The long awaited railway

It was a time when roads were of bad condition and horses were used for the transportation of goods. Don’t forget that Rauma had the biggest sailing ship capacity in 1892-1898 in whole Finland! But what to ship if there was no connection to the factories?

Rauma asked government for the railway already in 1880s, but the heads of state refused to invest in such a small town. Rauma was a city of 4000 people, just like Uusikaupunki. But Pori, which received the railway connection, had over 10 000 inhabitants. Pori and Rauma have for long been competing with each other for the same projects.

Rauma’s old locomotive

Besides the funds of the road transportation, which were derived from taxing the alcohol consumption, were low those days.

As the long-awaited 47 kilometers of railroad was ready, the town’s people were in an overly festive mood hooraying on the streets of Rauma.

Rauma would not be such an important export harbor these days if the town council had not decided to take action then.

Also the training center for teachers was established in Rauma due to the positive developments in transport connections. It would otherwise have gone to Pori.

Railroad history

The first regular rail service started in the United States in 1830. The same year in England. In 1850’s in Finland.
The railway was considered expensive and not suitable for winter traffic. The government was thinking of creating a transport network through building inland river-channels instead!

Compared to horse transport, the railway was fast and efficient. The Emperor Alexander II announced that a railway had to be built from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna. So the first railway in the country was already 35 years before.

In 1868, the Riihimäe- St. Petersburg line was opened (in order to be able to bring food from Russia during the years of hunger).

Rauma was the only municipality to build its own railway

Stenius supported the construction

In 1895, Rauma received permission to build a railway and government promised to give half of the money if the town of 4000 people found the other half. That was 20 times the size of Rauma’s annual budget. It is 9.5 million euros in today’s currency.

Merchant J. L. Stenius inherited 145,000 marks in his will for the construction of the track. The city borrowed another 1 million marks in bonds. Construction went fast and the track was completed with a smaller budget due to the delay. The price of iron and steel had almost dropped by half and the interest rates on loans had also declined.

When Rauma got its 47.5 km long railway line from Rauma harbor to Kokemäe Peipohja in Pori, it started transporting both cargo and passengers. Different wagons were merged into one. Wagons were rented from the government.

Construction

There was a lack of carpenters and sometimes the work was interrupted by excessive drinking, but otherwise the work progressed quickly and great damage was avoided on site. At some point, there 1,500 employees (in the town of 4000 people!) and accommodation problems occurred. Fifty families were homeless before the winter arrived. They were accommodated in summer villas, at a cholera hospital on Syväraumankatu street and at restaurant Suoja at the harbor.

An interesting fact

For 3 years the Rauma Town Hall clock was 14 minutes behind the railway station’s clock. In 1899 the official time of Helsinki was introduced in the whole city to avoid misunderstandings. But who needs a clock anyway, haha. The first 100 years the town hall clock showed hours only.

Railway station

The Rauma railway station is as old as the railway, built in 1897. The drawings are similar to that of Oulu railway station.  
The appearance of the building is unchanged, but the interior has been changed during renovations. The city sold the building to private hands 20 years ago. The current owner is planning to build a restaurant in the old premises.

Refugee port during the war

At the beginning of the World War I in 1914, all Finnish harbors were closed except the one of Rauma! Refugees started to use this as an opportunity to escape from Russia to Western Europe and vice versa. The port in Pori, Mäntyluoto, was open for the traffic of goods only. Or was it?

I have seen pictures of nicely dressed ladies sitting on top of their hat boxes on the sandy dunes of Rauma pine forest. The first refugees were of an upper class and could pay for the housing and food to Rauma families, in money or jewelry. They travelled in VIP wagons of the train. The rest were not doing so well and helping became a burden to the citizens of Rauma.

Why the port of Rauma was not closed by the Russian decision makers? I made a quick research and came to these conclusions (you may correct):
1. It was a winter port. The sea was ice free.
2. Same railway track width as in Russia.
3. Rauma port was active in foreign trade.
4. Affordable position as a recipient of Gevle and Stockholm traffic

The shipping offices moved from Helsinki to Rauma (also the branch office of the famous butter producer Valio).

The goods for the Russian state arrived to Rauma in bad condition. It had been stored outside in Sweden and got wet on the way. It could have been an arbitrary behavior of frustrated people. Not everyone was on the Russian side. Different books give different approaches on being faithful to the Russian government and about the relationship to the German enemy. Sea marks were removed from near the port to confuse the German enemies.

In 1950 Rauma sold the railway to the state as it was economically difficult to maintain. Rauma city received 175 million marks from the sale that it used for the construction of Otankoulu schoolhouse in 1952 (the yellow building near the baseball field and the beach).

Passenger traffic

Passenger traffic on the track ended in 1988 and from then on people were taken to Kokemäe by bus. The Tampere – Pori train stops at Kokemäe.

Freight traffic is still very lively, and the track was electrified in 1997, 100 years after its establishment.

The Finnish government was recently offering four towns of Finland to participate in a short pilot project to test if there was a need for the passenger railway traffic. Rauma was unfortunately left out of the project as the research showed low interest in passenger traffic (70 000 -100 000 passengers per year would only be 10% of the full capacity; 14-20 passengers per train). The railway station would have been built somewhere close to Prisma or Citymarket, cause its old building is under private ownership and in a distant place.

Matti Vahe ja Mauri Rautavuori, the experts of the Rauma railway history, are of the opinion that the city council’s brave decision to build the railway on its own was as good as today’s city council’s decision to rescue the shipbuilding business by purchasing the premises of the shipbuilding company that closed its doors in Rauma 7 years ago. Rauma Marine Constructions has a bright future ahead with orders for about 1 billion euros for the coming 7-8 years!

So it is all connected to each other. Rauma started to flourish as it got its own railway connection! The population has grown from 4 000 to 40 000 people. Rauma is a successful industrial town.

I just wish we had more people visiting the town. A spa would be an opportunity to get people visit Rauma all year round. But it’s another topic. Enjoy the many beaches of the Rauma town while it’s still warm outside.

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