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80 years of Pilsen trolleybus / Chapter 1

 

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1   Tough Beginnings

 

Trolleybuses have been an integral part of Pilsen’s landscape for generations. They are a positive exception to our heritage from the times of war and occupation. But who should we really thank for bringing trolleybuses into existence? [51]

1.1       Electric Hopes for Doubravka

The Electric Enterprise during the First Republic era

During the First Czechoslovak Republic era (1918–1938), the City of Pilsen was in its heyday as it was morphing into a modern and cultural big city, with prospering industry and sophisticated urban development. The city was expanded in 1924 when the boroughs of Doubravka, Doudlevce, Lobzy and Skvrňany were annexed, creating Greater Pilsen with a population of 108 thousand. The city’s transport system consisted of an ageing network of three tram lines that were built in 1899. The Electric Enterprise of the City of Pilsen (EECP) operated electric lines only, and generated and distributed electric power across the city. In 1928, the City Council decided to re-structure and substantially modernise the EECP. The EECP introduced a bus service in 1929 and during the following years modernised the tram network and technical facilities. As early as 1931, they started to look into the experiences the USA had gained from their trolleybus operations.

Trams, trolleybuses or buses? The first calculations

The first calculations of the operational costs produced in 1936 showed that the running of trolleybuses would be financially disadvantageous. Trams were the preferred choice to serve Doubravka and present-day Americká Avenue. In 1938, these transport options were reviewed, leading to new plans that considered a total of 30 trolleybuses. However, when the Nazi troops seized the vast area of the Czechoslovak borderland on 1 October 1938, a new border line was marked just outside Pilsen. The development of industry resulted in more passengers using public transport, which led to overcrowding in buses. In addition to that, the fuel they used was becoming dated and more expensive. The Director of the EECP, František Mlynařík, requested a new calculation of annual profitability, which was presented to him on 5 November 1938. It showed that trams were still in the lead, unlike buses which were running at the biggest loss.

Trolleybuses come to the fore

The fate of Czechoslovakia was sealed in March 1939 when it was put under military occupation by the German Reich. The EECP investment budget allocated 4 million crowns to be spent in 1939 on improving the transport services to Doubravka. Referring to the poor results that came out from testing buses that ran on town gas, the Enterprise proposed to build a trolleybus line going from the City Spa (Městské lázně) to Doubravka, with an additional branch line to the Central Cemetery (Ústřední hřbitov). This route was to be operated by six three-axle trolleybuses, which would be boosted by extra buses during peak hours. One of the arguments for this was an option to convert the trolleybus route to a tram line at a later stage. The Cukrovarská depot was supposed to be used by trolleybuses, which could get there via a tram line that would have an additional negative conductor wire. In spite of the motorist lobby, the EECP continued to push for a new tram track to be introduced in the city centre, going from the railway station along present-day Americká Avenue to Skvrňany.


(p. 21) A draft of a letter addressed to the Municipal Authority, dated 12 July 1939. Trolleybuses were the preferred choice. [51]

The Doubravka line project gets the green light

On 6 September 1939, the EECP commissioned six trolleybuses to be made in Pilsen’s Škoda works and began the construction of a converter station in Rokycanská Avenue, Letná, in October 1939. The design plans of the trolleybus lines were issued on 21 October 1939 and had already factored in driving on the right side of the road. The vehicles were to turn clockwise at the City Spa, so that they could avoid crossing overhead wires for trolleybuses and trams. ‘The vehicle fleet should consist of six 6-wheel Škoda 539 trolleybuses, similar to the trolleybuses supplied to Prague. The fleet will be used to its maximum capacity on route A during the morning rush hours each working day. On Sundays and national holidays, there will be a service on both routes, and on the days when larger volumes of passengers need to travel to the Central Cemetery, there will be a service on route H. On such days, route A will be operated by a replacement service using the current buses, which will be kept for the third line, additional service for route A during the morning rush hours and as a backup.’ [51]


(p. 23) Letná converter station included three flats built for the families of the staff who were in charge of its operation and maintenance. [52]

(p. 23) A proposed design of the site for the masts that were to be erected on an old stone bridge over the Úslava River. [51]

(p. 23) This drawing from August 1939 was altered in early 1940 to change the street names to German. Out of the two options of where the Doubravka line should terminate, the shorter route with vehicles turning around Habrmannovo Square was selected. [56]

(p. 24) A news article about Pilsen’s project, printed in a German specialist magazine [2], included the design of trolley overhead lines. We can see the location of supply points (Speisepunkte) and the site of Letná converter station (Unterwerk). [61]

