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  • Former Leopolda Station of Florence, drawing depicting the external view of the palazzo of the Italian Exposition of 1861 in Florence, according to the project of architect Giuseppe Martelli, Department of Prints and Drawings of the Uffizi, Florence.zoom in altra finestra
  • Former Leopolda Station of Florence, Geometric Plan of the Leopolda Station of Florence, Department of Prints and Drawings of the Uffizi, Florence.zoom in altra finestra

Former Leopolda Station of Florence - Museum of Railway Objects

In the second half of the 19th century, railway stations were the most evident symbol of the productive relationship between science, technology and art. Though they presented a particularly smart architectural appearance, which at times recalled the structure of basilicas, they often created considerable problems for town-planning for their novelty, as well as for their location in the urban fabric. Florence was the theatre of two beautiful examples: the Maria Antonia Station and the Leopolda Station.

Situated inside the walls, behind the church of Santa Maria Novella, the Maria Antonia Station was inaugurated on February 3, 1848, and thus represented a "new gateway" of the city. Formed by various separate bodies, the middle one had a shed-like structure with four round arches on the facade, which made it possible to see from inside out and vice versa, almost as though to indicate the close relationship between the station and the city. With its four tracks, it was the point of departure of the Florence-Prato-Pistoia Railway. After the Unification of Italy, the Maria Antonia Station was named Santa Maria Novella. In the 1930s the old building was demolished to make way for today’s station, built on a project by Giovanni Michelucci and the Gruppo Toscano.

Inaugurated on June 2, 1848, the Leopolda Station was named in honour of the then Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II of Lorraine. It was sited outside the city walls, near the Porta al Prato and the Pignone "industrial district" where an important iron foundry had been built in the early 1840s. The Leopolda Station had two large arches on the facade, a long central body, two side wings and a spacious "access portico". Warehouses and machine shops completed the structure. With its four tracks, it was the point of departure of the railway that joined the capital to Livorno, location of the Grand Duchy’s most important commercial port. In 1861, the Leopolda Station was restructured, and its spacious rooms hosted the first National Exposition of Arts and Manufactures: despite its new use, the building continued to represent the union of science, technology and art.

Set up in several rooms of the former station, the Museum of Railway Objects was born in 1994 to house materials of historical interest no longer in use by the railways. It is made up of an outdoor area where large devices and structures are exhibited, and an internal area that develops in two large rooms and eight smaller ones, which present recreations of original settings, along with exhibits and tools. The collections have grown in the course of time with the addition of railway-related objects of different origins. Today, the Museum seeks to offer visitors a panorama of railway developments, especially by means of material sources. The collection concerns objects from the various compartments of railway activity. The exhibits include instruments for motion and traction, electrical systems, maintenance works, and also concern customs, regulations, and systems of signs and iconography. The exhibition is experiencing a rapid transformation; a visiting itinerary of a historical nature is planned to be completed within the next few years.


Texts by Graziano Magrini

English translation by Victor Beard

Last update 14/feb/2008