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Railways

Frontiers

Denis Dunstone

The Interior of Canfranc Station in Spain, 1986 (Alan Jarvis)


Kaliningrad and the Baltic States the Tsar’s private train because of the break of gauge. Nothing of this now remains as it was substantially destroyed during 1944. A peculiarity of this location is that until 1919 Russia lay on the east side of the border. Since 1945 it has been on the west. Kybartai grew first as a cluster of red brick buildings for railway workers, though much of the border activity also developed in Eydtkuhnen. Eventually Kybartai grew to be a small town of some 6,000 inhabitants. This was the principal cross border trading point between the two empires, handling as much as 10% of Russian foreign trade. Around 1900, five passenger trains arrived at the frontier every day in each direction. In addition there were two freight trains. Timber, poultry, grain, leather, and seeds were exported from Russia to Germany, and from Germany came machines, chemicals, paints, haberdashery and cloth. There was also said to be an extensive trade in smuggled goods and people, the latter mainly for emigration from Russia to America. At Eydtkuhnen there was a health check organised by the Hamburg-America shipping line. It is uncertain where the transfer between the gauges took place. There is however reason to believe that it was on the Russian side. First it is recorded that the Czar’s train was housed at Kybartai, and he is unlikely to have wished to walk across the frontier to Eydtkuhnen. He was also a much more frequent

Top: Kybartai Station showing its impressive size, c. 1900. This immense building was destroyed in 1944. DD Collection Above: The interior of Kybartai Station, where the Czar changed trains, c. 1910. Beneath survives a vast vault which housed the customs goods and the Czar’s train. DD Collection

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Railways and Frontiers

Kybartai Station with a Russian locomotive and what appear to be German soldiers, possibly after occupation during World War I. The German name for Virbilis (as it was called at the time) was Wirballen. DD Collection

Above: Eydtkuhnen Station in 1901. It bears an interesting resemblance to its neighbour at Kybartai, no doubt the result of the need to impress. DD Collection Right: The architect’s drawing of part of the interior of Eydtkuhnen Station, 1863. DD Collection

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Map of Poland and the Baltic States as they were at the beginning of 1920. At that time there were three areas on the Polish border subject to plebiscites not yet conducted, in East Prussia and Upper Silesia, and Poland had not acquired the Vilna Territory or the wide strip of land down its eastern frontier, shown on this map as part of Russia and Ukraine. The borders of the Baltic States were also described as ‘Provisional’ and were subsequently changed. For instance Livonia and Kurland had not become Latvia, and the Estonian frontier was to be moved south to a line through Valka. Daugavpils (Dvinsk) subsequently became Latvian. Talinn was still Reval, and St Petersburg had become Petrograd. Memel was a League of Nations Territory. DD Collection.


Poland before World War II Between the three parts of Poland before 1919 there were international frontiers with border checks and customs procedures. There was also in some cases a break of gauge at the border of the Russian part. The effect this had can be seen in the case of a railway branch built on the broad gauge between Warsaw and Kalisz in 1902. In 1914 it was converted to standard gauge, having in 1906 been connected to the German railway system across the border, near a place called Skalmierzyce, just west of Kalisz. The customs facilities built at the actual frontier were such that they formed the basis of a new town, Nowa Skalmierzyce. This line, which initially provided an alternative link between Poznan and Warsaw by way of Lodz, suffered after 1919 when the cut-off was built through Kutno.

The German frontier post at the frontier between Russian and German Poland at Skalmierzyce near Kalisz. The border controls here created an administrative burden sufficient to require the creation of a new town, c. 1900. DD Collection

Map of Skalmierzyce and Nowe Skalmierzyce, both in the German part of Poland, showing the lines built to manage the administration of the frontier traffic. It is unclear whether this is before or after the conversion to standard gauge, c. 1910. Bagnowka

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Railways and Frontiers

A German train running in Poland between Gorlitz and Zittau, approaching the closed Polish Station of Krzewina Zgorzelecka, 2002. Janne Petersso

Map of the railways of north east Czechia showing the frontier with what is now Poland. 1910. DD collection

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Poland after World War II

End of the line at Otovice in Czechia on the frontier with Poland. 2007. Jan Suchy

Map of the railways at Harrachov where the Polish/Czech border was shifted. DD Collection

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Hungary

Western Frontier Although Hungary and Austria were partners in the Dual Monarchy until 1918, subsequent events have caused tension across their border. First, by the Treaty of Trianon, a narrow strip of land, known as Burgenland, was added to the eastern side of Austria. The Hungarian town of Sopron (in German Odenburg) became surrounded on three sides by Austria. Secondly, after 1945 the frontier became part of the Iron curtain, and this was re-enforced after the 1956 Uprising. Szombathely, the oldest town in Hungary, founded by the Romans in AD 45, was originally served by three lines, of which only the main north/south line survives. A secondary line ran from Sopron through Oberloisberg (in Hungarian Felso Laszlo), Rattersdorf-Liebing and Koszeg. This line suffered from being cut by the frontier in two places as a result of Trianon. Through traffic ceased in 1951 and goods traffic in 1960, following an alleged landslip on the Austrian side. On the Hungarian side the section between the frontier and Koszeg could not be dismantled

Aerial view of the points work at Szombathely Station, 2004. Pan Peter, DD Collection

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Railways and Frontiers

Sopron Station, now surrounded on three sides by Austrian territory, 1915. Postcard, DD collection

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as it was the property of the Austrian State Railway. A minor line ran from Oberloisberg to Buk on the main north/south line. It was cut by the new frontier. Built in 1913, it lost its through traffic in 1920. It was reopened in 1922, but stopped for a second time in 1930. It resumed in 1937, but was closed again on the Austrian side in 1944. It was never revived. In 1925 as a result of the frontier move, a connection was made within Burgenland between Friedberg and Pinkafeld (Pinkafo in Hungarian), two towns previously separated by the pre-1920 frontier. This is a rare case of a railway connection being made across the line of a former frontier. This line was later extended to Rechnitz. In 1945 through traffic ceased on the line from Rechnitz to Szombathely via Bucsu. On the Hungarian side passenger traffic ceased in 1959 and the track has been lifted, while in Austria the line is intact, in part as a heritage railway between Oberwart and Rechnitz. Further south a branch line ran between Kormend through Pinkamindszent to Gussing. The 1920 frontier cut across this branch just west of Pinkamindszent causing the last part of it to be isolated from the rest of the Austrian network. In spite of this, it survived until 1945, at which

"Railways And Frontiers" by Denis Dunstone  

A fascinating new book that charts the unintended consequences of shifting national borders

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