The battle for material

Trolley wire could only be supplied when old copper was sold off and permission from the authorities granted. On 2 November 1939, the Reich Protector Office issued a statement announcing that supplying copper ‘is considered utterly undesirable due to the current situation’ and requested a review. The EECP replied that when tests were conducted, during which buses ran on fuel consisting of compressed gases, the timetables were not adhered to, the buses used a lot of fuel and were blocking the traffic when they needed to go up the long ascending road leading to Prague. On top of that, preparatory works to introduce a trolleybus service were at a very advanced stage by that point. The construction of the converter station was well under way, and the EECP had already paid its suppliers 3 million crowns (e.g. for mercury-arc rectifiers and trolleybuses). Nevertheless, the request to procure trolley wire was declined by the Reich Protector Office again in January 1940. Unfortunately, we do not know when and how the Office eventually gave its approval. In the meantime, the EECP was having a hard time procuring armatures for trolley lines. For instance, on 18 June 1940, ČKD refused to supply bronze casts due to a lack of material. The fact that the EECP had them made at a metal arts foundry in Prague in the end is a testimony to the enormous lengths the company went to. The procurement drama was completed with insulators, which were only delivered at the end of the construction work, and some of them had to be loaned by Prague’s Electric Enterprise.

The construction of the line

The planning permission was granted on 18 April 1940. On 1 July 1940, the Ministry of Transport issued a decision concerning the names of the stops, stating that ‘the sites for trains to stop in stations will be determined during technical and police tests’. The Ministry was the authority that approved, for instance, the design solution of the split switch located at Pietas and an electrical equipment box for the trolleybus line. The EECP had to come to an agreement with the Railways Headquarters on fitting four wooden, up to 35-metre-long, protective troughs in the underpass structure near the U Prazdroje stop. The issue of a depot remained unresolved.


(p. 24) In January 1940, the Reich Protector Office requested a calculation for the amount of copper that was needed, but in the end it only allowed the company to buy 5 kilometres of wire for the maintenance of tram overhead lines, provided that the dismounted conductors were sold off immediately. [51]

(p. 25) The overhead wiring in the street with the At the Town Brewery stop (U Měšťanského pivovaru) – present-day U Prazdroje – looks simple enough; however, many overhead line crossings had to be tackled and masts had to be erected in the railway area to build the line. [52]

(p. 26) In order to accommodate a terminus near the Central Cemetery where vehicles would be able to turn around, the EECP had to widen the state road connecting Beroun and Haselbach at their own expense. On 13 July 1940, AUTO ŠKODA Mladá Boleslav determined that the envelopes for the turning radius of the outer front wheel should be approx. 8.5 to 9 metres. [51]

(p. 27) Travelling by trolleybus through a Pilsen street for the first time. [346]

(p. 29) In early March 1941, a trolleybus with registration number 101 on one of its initial test drives going from the City Spa to Doubravka, passing the Brewery. [60]

1.2       Trolleybuses Going on War Shifts

Test drives

Pilsen’s Škoda works supplied the first trolleybus, labelled 3 Tr1 101, and the first test drive took place on Saturday, 8 March 1941. The trolleybus went to Doubravka, even though the converter station at Letná had not been finished yet. The response from both the public and the press was very enthusiastic. On 12 March 1941, an official test of vehicle 101 was conducted, with the attendance of representatives of the Ministry of Transport. The following day, a preliminary technical check was conducted with an unladen trolleybus. The journey from the City Spa to the Cemetery took 11.5 minutes, including the idling time at stops, which then translated into a travel speed of 19.2 km/h. On 14 March, a technical and police test with 80 passengers took place. The maximum speed limit for regular operation was set at 30 km/h, whereas when going through crossings, switch points and into underpasses the prescribed speed limit was set at 15 km/h. The launch of the service could not take place on 30 March 1941 as scheduled due to delayed delivery of vehicles. On Wednesday, 9 April 1941 at noon, a regular service on route A was launched by three vehicles, running at ten-minute intervals.


