Iveta Taparauskaitė

www.kamane.lt, 2010 08 04

In brief: There are many unused industrial objects and territories in Kaunas. One of them is the depot of locomotives near the Nemunas. Only two facilities of this kind have remained in Lithuania: in Vilnius and Kaunas. Even though the railwaymen take care of the territory of the depot, its “expiry date” is already near. Therefore, the author offers several ideas which could help to get acquainted with the railway heritage better, reveal its charm and save the place from final deterioration.

Kaunas Depot. Photo by O.Stasiukaitienė

Kaunas Depot. Photo by I.Taparauskaitė

What are the old and interesting objects in the depot of Kaunas? There is a locomotive change circle, one of the first power plants in Kaunas, sand used for stopping uncontrollable trains, airing places for wooden sleepers, railcar seen by many people only in films, and many other strange devices in the depot. Several buildings of the 19th century have remained in the territory of the depot – they reflect the beginning of railway construction in the Russian Empire. The complex of the depot belonged to the route St. Petersburg – Warsaw, and was the first railway line across Lithuania. The territory of the depot attracts admirers of equipment already now; still, one may not get to the territory without a permit.

Power plant of Kaunas Depot. Photo by I.Taparauskaitė

Map of the territory of Kaunas Depot

Old industrial buildings are turned into dwelling houses, hotels, art galleries, offices and other objects in West Europe. However, it is hard to apply railway buildings with very specific equipment for other purposes. In the case of Kaunas Depot, the geographical place of the object is very favourable – the buildings are close to the city centre (they are located in Šančiai, near the “green” railway bridge). The place would be suitable for the leisure time of the city inhabitants and could represent the history of the city originally. Such industrial landscape would be attractive to the city guests too. 

A thematic park could be established in the territory of Kaunas Depot. The idea of a thematic part is only starting to gain popularity in the world. One does not need to identify such a park with Disneyland. Even though it is has a commercial ground, if the commerce and cognition of heritage is combined reasonably and responsibly, it is possible to create an attractive recreation space for the public. Unused locomotives, railcars, tools of railwaymen and other attributes of their activity would find place there. It would be a live museum – visitors would be able to touch all equipment and things, try them out and experience the history of technology directly. Thus, technical tourism trips could be organised in the territory of the depot.

Former Kohtla Jarve slate mine

Museum in the former Kohtla Jarve slate mine

One of such technical museums is established in Estonia, in the former Kohtla Jarve slate mine. It is located in the slate shaft which is no longer used, and the former workers of the mine have been employed as excursion guides. Visitors may experience the thrill while going down to the shafts and walking in them, they may take a ride by underground trains.

Why couldn’t a similar excursion be organised in Kaunas railway objects? Feelings experienced in such a trip would remain in the memory long. It would be a wonderful lesson of history with a dose of adrenalin. One would be able to get acquainted with the engineering achievements of the 19th century and political situation of the city as well as to experience the beauty of the landscape. Guests from abroad would memorise Kaunas better, and local inhabitants would rediscover their city. Perhaps such an excursion could become the visit card of Kaunas.

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