THE WIRES OF FADED GLORY
The history of trolleybuses started in 1900 in French capital Paris. Although the first vehicles, often called as „railless“ were only displayed as an attraction, mid-size cities in whole Europe were very amazed with this kind of transport, more cheaper than classic tramways. In the same year, 1900 first „real“ trolleybus company was opened in Swiss city Villeneuve. It was closed early, in 1903, but it was first successfull attempt. More cities followed until first world war, however none of them survived until today (oldest trolleybus network still in use is in Philadelphia, and was opened there in 1922).
Today’s Czech Republic was until 1918 part of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Trolleybuses were videly supported here, so in two today’s Czech cities were opened trolleybuses too, in Gmund (Ceske Velenice), and in Ceske Budejovice. Both of them were closed during world war.
After war, trolleybuses were still popular, but first „modern“ trolleybus network was opened in Czech’s capital Praha (Prague) relatively late, in 1936. During WW2, another networks were opened, such as in Plzen (1941) and Zlin (1944). Expansion followed after war. In the period of 1948-1956 new networks were opened, mostly as a replacement of small tramways’ network. One exception was Most, where trolleybuses were replaced by new fast and efficient tramway (1959)
60’s period was hard for tramways and trolleybuses. No new lines were built here, and most of the cities planned to close whole networks. First one were Ceske Budejovice, biggest Czech network in Praha followed in 1972, and one year later in 1973 falled Decin. Luckily, no more cities followed. In the mid of 80’s, during oil crisis, trolleybuses maked their comeback, and in 1990 they were introduced in Ceske Budejovice again. Unfortunately, in Praha and Decin is no chance to renew trolleybuses yet.
This article describes all of closed trolleybus’ networks. They are sorted by date of their closure.
1. Ceske Velenice
Before first world war, Gmund was relatively large city, located close to today’s Austrian Northern Borderline. It was important railway crossing, with both normal- and narrow- gauge railway lines. However, after WW1 was this city divided between new Czechoslovakia (this part was named Ceske Velenice) and between Austria (old name Gmund remained). This happened in 1918, but for more than two years was this city without trolleybuses.
First railway reached Gmund in 1871, but railway station was relatively far from city. City council wanted better connection between city and railway, but Gmund was not so rich to build electric tramways here.
Succesfull introduction of trolleybuses inspired them to build another „railless“ system. Construction began in early 1907, and was opened on 16th July 1907. Track was 2880 m. long. Only one trolleybus was delivered - it was construction from Daimler-Stoll company (located in Austrian’s Wiener Neustadt). It was classic construction of early trolleybuses - vehicle was only 5,5 meters long, and their maximum speed was less than 20km.
Trolleybus was very succesful, so in 1908 second vehicle was delivered, with no major differencies with previous trolleybus.
In 1909, new railway station was opened. Surprisingly, it was more far from city than previous one. New trolleybus line was constructed. Short track to old station was removed, and new „network“ was 3300 meters long. After this, trolleybuses runned unchanged until 1916. During war, not so much passengers was carried, so this service was stopped for financial reasons, this happened on 14th July 1916, after 11 years of service.
2. Ceske Budejovice I.
Ceske Budejovice, today city with 106.000 inhibitans opened in 1909 their electric tramways. There was hope to built line to the cemetry, located in the norther part of town. However there was necessary to cross railway. Ministery of railways said „no“ to this project. Another solution was found immediately - tramway ended close to railway, and for the rest of track new trolleybus line was made. It was 1600 meters long, and one Daimler-Stoll trolleybus was delivered.
This trolleybus was every evening moved to tramway depot. Because there were no trolleybus wires, this vehicle must be pulled by tramway.
In 1910 second trolleybus was delivered. Both of them were comparable with Ceske Velenice’s trolleybuses, only minor changes were made.
In 1914 was trolleybus service suspended „until further notice“, and the vehicles were used for war purposes and were destroyed - one of them probably close to Lwow.
After war, service was not restored. But 30 years ago, trolleybuses reached streets here again - but this is another story.