(p. 30) This scene shows the second supplied trolleybus at the highest point of the trolley lines in Pilsen, in front of St Wenceslaus’s Church in the Central Cemetery. [52]

Wartime operation

When the remaining vehicles were received, route H going to the Central Cemetery was launched. All six trolleybuses were stationed under the open sky at the turning bay near the City Spa (also U Jána). Right in the first weeks of their operation, it was clear that the technical solution of the switch points was flawed, especially at Pietas, a busy junction with a road going uphill. When turning from Rokycanská Avenue to Masarykova Avenue, trolleybuses were forced to go over the allowed speed limit set at 15 km/h, so that they did not get stuck in an isolated section of the road. On 7 June 1941, the EECP asked the Ministry of Transport for permission to drive through the overhead crossing that carried current in one direction. It was proposed that an insulated section should be inserted into a grounded (negative) conductor wire when going downhill, and then in the bend leave the positive conductor conductive, i.e. a solution that later became commonplace. After that, the hand-operated split switch control at Pietas was provided with an additional electromagnetic control system. The switch could then be operated in both manners. The first winter brought the first experience of trolley wires getting frosted, which made it difficult for trolleybuses to drive smoothly, and in extreme cases, made driving impossible. In 1942, a solution was drafted proposing that high currents generated in Letná converter station could be used to heat the trolley wires.


‘When I was a child, I used to go with my family to the cemetery by old 3 Tr trolleybuses. As boys, we loved to stand near the driver. The drivers didn’t mind at all. They had a big lever of sorts in their driving cab, used for opening the front door at trolleybus stops. The trolleybus went to the cemetery up Rokycanská Avenue, and then turned left to Doubravka. There was a switch in the trolley wires permanently set for Doubravka because that was where trolleybuses had to go more often. At the corner near the U Pietasu stop was a mast with an open box, or a shelter roof with a big lever of sorts. When a trolleybus was bound for the cemetery, the driver had to stop at the mast. He sent us, boys, out to pull the lever down, and the trolleybus moved a little forward just beyond the switch. We then put the lever back, jumped aboard and felt very important. You know, for a bunch of ten-year-old boys, that was something special.’ [351]


In the meanwhile, plans for a joint tram and trolleybus garage in Slovany were put into motion. The EECP bought a large area of land in Slovany. To enable trolleybuses to drive in, a shunting line with a construction length of 3.651 km was needed. The existing tram track was used for the line, which had a negative conductor wire added to it. Trolleybuses then used their second trolley pole to attach to the tram trolley wire that had positive polarity. The garage was used by trolleybuses from the 25th probably to 1949. The new hall was also used by four new 3 Tr2 trolleybuses, which were added on 1 October 1943 to boost Pilsen’s transport service. The air raids that were launched by the Allied Forces on the City of Pilsen during the last six months of the war brought on critical moments and paralysed the city’s public transport system.


(p. 31) At first, trolleybuses were parked and maintained in the loop at the City Spa (U Jána) and reportedly in the courtyard of Gambrinus Brewery as well, to which they were pulled by a tractor [71]. The image shows the extra shunting trail that was added. [52]

(p. 31) Trolleybus 106 is passing Pietas driving into Rokycanova Avenue bound for the City Spa. The image also shows the only split switch that the Pilsen trolley wires had back then. [55]

(p. 32) A turning bay at the City Spa, shortly after launching the trolleybus service. [55]

(p. 33) The negative conductor wire leading from Slovany ended at the level of the trolleybus turning bay at the City Spa. When starting off in the morning, the trolleybuses could simply attach their trolley poles to the loop trail. When going to the depot, trolleybuses had to drive through the turning bay in the opposite direction. [54]

(p. 33) A 3 Tr2 110 in the turning bay at the Central Cemetery in 1946. [53]

(p. 34) When going to the cemetery, trolleybuses had to overcome the biggest gradient at 73‰. [55]

(p. 34) The air raid of 20 December 1944 put a halt to the trolleybus service. Several trolleybuses standing in the City Spa turning bay were hit, and so was the overhead wiring in front of the Brewery gate. [52]

(p. 35) In front of the bombed-out houses in Nepomucká (present-day Slovanská) Avenue Nos. 47 and 49, you can see an inserted negative conductor wire used for a trolleybus shunting line. When he was five years old, Karel Gott, who later became a famous singer, was buried under the rubble of house No. 55 for two days. [55]

(p. 35) The evolution of the trolleybus network between 1941 and 1945.

The Father of Pilsen’s Trolleybuses – Ing. František Mlynařík

Early life

Born in Pilsen on 5 January 1901, František Mlynařík graduated from the Czech Technical University in Prague at the age of 23 to become an electrical engineer. He started working in the test room at the Škoda Works in the Pilsen Borough of Doudlevce. In 1926, he changed jobs to work for West Bohemia Power Station, where his organisational skills stood out. That was the reason why Pilsen Council asked him to ‘re-organise the power generation business in the city’s electric enterprise’ [54].

