How construction is going at historic land, what happened to the legendary Railroad Gear Museum and what fate awaits its items? Anton Tsouman investigates
The building of Varshavskiy Station by Obvodnyi Canal. Or, to be more precise, what used to be a train station. Since 1949, passengers arriving here had been greeted by bronze Lenin. Half a century later, the victorious capitalism – represented by a mall – evicted the Soviet leader. And brought this beauty in a summer dress along.
Anton Tsouman, reporter: “Nowadays, the monument modestly decorates the inner yard of Lesgaft’s University. And only students and teachers can see it. And now the trademark gesture is now pointed towards the anatomy faculty, instead of Obvodnyi Canal. Almost as if the bright future is located here”
And in several years, the Museum of railroad gear had to relocate too. This amateur footage shows last carts leaving Varshavskiy. In 2012, “Russian Railways”, JSC – the proprietor of the adjacent rail tracks, handed this land over to “LCC Varshavskaya” company for construction.
According to the All-Russian society of monuments preservation, this territory still has multiple objects of historic industrial construction. And even though part of those has been preserved, according to doctor of architecture Margarita Shtiglitz this corner of St. Petersburg can no longer be resurrected.
Margarita Shtiglitz, doctor of architecture, professor of arts: “The train station is not merely about the passenger building. It’s also about adjoining warehouses, workshops, water towers, turning circles. However, you no longer have a feeling that its complete. Some have been preserved, there are partial fragments, but no united complex – it is totally disjointed”
And even these disjointed fragments will sink among high-rise buildings. But at least they will be preserved. Coordinator of the “Zhivoy Gorod” movement Dmitriy Litvinov shows us where two warehouses used to stand – but did not last to getting a rescuing “protected by the state” status.
Dmitriy Litvinov, coordinator of “Zhivoy Gorod” movement: “We believe that all these buildings were valuable from historic and cultural perspectives as parts of a united complex. Particularly, front parts of those пакгаузы were a very vivid example of industrial architecture. Quite peripheral, but nonetheless pretty interesting”
But we were most interested in the fate of unique carts and locomotives. Where were they taken and where are they now? And here they are – not far from the original place, at the neighboring Baltiyskiy station. At a brand new, specially designated museum building.
Anton Tsouman, reporter: “The museum is still closed for visitors. So we have a unique chance to take a peek inside and make sure that all items which had been on display at Varshavskiy station will now be placed for viewing here”
It turns out that we should not have worried about those items. All are in place, and even have new neighbors. But we decided to continue our journey and check out what remains of Varshavskiy’s infrastructure.
Anton Tsouman, reporter: “Here’s a surprise, by the way. When I was walking here, I had no idea that I’d be able to get so close to the water tower. But it turns out that I could even walk inside of it”
This object was not included into the construction zone. And despite being included into the list of historically valuable objects back in 2001, its gradually decaying. A shutter fence only exists from the side of the construction site, otherwise it’s a free entry. And judging by piles of garbage, it’s quite popular. To say the least.
We can also see from here that the railroad museum could have been kept and, moreover, even expanded – at the previous site. But the “Russian Railroads” had a different opinion, evidently. And residents of St. Petersburg had no say in this – which was wrong, according to deputy of Legislative Council Boris Vishnevskiy.
Boris Vishnevskiy, deputy of the Legislative Council: “I believe that a normally worked-out project – the one discussed with the residents, taking historic traditions into consideration and keeping in mind that historic buildings must be preserved – would have prevented what had happened. I understand that we cannot reverse the situation now, but we can at least prevent something like that in the future”
Meanwhile, we are walking out onto Malaya Mitrofanyevskaya street – the edge of the construction site. Looking for traces of Varshavskiy’s rail tracks – but the only reminders of what used to be a whole intertwining track are piles of concrete and bits of rails.
Anton Tsouman, reporter: “I’ve managed to walk about two kilometers down what used to be entrance tracks to Varshavskiy station. And I stumble into yet another thick construction fence. As they say, it’s the end of the road. Please, vacate the train”