THE VILPPULA RAILWAY STATION
The building of the Finnish railway system began in the 1860s. The Tampere-Vaasa line, or the Ostrobothnia line, was built between 1879 and 1883. The decision to run the line on the eastern side of Lake Näsijärvi was heavily influenced by G.A. Serlachius, the owner of the Mänttä mill. Serlachius constructed a narrow-gauge industrial train line between Vilppula and Mänttä in 1897.
The train line was in use until the 1930s, when the standard-gauge line built by the state reached Mänttä.
The railway construction brought railway builders to Vilppula and also created jobs for the locals. Vilppula rose in affluence as a result, and cottages and farms were built along the railway. Sometimes the railway construction crew caused disorder, and drunkenness was not unheard of.
The national railway network had its own construction and planning organisation from the 1870s onwards. The Vilppula railway station was a category IV rural railway stop and its current appearance is based on the 1903 extension design by architect Bruno Granholm. The architectural designs were created by civil servant building designers and was therefore anonymous, but railway construction served as a channel for spreading architectural influence in the 19th and 20th century. The station milieu was important, and it was well maintained as the railway brought added value to the locality. The station garden was usually the first public park of a town or village.
The railway has also played a key role in industrialisation, dissemination of education and the development of postal services. People, goods and ideas could move much faster and much further than before. People gathered at the station to greet the train and the first major commercial activities were established near the station.
The station and its surroundings in Vilppula became an important hub for transport, social life and communications.
The warehouses of the Mänttä and Jämsänkoski paper mills were located at Vilppula station until the 1930s. The operations were at their height at that time as goods were being loaded and unloaded. Passengers changed from the narrow-gauge railway onto trains heading towards Tampere and Vaasa. Once the standard-gauge railway was completed in the 1930s, and up until the 1950s, the passenger traffic between Vilppula and Mänttä was conducted by the railcar “Mäntän Motti”.
Today, the stations at Vilppula and Kolho are included in the National Board of Antiquities’ inventory of cultural heritage sites of national significance.
In 1918, Finland experienced a brutal civil war, which lasted for four months and resulted in the loss of nearly 40,000 lives. For seven weeks from the first days of the war, Vilppula was the centre of events. The northern side of Vilppulankoski was held by the White Guard and the southern side by the Red Guard. The Finnish Civil War ended on 16 May 1918 with the victory of the White Guard and the defeat of the Red Guard. The White Guard was led by the Finnish Senate and the Red Guard by the Finnish People's Delegation that opposed the Senate.
The White Guard troops from Ostrobothnia took command of the Vilppula railway station as soon as the Civil War began. The station and its environs served as a significant base for supplying the White Guard troops in the region of Vilppula and Ruovesi. On 3 February 1918, a mass was led by Rev. Väinö Malmivaara from Lapua; it is considered to be the first-ever military church service held in Finland.
In the early stages of the Vilppula campaigns, the White Guard also placed artillery near the station building, but on 7 February, the artillery were moved further next to the railway line. The Red Guard attempted to hit the station area with artillery fire, a strike that caused very little damage.
Vilppula Railway Station area was one of the first locations in Finland ever to be attacked from air. The Red Guard planes tried on several occasions to drop bombs on the railway yard but will little success.
The Kuutola building next door to the station building served as the mess hall of the officers and army service personnel. The station area also served as the command centre for the White Guard. On 15 February 1918, Colonel Martin Wetzer, commander of the Vilppula front, arrived at Vilppula Station from Haapamäki. He spent one month during the Vilppula campaign living in a railway carriage. On 18 February 1918, General Mannerheim, the military leader of the White Guard, also paid a visit to Vilppula. He returned to Vilppula in mid-March, when the Tampere operation of the Whites had commenced.
Towards the end of the Vilppula campaign, the Reds attempted to send a so-called “ghost train” to Vilppula Station. This was a train loaded with explosives, a move intended to cause destruction and disarray among the White Guard troops. The train made it across the Vilppulankoski railway bridge but was subsequently derailed. The railway workers arriving at the scene managed to lower the pressure in the engine and thus avoid the fatal explosion.
After 17 March, the front moved as a result of the White offensive towards the south, but Vilppula Station remained a crucial hub for the remainder of the war.