 

(p. 38) The Mlynařík brothers at the wedding of the oldest Václav (in the middle). On the left is the youngest brother, Bohuslav; and on the right, František with the love of his life, Františka. [71]

With the power of a lion, rising like a falcon

He assumed the post of the Chief of the Electric Power Section in the Electric Enterprise of the City of Pilsen (EECP) on 1 October 1928. In 1931, he was appointed chief of the workshops and garages for electric lines and buses. At the same time, he became the General Designer in charge of new central workshops and was entrusted with overseeing their construction. The central workshops, which were successfully completed in 1934, were praised for their generous structure and well thought-out layout. He was appointed Director of the EECP by the Municipal Board on 8 April 1935. František Mlynařík published expert articles and was personally involved in the promotion of the electrification of households. He was elected Chief of the West Bohemia branch of the Czechoslovak Electrotechnical Association (CEA). Between 1936 and 1938, he helped build a hydroelectric power station at the Vydra River, Šumava, and ‘thanks to his contribution, the City of Pilsen became a co-proprietor of this building,’ [345] and in doing so, gained cheap electricity from a stable source for the city’s residents and businesses. He modernised the urban transport system in Pilsen and pressed for introducing a trolleybus service. In the troubled year of 1938, this patriot and a devoted Sokol member became the chairman of Sokol Pilsen V. After the Munich Agreement, he was intensively raising funds for a brick-built Sokol gymnasium.

 

(p. 39) František Mlynařík was a passionate motorist. Here, he is shown posing on a 1926 Harley-Davidson JS motorcycle in the early 1930s. In the Pilsen area, there could only be about ten motorcycles of this type at most; it was a higher class machine. [380] His nephew, Míťa, would remember the rides with his uncle across Pilsen’s environs for a long time. [71]

(p. 39) The 1936 photograph of EECP officials shows the two key players from the First Republic era sitting in the middle: Rudolf Novák, a senior technical executive, is the fourth person from the left; and to his right is František Mlynařík, Director of the entire municipal company. [52]

(p. 40) Director Mlynařík giving a formal speech to the employees in front of the central workshops on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the EECP. [72]

Occupation

During the occupation period, František Mlynařík continued working on the projects that were already under way, one of which was the introduction of a trolleybus service. The revenues from power generation activities enabled him to build residential houses for the staff in 1940. When the Czech government commissioner, Petr Němejc, was still in power, Mlynařík was granted the historically first permission from the City of Pilsen authority to distribute a part of the company’s profit among the employees. As the Sokol chairman, he wanted to use the saved money on building activities as quickly as possible, as he was afraid that the money would be confiscated. He bought the building material needed for the construction of the Sokol gymnasium basement, under the pretence of building an air-raid shelter. However, construction activities were soon banned.

The trolleybus service was ceremonially launched on Wednesday, 9 April 1941. After the war, it was highlighted that a total of 165 tonnes of steel masts and 15 tonnes of trolleybus wire, etc., were procured for peaceful purposes, ignoring the restrictive regulations and bans to use non-ferrous metals. Three days later, on Holy Saturday, Mlynařík was tipped off that an order issued in Prague by K. H. Frank was going to be delivered, prohibiting the operation of Sokol. Later that day, Mlynařík organised an operation which saw the plumbing material intended for the future Sokol gymnasium hidden away. The gymnasium’s equipment was distributed among people’s households, and flags were sewn under duvet covers. An hour before midnight, the Police delivered the order to František Mlynařík to his flat. It requested that Sokol’s activities were stopped and all the assets handed over. Still, he managed to conceal fifteen wagons of granite and 70 thousand bricks intended for the construction of the Sokol gymnasium and used it on the building of a garage in Slovany. (After the war, the EECP paid Sokol in kind.) In October 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, the acting Reich Protector, dissolved the Czech Sokol Community and had their officials arrested. During the post-Heydrich terror 1,290 metres of piping and 82 metres of copper wire intended for the Sokol gymnasium were walled up in the house of an EECP employee. Only thanks to this, the Gestapo did not find anything.

