The Imperial Garage
in the Winter Palace

The Imperial Garage was painted a dull red which reflects the original colour of the Winter Palace from 1837 to 1946.

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The Imperial Garage before and after the restoration.

In 2011 the Winter Palace Garage marked its 100th anniversary. The heir to the Imperial Garage in the Winter Palace is the Road Transport Department of the State Hermitage.

The history of the garage began in 1910 when Emperor Nicholas II ordered the construction of a special building on the territory of the Winter Palace. In 1911, architect N. I. Kramskoy (1863–1938) designed a garage for the cars serving the imperial family which was built in the Black passage of the Winter Palace.

The Winter Palace Garage is a simple single storey building under a gambrel roof, with almost no decorations. It can be seen from the windows of the St. George Hall and Sivkov Passage. The walls are made from slag-concrete blocks on binding solution from high quality Portland cement, the floor consists of sandstone tiles and the ceiling is concrete. The metal roof frame was made by the Saint Petersburg Metal Factory. The Imperial Garage is one of the earliest constructions known to have used such construction technology. Ideal conditions were set up for keeping cars.

The garage’s interior was split into two parts with a ratio of about 1:3. In the first small part, directly by the entrance gates, was a car wash. The cast iron base of a petrol station and a water drain survive, connected to the Palace sewage system. To the right and left of the car wash are two tiny rooms: the “office” and “closet” (toilet).

When they entered the garage, cars came to the car wash, then passed through a glass gate into the far part of the garage to the car park. On the back wall are the exit gates. The garage was warm and dry, so the emperor’s cars were safe from rust. They didn’t freeze and they started easily. The garage had an air conditioning system, which had an electric motor. Daylight fell on the garage through an elegant skylight and large windows. On the roof of the far part of the garage were unusual looking (like knight’s armour) air conditioning units. To the right of the garage was an underground petrol storage tank, with capacity up to 100 poods of petrol, above which was a petrol pump.

The Imperial garage was the largest car plant in Russia of its time. All the cars were split into several categories. The highest category was for the Imperial cars, which were very expensive and comfortable even for those times: Delaunay-Belleville, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz etc.

As Emperor Nicholas II's interest and taste for this new mode of transport grew, he ordered several other garages to be built to house his growing inventory of automobiles, including Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof and Livadia.

The garage building is today almost in its original condition and is an example of an early 20th century garage.

The Garage in the Winter Palace continues to be used by the Road Transport Department for its original purpose, cars from the State Hermitage “live” there.

Employees from the Road Transport Department manage passenger and goods transportation, take part in work on mechanising cleaning of the court yards and driveways in the State Hermitage, as well as high and loading and unloading work.

The Road Transport Department of the State Hermitage has production and technical facilities, with state-of-the-art equipment and a fleet which complies with EURO II-IV emission standards. Over the last two years the refitting of the repair shop has begun. New technical equipment is being acquired and production facilities renovated. At the same time state-of-the-art technology is being introduced.

The vehicles are installed with MMT devices (petrol modifiers), which reduce fuel consumption and the emission of toxic substances from the exhaust. A satellite navigation system guarantees flexible vehicle dispatch management and instant reaction to emergency situations.

The control and diagnostics section uses diagnostic devices which make it possible to keep strict control of vehicle preparation before journeys.

Regular work on providing traffic safety, aimed at controlling drivers and driver training have helped to reduce road accidents.

In 2011 the Road Transport Department received the International Transport Award “The Golden Chariot”, founded by the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation Committee for Transport and the Ministry of Transport.

Source & Copyright: State Hermitage Museum with additional notes by Paul Gilbert
20 March, 2012