Some of the places in our cities are so essential to our day-to-day lives that we do not often think about their origins or development they went through during the years of their existence. What we tend to notice, though, is when their development is ongoing which, in one way or another, restricts our activities. Stockholm Central Station (Stockholms Centralstation) has gone through several such reconstructions but only thanks to these it has become the place we know today.
Its story starts in 1867 when the construction of the original building designed in Italian Renaissance style by the state’s railway chief architect, Adolf Edelsvärd, started. The station, opened in 1871, had impressive dimensions for the time and it is said that when completed, it was the next-to-largest building in Stockholm only second to the all-mighty Royal Palace with over 600 rooms. A total of five tracks and a waiting hall formed the original train station.
One of the things that most other cities around the world did not need to worry about but is very typical of Stockholm was the boat traffic. Since there was no way trains could ever give way to boats, the boat traffic in the city was reorganised to a large extent when the railway arrived in the 1860s.
No major ceremony surrounded the official opening of the railway station. However, members of the royal families from Sweden and Denmark as well as the Prime Minister of Norway were present and took a symbolic ride on the newly constructed tracks in three royal waggons.
While it may sound ridiculous today, only 10 trains a day arrived at or departed from the station at the time. The popularity of this new mode of transport rose quickly, though, and several additions were made to the station already in the next few decades after the completion.
After several modifications of the station in the early 1900s, the first major reconstruction came in the 1920s when the original tracks were demolished and new ones were built instead. The former station hall was then repurposed for a waiting hall. During the reconstruction led by the architect Folke Zettervall, the son of Helgo Zettervall, the colonnade of kiosks was built on the eastern side of the building as well.
Likely the greatest changes to the appearance of Stockholm Central Station were made during the 1950s reconstruction when the façade of the building was, as history books put it, simplified. This simplification meant that essentially all decorative elements from the front of the building were taken away. Fortunately, we have some images showing the original building and can, therefore discuss whether these changes were beneficial or not.
Originally, there was a coat of arms accompanied by statues of Svea and Göta at the very top of the building above the main entrance. The entrance also used to be enhanced by strong Doric columns and two pairs of female statues between them. These statues were meant to symbolise Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Strategy according to their author Carl August Söderman. As you can see in the picture above, today there are no statues whatsoever above the main entrance to the station.
Despite this significant change to the appearance of the building in the mid-20th century, the railway station can still be considered one of the best preserved public buildings in Stockholm from the 1850s and 1860s. Others include the Southern Theatre (Södra Teater), the National Museum (Nationalmuseet) which is currently under reconstruction.
The building has been protected as historical heritage since 1986 but the needs of the modern city, its residents and visitors keep changing no matter how valuable the building is. Therefore, the architects responsible for recent reconstructions had to be especially creative to preserve the historical value of the building while turning it into a modern transport hub the Swedish capital needs.
The last large reconstruction of the railway station took place between 2008 and 2014 and according to formal requirements for its execution, its main objective was to fulfil the full potential of the station as the meeting point for people from the entire world, which I think summarises it well. The architects managed to make the interior of the station appear lighter and more spacious for instance thanks to the open boutiques in the main hall which are located only about a metre from where the passengers pass.
As it is usual for Swedish society in general, every detail of the reconstruction was planned and carried out thoughtfully. For example, the space between the staircase and the escalators connecting the station with the so-called City Terminal (Cityterminalen) is a typical place to be left empty and unused. In this case, it is decorated by a creative artistic installation consisting of lights representing atmospheric molecules showing tomorrow’s weather forecast using colours. The picture above will surely give you a better idea of the artistic work.
An interesting fact to know about the station is that it contains a royal waiting room which still serves the royal family today. With around 1100 trains every day, which is incredible 110 times more than the number the original building supported in the first years of its operation, Stockholm Central Station is the largest railway station in the Nordics. At the same time, the latest data indicate that around 250 000 passengers, which is over a quarter of the population of Stockholm, pass through the train station on an average day.
Now you know the most interesting bits of the story of Stockholm Central Station. We do not plan to end there, though, and more stories are coming to Trevl in the next few days. In a few days, you are going to be able to discover the stories of bridges that connect the city of Stockholm and you might be surprised how important they were for the development of different parts of the city.
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Fredriksson, Göran, 1985. Husen på Malmarna. En bok om Stockholm.
Harlén, Hans, 1998. Stockholm från A till Ö. Innerstaden.