 

In 1941, František Mlynařík joined the secret resistance movement. He had a cache in his house where he kept a short-wave device, which was a crime punishable by death during the Protectorate period. Together with some loyal EECP employees, he hid non-ferrous metals, which had to be surrendered in favour of the war industry. On 19 and 20 March 1942, they buried 1,362 kg of lead and 430 kg of copper in Cukrovarská Garage. They concealed half of the bronze acquired from ornamental features taken down from trams and cast semifinished products for trolley lines. On 5 July 1942, he was interrogated by Gestapo officers, who suspected him of concealing Sokol’s assets. On 17 May 1943, an anonymous denunciation was received stating that the company was deliberately withholding men who were able to perform forced labour. He managed to defend himself and despite the trend of extending the working hours, he increased the number of EECP employees from 432 to 658 in the course of the war. Another anonymous denunciation received in 1943 led to Schutzpolizei members searching his house. On 14 July 1944, František Mlynařík was arrested. He was held in prison for nine days and interrogated by the Gestapo. He was accused of listening to foreign radio broadcasts, being in contact with resistance fighters and anti-German activities in Sokol and the EECP. He denied all accusations and was later released by a Gestapo commander, who told him: ‘Wir sind nicht überzeugt, dass Sie unschuldigt sind, aber Sie sind zurzeit noch unentbehrlich.

 

As the man in charge of the EECP, he had to face the growing demands made by the Germans and was forced to send his assemblers to bombed-out refineries in the north of Bohemia. According to his contemporaries, he spread optimism around him when the war was coming to its end. Thanks to the practice of shortening the suction pipes in petrol tanks, the EECP managed to hide their fuel reserves. They adapted buses so that they would break down when the Germans were fleeing Pilsen.

Liberation

In the early hours of 5 May 1945, when the Pilsen uprising broke out, Director Mlynařík put up the Czechoslovak flag on the headquarters building. When the US army liberated Pilsen the following day, Mlynařík offered the army commanders to stay in his house. He and his family spent nights at their relatives’ place and came in to the house to cook for the US commanders. The Americans carried their piano down from the first floor of their house, placed it on Slovanská Avenue and danced with Pilseners. Director Mlynařík released the concealed petrol so that it could be used for bringing back prisoners from concentration camps. He renewed Sokol activities.

 

However, events took a turn in 1946. He was forced to get the thriving EECP ready to be divided up and have its most profitable part nationalised. On 23 March 1946, he was accused by a group of EECP employees of collaborating with the Germans, oppression and asocial conduct during the war. His accusers claimed that he had threatened his employees with sending them to perform forced labour, worked against the financial interest of the workers, was eager to please the Germans while, on the other hand, he failed to protect Czech workers. The complainants, witnesses, as well as Mlynařík himself were called in for questioning. The outrageous nature of the accusations prompted him to write a long letter entitled ‘Personal conduct during the occupation’, in which he described his own conduct during the occupation as ‘a national and professional duty one does not talk about. Forced by the circumstances, he is giving the following account of himself.’ [M2, 52] He denied all the accusations against him, going into great detail. The disciplinary and interrogation process was dragging out. However, many of his employees came to his defence. The purge committee did not stop the process until 27 September 1946.

 

On Saturday, 12 April 1947, at 9 p.m., František Mlynařík ended his life by jumping out of a window from the third floor of the headquarters building at No. 12 Denisovo Embankment. He was found by a machine operator who worked in a hydroelectric power station. However, Mlynařík suffered injuries incompatible with life and died on the way to hospital. Dozens of letters of sympathy sent from all parts of Czechoslovakia were received. His contemporaries recalled that before this act, Director Mlynařík was faced with threats made against him by some revolutionary spirited employees. As an educated, successful and wealthy epitome of the interwar Republic, he was not destined to have a future.

 

On Thursday, 17 April at 10.30 a.m., a trolleybus with mourners on board set off towards the cemetery. Crowds of attendees waited in front of the crematorium filled with people. At 11.00 a.m., all traffic on Pilsen’s tracks and lines stopped. All trams, trolleybuses and buses displayed mourning flags. When they were set in motion again after two minutes, they left the lights on. In the wake of February 1948, the Mlynařík family lost its position in society, and the daughters were not allowed to go to university. After the monetary reform, they lost their financial security as well, and had a hard time finding decent jobs. If it were not for the work of archivists, the achievements and tragic fate of the first Director of the EECP would have been forgotten for good, even though we can still see much of his work around us: we admire the beautiful building that housed the central workshops, and trolleybuses still take us on the routes that he established. Slovany Garage was in operation for 77 years, and Vydra Hydroelectric Power Station is still generating power today. We could and should always ask whether our present work would have made him happy. ‘We will remember Director Ing. František Mlynařík as an energetic, assertive and tireless man devoted to his loved ones, family, electricity and Sokol. His demeanour was modest and people-friendly, and he was conciliatory in dealing with others. He was happy to help and give advice where it was needed. The products of his work that he left for us will be a permanent memento of his endeavour.’ [345]

