The history of rail transport in Turiec

As far as modern history of Slovakia is concerned, the building of a network of railways has to be mentioned. It was of a huge importance for the Turiec basin. Consequently, the region became the node where the lines from the west-east but also north-south directions intersect. As a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 many new areas in the Hungarian empire, the Turiec region included, joined the railway system. According to the plan of the Hungarian Ministry of public works and transport, 4820km of new railways were supposed to be built. Viliam Paulíny-Tóth (1826-1877), member of the Hungarian Parliament, came with his own project on the construction of railways covering even larger areas of today´s Slovakia. Despite the fact that his plan was not taken into consideration, he had merits on 888km of new railways built in our country in 1867-1873.

The first train appeared in Turiec on 8th December 1871. It travelled on the private railway running from Košice to Bohumín (Košicko-bohumínka železnica) which in our region passed along the Váh River. The railway stations in the villages of Turany and Kraľovany had already been built at that time. About a year later, on 12th August 1872 the first train traveled from Vrútky to Budapesť on the state railway MÁV connecting Vrútky and Salgotarjan. The train left the Turiec region in the village of Turček in the direction of Kremnica. Vrútky became an important rail junction that lead to the rise of its population and construction of further railway infrastructure. On 21st December 1931 new rail route from Handlová to Horná Štubňa was opened. The building of railways in Turiec was finished on 19th December 1940 with the construction of the last rail route leading from Diviaky to Banská Bystrica. Dramatic events of the Second World War and the Slovak National Uprising had also influenced the network of railways. After the reconstruction of destroyed bridges and tunnels in the 50´s of the 20th century, the railway track which runs from Žilina to Spišská Nová Ves was electrified. In the 1980´s Vrútky to Martin rail line was also electrified.

We start our cycle route at the railway station in Martin which was built within the scope of construction of the state railway MÁV.

The railway station in Martin is one of the first examples of standardized rail architecture. It was for the first time used in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the construction of the state railway MÁV on the railway track running from Lučenec via Zvolen and Kremnica to Vrútky. The building had regular window spacing and decorated head-moulding. One of the typical decorative features was the horizontal cornice separating floors. The gable wall was towards the roof bordered by serrated overlay of front lintel. A circular opening to the attic must be mentioned as well. The building has been reconstructed several times, that is why many of the traditional features were destroyed. The ground floor of the railway station was divided into technical and commercial premises located in one part, whereas the area for passengers was in the other part. Apartments and dormitory for the railway employees were placed at the first floor.

The railway station in Martin is connected with the event that led to the declaration of the Slovak National Uprising (Slovenské národné povstanie) on 29th August 1944. On 27th August railway employees together with Slovak soldiers and partisans stopped at the station the train that transported a group of German officers and their families returning from Romania. These members of the political party Deutsche Partei (German Party) and SS (personal guard for Nazi leader) were lead by the lieutenant colonel Otto. The following day 24 of them were shot dead in the casern of Martin. This event was the main reason for German army persecution of local population that started after the suppression of the Slovak National Uprising in Turiec.

Continue the ride along railway route following the yellow sign-posted cycling path number 8412. For a moment the path leaves railway and takes us to a left bank of the Turiec River. In the locality of Pltníky, however, we find ourselves in the vicinity of railway again. Continuing further alongside the Turiec, the yellow sign takes us to the centre of the “town of railway” Vrútky. Here we stop in front of the late Gothic Roman Catholic church of St. John the Baptist from 1905 and the building of the municipal office. The memorial room of the lady writer Hana Zelinová (1914-2004) can be found inside the building. Her work will always remind us of the fact that the history of Vrútky is connected with the construction of railway /see Personalities that brought fame to the Turiec region/. Here it is recommended to take a right hand turn, cross the river passing through the bridge and continue further to the railway station surrounded by several buildings. These are the results of the massive urbanization that started after Vrútky became a railway junction. The historical railway inventory can be admired even in the tavern of the station.

