85 years of Škoda trolleybus production / Chapter 1


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1 Before the first Škoda trolleybus pulled out

The manufacture of the first winged arrow trolleybus was preceded by several decades of research into the use of electricity in transport that began as early as in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Siemens Was the First

The first vehicle that could be termed the great-grandfather of the trolleybus was presented by Werner von Siemens, inventor and industrialist, on the outskirts of Berlin in 1882 and called “das Electromote“. The vehicle used a wheeled carriage running on overhead wires and pulled by a connecting cable.


(p. 10) “Das Electromote“ by Siemens [127]

Emil Škoda’s Life

At the same time, a local machine works, previously rather unimportant, experiences rapid development in Pilsen thanks to Emil Škoda, an eminent resident of Pilsen. Škoda bought the enterprise in 1869 and substantially expanded its product portfolio, among other things by launching a new steelworks capable of supplying cast and forged pieces weighing up to several tens of tons. However, it was the production of arms that became the Company’s line of business.


(p. 10) Emil Škoda [302]

František Křižík and His Forerunner of the Trolleybus

František Křižík, inventor and entrepreneur, was without doubt the one who contributed most to the development of the use of electricity in the Czech lands. Besides constructing power stations and building up street lighting, Křižík was also successful in promoting the use of electricity in transport, both city and inter-city, especially in rail transport. He presented a small road vehicle with trolley poles in Pardubice in 1903, though it was a mere exhibition attraction.


(p. 11) František Křižík [128]

Trolleybus Operations in Our Country at the Beginning of the 20th Century

The first real trolleybus operation on our territory connected the railway station at today’s České Velenice with Gmünd, Austria, from 1907 to 1916. Also, the city of České Budějovice introduced one line from 1909 to 1914. The first trolleybus on the territory of Slovakia served the line from Poprad to Starý Smokovec for merely two years (1904 to 1906). The capital city of Bratislava waited to see the first trolleybuses from 1909 to 1915. All vehicles operated that way had common features – wooden construction, simple electrical drive, and, compared to today’s trolleybuses, low transport capacity. A rather imperfect degree of technical development was usually the reason for the brevity of their existence.


(p. 11) Daimler-Stoll trolleybus in front of the railway station at České Velenice. [129]

Karel Škoda Takes Over His Father’s Enterprise

While Europe makes the first attempts at early trolleybuses, the founder’s son, Karel Škoda, takes over the Pilsen machine works. He continues his father’s line, and further expands the enterprise. The number of employees exceeded the number of ten thousand just when the unparalleled war conflict was dawning in the world. The largest arms plant in the country was of crucial importance to Austria-Hungary.


(p. 12) Karel Škoda [302]

The Škoda Works in Search of New Fields of Production

The end of the Great War meant enormous relaxation for the population but stabilization of the newly founded republic was needed. The management of the concern had to seek new fields of production for peacetime, which was successfully achieved rather quickly. The portfolio was supplemented e.g. with machine tools, locomotives and other means of transport. Karel Škoda, who had been known to the public for his support of Austria-Hungary, retired, and a new French partner, Schneider et Cie, bought into the Company.


Electrotechnical Factory at Doudlevce (ETD)

The formation of the electrotechnical plant within the Škoda Works at Pilsen-Doudlevce had two reasons. First, there was the Company’s own need of electrotechnical machines for the industrial installations manufactured (equipment for mines, rolling mills, cement plants etc.) because Škoda faced high prices and long delivery times of external suppliers. The second reason was the general electrification of the new republic, which, besides households, included the development of electric rail transport. Thus the first electric locomotives and electrical equipment for trams, in addition to engines, generators and transformers, began being manufactured at Doudlevce. And it is a fine line between this and electrical equipment for trolleybuses.


(p. 13) The Škoda Works supplied trams to the Serbian city of Subotice in 1929. [302]

(p. 14) The first electric locomotive Škoda 1ELo of 1927. [167]

Separated Vehicles Branch and the Car Factory at Mladá Boleslav

Another prerequisite for the manufacture of the first trolleybuses with winged arrow was the founding of the Vehicles branch approximately at the same time. It began with agricultural machines and licensed production of cars, and new horizons were opened by the acquisition of the Laurin & Klement car factory at Mladá Boleslav in 1925. Thanks to it, the Company managed to develop its own product line of both passenger cars and lorries which became very successful articles at the end of the 1920s and especially in the 1930s, when the growth of motoring (slowed down by the economic crisis only for a short time) gained strength. The chassis of utility vehicles to which a variety of bodies were mounted served as the starting point for the construction of the first trolleybuses. This was in particular the Škoda 656 chassis manufactured from 1934 to 1937, from which the first winged arrow trolleybus, later designated as Škoda 1 Tr, arose.


(p. 15) A photo from the promotional calendar of the Mladá Boleslav car factory for 1936 – Škoda Popular, the most numerous type of passenger car manufactured from 1934 to 1946. [302]

(p. 17) Škoda freight electric vehicle of 1941. Batteries are placed under the front bonnet. [302]


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