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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rizhsky Station's Glory Restored

Two years ago, some turn-of-the-century panels in Moscow's Rizhsky Station dropped from the ceiling and struck passengers. That's when the city decided it was time for a renovation.

Now, after a 16-month, 16-billion ruble ($3.6 million) remont, the mint-green train station on Prospekt Mira sparkles.

"It's an old station, and it should have been renovated a long time ago," station chief Alexander Dubchenko said. "Now at least it's safe for passengers to walk through it." But the job is not complete, he added. "The facade still needs work. But we won't think about that for another two years."

"An engineer's challenge" is how Chief Project Engineer Yelena Tishonova described the work on the station -- which hadn't been renovated since it opened in 1899. The communications system, ventilation, and the electrical system had to be replaced, as well as the heating system, which consisted of an 1899 coal burner.

The renewed station boasts marble floors, mirrored walls and crystal chandeliers in its three vast halls. In the infamous Hall 3, the plaster ceiling panels appear firmly in place. In the cafe, soft armchairs the color of cafe-au-lait offer passengers a place to sip cappucino or nibble on Red October chocolates.

The public restrooms -- 600 rubles per visit -- have been refurbished, and, at least in the first week of the renewed station's operation, were clean and deodorized.

In an effort to keep the station from becoming a home for the homeless, the city is charging a 3,000-ruble entrance fee for anyone without a train ticket.

Moscow's second smallest station, Rizhsky was third in line under a Moscow Railroad Authority plan to renovate several of the city's nine stations. The Paveletsky Station got a facelift, and "they practically built a new station" at Savyolovsky, Dubchenko said.

Restorations of the Kazansky and Yaroslavsky stations began in June 1994. Work on the Yaroslav station, a fairy-tale 1904 structure built by the renowned Russian architect Fyodor Shekhtel, is scheduled to be complete in 1997 and open as the city of Moscow celebrates its 850th anniversary.

From Rizhsky Station, trains depart for Riga, Latvia and Velikiye Luki, a little city about 120 kilometers from the Russian-Latvian border.

Dubchenko said the station used to dispatch up to seven trains per day in the summer, with passengers often bound to resorts on Latvia's Baltic Sea coast. But due to Latvia's new status as an independent country, as well economic hardship in Russia, the two-track station's workload has dropped to four trains a day.

"It used to be easy for students and schoolkids to go and vacation in Jurmala [a Baltic resort town]," Dubchenko said. "But now you have to arrange visas to go to Latvia."

The fanciful station, with its rhythm of arches over the doors and windows and decorative patterns under the eaves, was designed by architect Yury Diprish in the "Russian style" -- a turn-of-the-century revival of architectural motifs common before Peter the Great.

"This style was very popular, especially with rich merchants," said Yury Alexandrov, author of "Music in Stone" and other guides to Moscow's architectural history. Soviet authorities did not place much importance on the upkeep of Moscow's once-elegant train stations, he noted. During the 1930s, and again in the 1950s and 1960s, there were even proposals to tear Rizhsky Station down.

The funds to restore the station came from the Moscow Railroad Authority budget, Tishonova said. During the 18 months of the restoration project, railroad staff operated out of a cluster of sheds behind the station. But last Saturday, after a gala reopening ceremony, ticket-sellers, dispatchers -- and passengers -- returned to the more palatial surroundings of the refurbished station.