The railway station of Vrútky was built in 1872 as a result of the decision to join the state railway MÁV and the rail route running from Košice to Bohumín (Košicko-bohumínska železnica) in Vrútky and not in the village of Sučany as it was originally planned. Indeed, there had already been reserved space for the construction of a new station. The railway station in Vrútky is an authentic building; however, it has been reconstructed several times. The decorative features previously mentioned during the description of the railway station in Martin were used here as well. However, the station of Vrútky was even bigger and of a higher importance (as those in Zvolen or Galanta). In addition to that, offices were placed along the outer railway track. The building of the first railway station of the state railway MÁV is situated approximately 300 m northwards from the present one.

The railway station of Vrútky is also associated with events of international importance that led to the outburst the Slovak National Uprising against fascism. It provided setting for the first military intervention of French partisans in Slovakia. As early as on 28th August 1944, a day before the official declaration of the Slovak National Uprising, they seized the buildings of the railway station as well as of the post-office. Shortly after they transferred a goods-train full of coal to the tunnel in the Strečno strait and obstructed the passage through it. The day after they successfully fight against German corps in the railway buildings near the station. Later on, French partisans were taken out of action in Vrútky with the aim to continue their fight in the surroundings of the village of Strečno.

Following the red-marked Turiec main cycle route number 032 (Turčianska cyklomagistrála) continue along the Turiec River northwards. It will take us to the oldest fraction of the town called Dolné Vrútky (Lower Vrútky). Here we pass again along the route of the traditional rail line running from Košice to Bohunice. Nowadays it takes part in all significant transport corridors (AGTC, AGC, TEN, Pan-European transport corridors V and VI). It is interesting, that the expansion of the railway transport had been already expected in the times the first rail line was constructed. Indeed, a railway mould on the route running from Český Tešín (CZ) to Vrútky was built so that it would have been possible to lay two tracks there. The cycling route crosses the railway in the vicinity of the bridge over the River Turiec. Despite the fact that the original bridges were supposed to be wooden, the idea was changed during the construction of railways. Consequently, bridges supported by lattice girders, as the traditional one over the Turiec River, were built. The present bridge was constructed after the Second World War since the retreating German army destroyed the former one. Following red sign we reach the confluence of the Váh and Turiec rivers. After a gentle rise the route again passes along the railway built in these places in a trench in order to respect the minimal degree of incline of the route. We continue in a north- easterly direction via the village of Lipovec passing along the channel on the Váh River to the village of Turčianske Kľačany. From this place we have a beautiful view of Vrútky and the complex of railway repair shops and machine works (ŽOS Vrútky, a.s.) which was opened in 1874. Passing through the footbridge over the Váh River we reach the former Vrútky depot area, in the vicinity of which the former state railway MÁV joins the traditional rail line running from Košice to Bohumín. Nowadays it is the seat of the Railway Museum.

Railway Museum

The former Vrútky depot hosts the Railway Museum also called the Museum of the Košice-Bohumín railway track. It is managed by the Association of steam plant (Výhrevňa Vrútky). The collection of steam, diesel, and electric railway engines together with carriages and historical signalling, safeguarding railway equipments is on display. Steam engines that are still working are annually used to provide sightseeing train tours that attract many visitors from home and abroad. The two-day long event called “Railway for children” (Železnica pre deti) organized on the occasion of International Children´s Day is worth mentioning. To exhibition is open to the public by appointment on 0948 031 888.

The red-marked cycle route takes us in an easterly direction to the village of Sučany, where the path passes through the bridge above the railway track. Continuing further, the cycling path leaves the road. It is recommended to take the right-hand turn in order to arrive to the centre of the village. Here you can admire the Gothic Roman Catholic church of the Translation of Virgin Mary from the third quarter of the 13th century. Church is the surviving evidence of the building activities of the Premonstratesians that had their residence in Kláštor pod Znievom in the Lower Turiec region. Continue along the church to the railway station of Sučany. After the visit of the station and the railway buildings we finish our cycle route.