Central Railway Station


The current Copenhagen central railway station was inaugurated on 1st December 1911 and remains unaltered apart from some renovations and modifications made during 1978-94.

But this is not the first central railway station in Copenhagen -actually, it is the third.

The first station opened on 26 June 1847 along with the inauguration of the first railway connection between Copenhagen and Roskilde. The station was rather small and an all wooden structure so that it could be burnt down in case of war. The location was the same as today's station but the tracks ran perpendicular on today's rail track line.

The single building station soon proved inadequate to handle the rapid development in rail traffic and a new, larger station was opened already in 1864.

This new station was located where today's "Palads" movie theater and "Axelborg" are. It included both passenger- and goods terminals and came complete with buildings, tracks, turnstiles, train garages etc.

The ever increasing traffic -by rail and by car- soon necessitated a new solution because the tracks crossed the roads at street level and constantly stopped the flow of traffic when the gates were down.

The current station was designed by architect Heinrich Wenck. He preferred a far more elaborate and decorative building, but the parliament insisted on a spartan construction. Wenck also designed Copenhagen's eastern railway station -Østerport. His designs are similar to that of Copenhagen City Hall, which was constructed at the same time.

At first the station had individual arrival- and departure halls separated by a central goods hall. The passenger terminals were only connected by underground passages in 1934.

The departure hall had waiting rooms for 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers; the rooms had kiosks and from the 1950s also a wide variety of vending machines.

A popular cinema featuring news from the world operated inside the departure hall from 1935 and until 1971 when television assumed the role of news casting.

The central goods platform was abandoned in the period 1978-1994 and the departure- and arrival halls combined into one and equipped with escalators and stairs to the platforms.

A better compromise between road- and rail traffic was achieved by placing the tracks below street level and partially underground within central Copenhagen.

The station has 12 main tracks servicing 6 passenger platforms. Next to track no. 1 (easternmost -close to Tivoli) are separate waiting rooms for the royal family.

Just beyond track no. 12 (westernmost) is a tall platform for goods handling. It is only visible from outside the station (see photo). This extra platform was used for arriving passengers until 1934.

Tracks 9-12 are subway tracks. Access to these platforms from the bridge crossing the tracks south of the station was added in 1971 when ticket control was moved from the platform to the trains.

Tracks 1-8 serve long distance routes, be that international- or inter-city trains. Also these platforms have access from the southern bridge but this was only constructed in 1977.

Not counting the subway, the hourly capacity of the central railway station is only 17 westbound trains. This is insufficient to handle the growing traffic and various expansion opportunities are under discussion.

Although the architect didn't get his way in terms of elaborate decorations, the station buildings still boast a rich variety of uniqueness.

The three main facades all have several towers with spires. Windows and doors are arched and richly decorated. Large rosettes with insignia and colored, painted shields can be found on all three facades.

Main building materials are brick and concrete and black slate covered roofs. The brick are often placed in patterns (see photos) breaking the monotony in an artful way.

Copper is used extensively as a decorative accentuation. Note for instance on many photos the neat, small copper strip under windows, shields etc.

Quite unique are the 10 figures, which decorate the facades of the western and eastern annexes of the departure hall. Sculptured in traditional folk costumes, the figures represent destinations which could be reached from the station. From east to west: Hedebo, Mols, Læsø, Samsø, Ringkiøbing, Sydfyen, Salling, Skovshoved, Amager and Fanø.

Some 80,000 passengers pass through the central railway station each day. It is a bustling, busy location which attracts all walks of life.

On a normal day you will experience a wonderful mixture of business travelers, local commuters, pensioners, drug addicts, backpackers, tourists, pick pockets, shoppers and mere visitors.

The buildings and hallways are well worth a visit. But take your time to enjoy the innumerous beautifully crafted decorations. I have chosen to focus on the exterior but you can also locate numerous decorations inside with a little persistence.


Wikepedia and www.hovedbanen.dk
Own photos taken July 2009
Old photos: Copenhagen city museum
display program by Matteo Bicocchi