3. Most and Litvinov
Most and Litvinov, two cities, both an industrial centre, with large amount of chemical works and surface coal mines were serviced by electric tramways since 1901. However, in 30’s new big chemical works were opened in Zaluzi, and they were relatively far from tramway tracks. During WW2, under Nazi occupation there were plans to built trolleybus network here, but this was not made.
Closely after war, decision was taken to built here trolleybus new trolleybus network. Construction started in early 1946 and on 6th December 1946 first route between Litvinov and Zaluzi was opened. Rare trolleybuses were used here - 5 italian vehicles Oms/Isotta/Tibb. They were built in 1941-1942 and were delivered to Milano. In 1944 they were seized by Germans and transported to Czech rep. It was an articulated, 3-axles vehicle, and becomes very popular here.
In 1948 was trolleybus route extended to Most. Another seized trolleybuses, a Fiat/Vartesina/Breda construction was delivered (6 vehicles). Also, used prototype of T86 trolleybus was delivered from Praha. In early 50s, were these italian trolleybuses replaced by Tatra 400 czech trolleybuses. With new line to Loucna reached trolleybus network maximum length.
Expanding of chemical works in Zaluzi brings problems and troubles for urban transport in Most/Litvinov area. Both narrow gauge tramway and trolleybuses were unable to carry all of those passengers to works. In 1955, decision was taken to built new fast tramway here, and abandon both old tramways and trolleybuses.
This was done in 1957-1961 period, but trolleybuses were withdrawned sooner, on 31th January 1959. Old trolleybuses were scrapped, newer ones were sold to Praha, Teplice and Ceske Budejovice.
4. Ceske Budejovice II.
After WW2, tramway network in Ceske Budejovice was under bad condition. In 1947 decisionw as taken to convert all of the tramway lines to modern trolleybuses.
First route was opened on 28th October 1948, and the Vectra/CKD trolleybuses were delivered. Before 1950, tramway was completely converted, and also new trolleybuses Skoda 7Tr were delivered.
After 1951, all major transport needs were covered by trolleybuses, including interurban track to Roznov. Only in 1959, new line to Nemanice was built. At this time, trolleybus network reached it’s maximum length.
In the 60’s period, no new lines were built. Although some new trolleybuses of 8Tr and 9Tr were delivered, in the 1968 and 1969 major lines to Nemanice, Ctyri Dvory and Roznov were closed. Two lines remained in service, but 24th April 1971 was also last day for them. Trolleybuses were sold to Hradec Kralove and Plzen.
Twenty years later, trolleybuses makes their comeback again - and are in Ceske Budejovice in service until today - but this is (again) another story.
Largest trolleybus network was in service in Czech capital, Praha (Prague). First line was opened here in 1936, after more than 30 years of discussion about this kind of transport. For first line was choosen route between tramway depot Stresovice through Borislavka to Sv.Matej. Major car producers were asked to made their own trolleybus, so for the opening were 3 prototypes prepared. One of them was Praga TOT, second was Tatra T-86 and last one was Skoda 1Tr.
Official innaguration of this line was on 29th August 1936. Although this line was relatively far from the centre (and it was only link between small housing estate and a tramway), it becomes very popular, and it was also commercial and technical success.
Planning of new tracks started soon. Before WW2, only one route was opened, it was link between Smichov, and Walter’s Factory, a military works located in Praha’s suburub Jinonice. This line was very hilly, and it was replacement of combined tramway and bus line. This new line (named W) was not connected with first line (K), and was opened on October 1939.
Also, during 1937-1939 new Praga TOT, and Tatra T-86 trolleybuses were delivered, followed by new Skoda 2Tr trolleybuses. In 1940 there was 24 vehicles.
After war, amazing expansion of trolleybuses started. The „W“ route was extended to the Vaclavske n., really to the city centre. Names of lines were also in 1947 changed, from „K“ and „W“ to 51 and 52, new lines followed with 53, etc.
New lines followed, including connection in historic centre, and also new lines to distant suburbs. Also new vehicles were prepared. In 1948, new large trolleybus Tatra T-400 was introduced. This 3-axle trolleybus becomes very popular, and was delivered in 1948-1954, more than 130 pieces was purchased. They were used on all routes.
