of its architectural solutions, it is the dominant feature of the entire station layout. This is still the case despite the demolition of the tracks on its east side and the construction of a large wagon workshop facility in the 1920s, now a production facility of the Vossloh-SKAMO company. The building was erected in the place where the Kalisz-Warsaw line began. Now there are regular tracks on the western side, and platform I is directly adjacent to the station building. To the north, the station is connected to the workshop building by an annex from the 1920s. From the south it is preceded by a square and Kolejowa Street, planted with a row of lime trees from the west. On its eastern side stands the post office and telegraph building, now the Community Self-Help Centre, preceded by a bicycle shelter built in the 1970-80s that creates a historical dissonance. In the immediate vicinity of the station, on its south-east, a new office building of the Vossloh-SKAMO company was built.
The station was built of ceramic brick with decoration of dark green glazed bricks and ceramic moulding and fragments of plastered panels. Inside the building, apart from brick walls, on the ground floor there are two rows (eastern and western) of reinforced concrete columns connected at the top with arches forming reinforced concrete arcades (this construction is present in the basilica-like northern and central parts). The building consists of two rectangular bodies, a north-south longitudinal body measuring more than 80 meters in length and a transverse frontal massif to the south, with a receding central section measuring 22.0x17.2 meters. The building has an unusually picturesque and decorative body due to numerous attics, small bays, dormer windows, richly elaborated chimney caps, and a tall, soaring tower. The building consists of a basilica-type lower body and a transverse frontal massif flanked from the south by prominent side avant-corps, connected in the first floor by a balcony. The whole is crowned by a high and soaring tower, almost 10 meters high, with a steep, tented roof with a spire on which there is a sphere and a railway symbol - an iron wheel with the wing of Hermes. The elevations are in the rohbau convention, with small plaster panels, with a purely decorative function, dominated by sequences of window and door openings that mark the vertical and horizontal articulation. The detailing and stylistics clearly emphasize the Neo-Gothic character of the elevation, or more precisely, the exuberant forms of the March Neo-Gothic style, both clear in the solutions of architectural details and in the richness of motifs of dark green glazed bricks and various types of ceramic moulding. All elevations are topped with richly designed attics that conceal drainage troughs, which drain the roof slopes. Also noteworthy is the multitude of details and Art Nouveau ornaments. It is visible in the door and window woodwork, window bars and balcony decoration The southern façade has a distinctly vertical layout with extreme avant-corps, with large pointed-arch windows on the ground floor and triforiums on the first floor. The elevation is crowned by stepped attics with blind biforas and tondos, flanked at the top by ceramic claws. On the ground floor there is a main door opening closed with a pointed arch with a tondo. Wall dormers are symmetrically placed in the roof on both sides of the tower. The other elevations are more modest, but duplicate the details and finials of the façade. The roofs are covered with glazed Marseille tiles in cinnabar and dark green. The shed roofs are covered with bituminous tar paper on boards, and the cupola of the tower with copper sheets. The platform shelters that sheltered the first platforms from the Prussian and Russian sides do not exist.
Inside - Klein concrete ceilings above the basement. Above, wooden beams with a blind ceiling. In the northern part of the station in the former customs clearing hall, originally one-storey with an uncovered roof truss, a reinforced concrete ceiling poured on wooden formwork was introduced. The majority of the roof trusses are of rafter and purlin construction with double joists under gable and single-pitched roofs. In the case of side aisles - wooden straining beam and purlin flat roofs with shed roofs. Above the main nave - a suspension and stretcher construction. Tower structure in a post-and-beam system with reinforcement. Floors - concrete screed, terrazzo tiles, xylolite (the remaining fragments of the historical floor covering from the station construction period), ceramic tiles in the sanitary facilities, wooden floors. The interior of the building has been partially transformed and stripped of ornamentation. Currently, the building is being revitalized.
Visitor access. The building may be viewed from the outside.
Author of the note: Teresa Palacz, Regional Branch of the National Institute of Cultural Heritage in Poznań, 18.06.2020
- Teresa Dohnalowa, Rozwój transportu w Wielkopolsce 1815-1914. Część trzecia: Transport kolejowy, Warszawa-Poznań, 1975.
- W. Leszkowicz, Kolej Kaliska. Budowa. Eksploatacja. Znaczenie dla przemysłowego rozwoju [in:] “Studia z dziejów kolei żelaznych w Królestwie Polskim” (1840-1914)”, ed. R. Kołodziejczyk, Warsaw 1970.
- M. Jerczyński, Nowe Skalmierzyce [in:] “Świat kolei”, no. 6, 1998, pp. 23-27
- Grażyna Balińska, J. Baliński, D. Balińska, Krajobraz z koleją. Drogi żelazne Wielkopolski, Wrocław 2011.
- Karolina Żyrkowska, Budowa i architektura zespołu dworcowego w Nowych Skalmierzycach [in:] “Rocznik Kaliski”, Vol. XXXIX, Kalisz 2013, pp. 97-115.
- Robert Kroma, Koleje żelazne w Wielkopolsce i na Ziemi Lubuskiej, Poznań 2005.
Objects data updated by Waldemar Rusek Rusek.
Category: railway infrastructure
Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records
Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_30_BK.383699, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_30_BK.154366