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History of the museum

Odense remise jul 1954The Danish Railway Museum is one of Denmark's oldest specialist museums and was originally established as a museum for the Danish State Railways (DSB). The museum was established based on an interest in the history of railways and on the collection of historical specimens by a number of DSB personnel in the years before 1900. The Danish Railway Museum became one of several specialist museums to emerge with emphasis on a specific trade, sector or topic, such as the Danish Museum of Science and Technology (1911), the Danish Commerce and Shipping Museum, the Danish Agricultural Museum, etc.

The Danish Railway Museum became one of the so-called "state museums", which included the Museum of Military History (Tøjhusmuseet, 1838), the Royal Danish Navy Museum (Orlogsmuseet, 1957), the Post and Telegraph Museum (older collection, established in 1907) and the Customs Museum (Toldmuseet, 1912). These museums did not build up all-encompassing collections as museums of cultural history, but collected museum specimens within their field – which in the case of the Danish Railway Museum particularly involved rolling stock, uniforms, signal equipment and other small objects.

The Danish Railway Museum opened at its present address in Odense in 1975, but the first museum initiatives in the field and the collection of specimens spanned more than a century. Before 1900, the Danish railway personnel and history enthusiasts had already taken the initiative towards what eventually became a national railway museum. In 1904, A. L. Ohmeyer took the initiative to set up a more comprehensive collection of pictures, photographs, books and small specimens. The first proposal for an outright museum was presented in 1907 in the Railway Society's journal Vor Stand, where the idea was associated with the impending opening of the new Copenhagen Central Station. "When the new rendition of the Copenhagen Passenger Station is completed in a few years, premises should be found that are accessible to the vast number of employees – and perhaps also to the public – and which comprise the two institutions: a railway library and a railway museum, and for this reason, material for this should be collected in due time."

In 1915, Ohmeyer set up the first railway history exhibition open to the public in the building of Industriforeningen (the Industry Society) in Copenhagen. From the fiscal year 1918–1919, a small cost item for a railway museum was included in the national finance bill under the appropriation for the national railways. Therefore, the Danish Railway Museum does not have a precise year of founding per se, but we usually refer to the museum as being founded around 1900.

Odense Remise interiør jul 1954The first major exhibition took place in a former express goods warehouse at Copenhagen Central Station on Bernstorffgade – an exhibition made up of models of ferries and ships, photographs, models of machinery parts, track equipment, and telegraphs, telephones and signalling devices. From 1928, the Railway Museum was housed in DSB's headquarters in the Sølvgade Barracks in Copenhagen, where an exhibition was set up, and during the 1950s and 1960s the exhibition had a restricted scope due to limited space conditions, among other things.

The museum's collection of rolling stock began in 1928 when the first locomotive was donated: a steam locomotive designated "B 45", built by Stephenson & Son in 1869. Additional locomotives were added before World War II, and the first collection of carriages began in the same period. The rolling stock was deposited in various vacant roundhouses and was not accessible to the public. By 1954, the museum had acquired two old British locomotives, a German-built freight train locomotive (G 78) from 1875 and a "P" engine (P 125) built in Germany in 1882, as well as a few other locomotives. The museum had two royal carriages at its disposal and a double-decker passenger car from 1900, as well as a very old postal carriage used on the Korsør railway dating from 1865. These specimens are still included in the Railway Museum's collections and, except for the postal carriage, are on display in Odense. In the post-war years and in continuation of the commenced withdrawal from service of steam locomotives, the Danish Railway Museum collected a comprehensive selection of rolling stock, supplemented in the past few decades by diesel locomotives and motor carriages, "S" commuter trains and much more.

In 1965, the centenary of the opening of Funen's railways, the take-over of a large roundhouse right next to Odense Central Station was brought into play. Part of the roundhouse was taken over by the Danish Railway Museum in 1975. After a sweeping modernisation project, which included the present glass section facing Odense Central Station, the museum reopened in 1988. In the following years, the museum gradually took over the entire roundhouse and today comprises all the buildings on the grounds.

museet i SølvgadeFrom 1989, the Danish Railway Museum was managed by professional historian Poul Thestrup PhD, and with a staff comprising academically qualified curators. On 1 October 2012, Henrik Harnow PhD took over as museum director, and the museum is currently undergoing a continued professionalisation process, comprising enormous tasks of cataloguing and preservation of collections, cultivating research and new types of information activities – also outside the museum's premises. The museum's management and executive committee wish to impart the history of the railways to wide segments of the population and show how the railways have played and still play an important role for society and affect the everyday lives of all Danes and the Danish countryside.