Last major route was opened in 1954 to Velka Chuchle. 11 lines (51-61) was in service. Even before 1959 several short lines in city centre was opened again, so in April 1959 there was more than 62 km of trolleybus tracks in Praha. Unfortunately, first line was also closed in 1959 - it was former „K“ line, first Praha’s trolleybus route. This line was never connected with the rest of network, so it was easily replaced by bus line No. 125.
Prospect for Praha’s trolleybuses were still bright. In 1957 new high-tech trolleybus Tatra T-401 was tested in Praha. There was hope to start serial production at least in 1959 in Tatra Koprivnice Works.
Because this was delayed, in 1959 some used Tatras T-400 from Most were purchased. One year later, in 1960 decision was taken, that T-401 will not be produced any more. The only one trolleybuses to be produced in Czech Republic were smaller 2-axle trolleybuses of Skoda 8Tr type. Although Praha strictly required larger 3-axle trolleybuses, their protest was useless. And there comes fall...
In the 1962 Praha changed transport policy. There was decided, that most important role of urban transport in the city should be covered by underground tramway. Normal tramways should remained in east of city, and rest of transport should be covered by buses.
In period of 1964-1969 most of routes was abandoned. Meanwhile new Skoda 8Tr trolleybuses were delivered, but it was not enough to save trolleybus network. In 1969 only one line, 51 remainded, and it was served exclusively by Skoda 8Tr. It survived for three years.
15th October 1972 was last day of trolleybus service in Praha (really last trolleybus runned one day later). Trolleybuses never returned again...
Only few relicts of trolleybus service remained until today. Except some pillars, few vehicles was preserved in museums.
First one was Skoda 8Tr, no. 494, it is preserved and displayed in Praha’s Museum of Urban Transport
Second one is unlucky prototype of Tatra T-401. After tests was withdrawned and used for non-transport reasons. In 1974 was purchased by DP Ostrava, but never comes to normal service. Now is displayed in Technicke museum Brno.
Third one should be Tatra T-400 No. 431 (resp. 9431). This vehicle is preserved in Praha’s Museum of Urban Transport, but is not fully reconstructed, and therefore is not displayed.
Last one - should be one of the first three trolleybuses delivered in Praha!!! It is Praga TOT prototype, No. 303. This trolleybus was in service until 1959, then was withdrawned and sold out to public person to Bustehrad, where it was used as an shed. It was mostly destroyed. After 1990, an effort to purchase this vehicle for the museum was made. However, owner was not familiar with this. Things changed after his dead in 1996. Trolleybus was sold to museum. It is in very outrageous state, only main portions of body remained. The reconstrution to its original state will be very expensive, but there is still good chance to preserve this vehicle...
Decin, mid-sized city in the north of Czech Republic. First trolleybus route was opened here in 1950 and until 1957 was followed by anothers. After this, trolleybuses covered all major transport needs. For service there were delivered Vetra/CKD trolleybuses, such as Skoda 7Tr vehicles.
Due to financial problems, no new routes were opened in 60’s period. Although new trolleybuses of Skoda 8Tr and 9Tr types were delivered, in 1967 was decided, that the trolleybuses will be removed from the city. First route was closed in 1970, rest continued in 1972-1973. Last day of service was 14th December 1973.
In 80’s several attempts to restore trolleybuses was made, unfortunately, they were not successfull...
7. Last One?
After 1973, none of Czech trolleybus’ networks was closed. Although there was hope to abandon them in Teplice and in Hradec Kralove, this does not happened. Things changed in mid of 90s, where during bad economical situation two cities thinks about trolleybus closure - Marianske Lazne and Pardubice. After several decisions, trolleybuses in Pardubice were most probably definitively saved, however in Marianske Lazne, there are still serious problems. Trolleybus network here is smallest in Czech Republic, only 11 trolleybuses is here. Future is therefore still unclear...
This page (c) 1998 Richard A.Bílek. All photos and articles by Richard A.Bílek, except where noted. Feel free to spread all information, but do not forget to mention your source.