The Athens Railway Museum has moved from the capital’s central Sepolia district to a former train depot in the port city of Piraeus that was built in 1912 and closed in 2005.
After 15 years in a state of abandonment, the building known locally as the Rotonda, due to its circular shape and elegant Doric-style columns, was chosen as the museum’s new home recently in an initiative spearheaded by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and the Railway Friends Association, after the Sepolia facility became unsuitable as a result of construction work at the train station there.
The museum’s relocation to the Rotonda, which is intrinsically linked to the evolution of rail travel in Greece, is the first step in an ambitious plan to promote the country’s rich heritage in this area, according to the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE).
At the new site visitors can see old cars and engines from the mid-1800s and later eras, industrial and technical equipment, as well as a display of part of the company’s rich historical archive. Standout exhibits include the royal carriage, another that was used by a sultan, and old tram cars.
The Piraeus depot went into operation in 1886, before the Rotonda was completed and just a few years after Greece acquired its first railway line, linking Piraeus, Athens and the Peloponnese (SPAP). It was a 10.6-hectare space and is still regarded as being among the largest rail depots in the country, employing 350 people in its heyday.
The Rotonda depot was used to house, inspect and prepare locomotives for operation, as well as providing a pit so engineers could work on the undercarriages. It also had a rotating platform, or turntable, with a diameter of 13.60 meters, which was expanded to 20 meters in the 1930s to accommodate larger cars.