The Croatian Railway Museum was founded in 1991, as a specialized technical museum of national significance, which has been following the beginnings and the development of the railway system in Croatia since 1860, when the first railway line was constructed, until today. Speaking in numbers, it is made up of 12 museum collections, with a total of 9,500 exhibits and 5 documentation collections with around 10,500 documentation units, and these numbers are increasing daily.
Seven collections have been entered into the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia, and a series of station buildings are considered protected cultural goods (Zagreb Main Railway Station, Zagreb West Railway Station, Varaždin, Split, Čakovec, Koprivnica, Rijeka, Opatija-Matulji, Bjelovar, Osijek, Karlovac, Novska, Pula…). At the Croatian State Archives, the Technical documentation collection with a total of 2,471 archival units was registered, and the professional library contains around 2,000 units.
The Museum holdings include railway vehicles, machines and tools for the maintenance of rail vehicles, equipment for the construction and maintenance of railway lines, traffic signals and devices, telecommunication devices, regulations, historical reviews and other press material on the subject of railways, technical documentation and rail tickets, timetables, official rail uniforms and personal documents, models of railway vehicles, photographs, postcards of railway facilities. The most famous is the Collection of railway vehicles (106 vehicles in total), among which there are 36 steam locomotives, constructed in the period between 1891 and 1973, and there is also the Collection of timetables, with a total of 278 exhibits, from the 1880- 2015 period, which is the only such institution in Croatia, containing a collection of timetables registered as cultural heritage since 2008. The museum premises in Zagreb are open to the public with prior announcement, Vinkovci station hosts a permanent museum display, and throughout the year, exhibitions are held at a renovated mail wagon as a movable exhibition space, which has also been enabled for operation. At 15 stations all across Croatia, there is also a display of steam locomotives, which bear witness to the rich railway tradition of a specific region.
This unique museum owes its existence to the financial support of HŽ Infrastruktura, as well as great enthusiasm and drive of its three employees: Ms. Tamara Štefanac, Museum Head, Ms. Renata Veličan, curator and Ms. Janka Fučić, museum pedagogist.
Numerous railway fans from across the world provide moral support to the Museum, and visit it with prior announcement, while local rail enthusiasts often visit during open days. Documentation researchers also come from all sides, for projects or specific objects, only to discover a real treasure trove for all their questions related to railways in Croatia, however, the process can also take the opposite direction. Here begins our story of museum fans and railway enthusiasts.
More than thirty railway enthusiasts in Croatia have asked for permission to take photographs on the railway because photographing is prohibited by the Regulation on Internal Station Organization, and it can be dangerous as well. This is not just a question of taking selfies at the station, but has to do with railway enthusiasts, who use every moment of their spare time to travel by train, to take pictures of railway motives, collect various materials and documentation or engage in making train models. Most of them are not railway employees, even if this may be their secret dream. They are true walking museums: full of accumulated knowledge from tradition, emotional and motivating attitude regarding everything connected with the railway; they are especially passionate and driven when it comes to performing their job, either as professionals or as amateurs.
I call them ferrofanatics, they call themselves railfans, railway enthusiasts, railway buffs... They usually socialize during weekends, visit destinations, where exhibitions of old locomotives or other events are held, visit railway museums, travel by excursion trains, attend international celebrations of important railway annual events in Europe. They establish connections over social networks and forums and exchange news. Sunday evenings or Mondays, when they return from their journeys, they clog their friends’ emails with new photographs, taken during the weekend. For them, the railway is something special, sacred, cosmic and supernatural… Can you imagine a serious man standing for hours with a camera, somewhere in the mountainous region of Lika, in deep snow, waiting for a tilting train to come? All this only to take a few photographs– just so he can catch a glimpse of a passing train… This is difficult to imagine, but yes, they do exist…I often get their emails from addresses, such as: bero.pruzny, kapo I, nenadmedex, thomas.aqeeninen, etc., with photographs coming from everywhere. Sometimes I think, “God, who can possibly hide behind these nicknames? What could possibly draw a human being to the railway tracks, without any cause?“ Still, when they take over a new location, they are proud of yet another trophy, a new jewel in the crown of ferrofanatism.
In order not to occupy my mind with this anymore, I have decided to talk to them about who they really are and discover what drives them. I asked all of them three questions: where their love for the railway comes from, what preoccupies them most, and to tell a short story about a special event from a rail fanatic’s career.
Further information is available on the Museum website: http://muzej.hzinfra.hr/