 

(p. 42) František Mlynařík is welcoming American liberators in Pilsen. [72]

(p. 42) The American soldiers who were staying in Mlynařík’s house are in the photograph with their hosts. František Mlynařík is on the upper left side of the picture, and on the right is his wife Františka with their daughters, Vlasta and Miluše. [72]

(p. 43) František Mlynařík encouraged his children to pursue sports and education. In winter, he used to take both his daughters and nephew Míťa skiing in Šumava. [71]

(p. 45) The tragic death of brother Ing. Fr. Mlynařík. [339]

(p. 46) Deserted Number Five (Sokol V). [339]

(p. 46) Death announcement from the EECP administration and company board. [52]

(p. 47) A letter of condolence from JUDr. Karel Křepinský, Mayor of Pilsen, who himself was subjected to pressure and threats from Communist Party members. [52]

 


 

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80 years of Pilsen trolleybus / Chapter 2

 

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2   The Post-War Boom

 

The majority of trolleybus lines in Pilsen were built in the first decade after the war. This was helped by the perfect combination of the EECP’s preparedness and the quality of the local development and production of trolleybuses, as well as the most up-to-date Swiss technology of overhead trolley lines. [57]

2.1       The Expansion of Trolleybuses

The roots of success

Skvrňany and many other areas were destroyed by the bombs dropped by the Allied troops. The production in the Škoda Works ceased, and the city’s transport system found itself practically at ground zero. The EECP Director, F. Mlynařík, presented his vision of the development of the trolleybus network to Pilsen’s Revolutionary National Committee. As soon as 18 June 1945, the city leaders approved the construction of three trolleybus lines and the commission of 25 trolleybuses. The production of the new trolleybuses for Pilsen became one of the first large contracts that saw Pilsen’s Škoda works reorientate from its previous war manufacturing activities back to civil production. The new vehicles, except for the last one, were supposed to be the same as the existing ones in principle, the only difference being that a third door would be added allowing passengers to alight from trolleybuses faster. The new lines were to run along the following routes: 1 Doudlevce – Lochotín – Bolevec, 2 Božkov – Railway Station – Skvrňany and 3 City Spa – Bílá Hora. The EECP concept planned for four trolleybus lines (with two branches), four converter stations (out of which two were intended to be used by trams as well) and three trolleybus garages (Slovany, Cukrovarská, Doubravka). A tram service was to be retained only on the double track between Bory and Slovany. As for the overhead trolley lines, ‘moveable suspension wires of Swiss design would be used instead of fixed suspension wires. The new suspension wires would facilitate speeds of up to 60 km/h and guarantee perfect contact between the pole and trolley wires with no sparking, so people would be able to listen to the radio with no disturbance along the route [32]. Pilsen was set to have the biggest trolleybus network in Czechoslovakia before 1948, with 22.3 km of trolleybus lines and 35 vehicles.

 

These bold plans were made under conditions that were not very easy. For example, on 17 December 1945, tram and trolleybus night services had to be restricted due to an order issued by the government that concerned saving electric power. In 1946, four out of ten trolleybuses had to be laid up and remained unused due to tyre shortages. A command requesting the division of the EECP was yet another blow; on 7 March 1946 the entire profitable power-producing part of the company broke away. Fortunately, none of the above stopped the efforts of what by then was the Public Transport Company of the Statutory City of Pilsen (PTCP), which was led by František Mlynařík until his death.

 

(p. 50) Masarykova Avenue in Doubravka with war vehicles and fixed suspension wires on overhead trolley lines. [62]

(p. 50) Italian elegance meets Czech functionalism in Doubravka. The 1933 villa of Pilsen’s architect Karel Tomášek became a popular backdrop for factory images of Škoda trolleybuses. The 1946 picture shows a Milan OMS-Isotta-TIBB vehicle repurposed for a transport service in Most-Litvínov. [57]

(p. 52) A 3 Tr2 vehicle at the City Spa with passengers boarding on route A going to Doubravka. One of the first Škoda 706 RO buses can be seen lurking in the background. [57]

The new Božkov – Skvrňany line

The Ministry of Transport granted planning permission on 20 March 1947, even though the PTCP had not secured permits from the relevant house owners to use their facades for anchoring cross-wire suspensions. In addition, the final location of stops was to be specified at a later date, and so was the way of how railway flyovers and underpasses would be navigated. Today, we can only dream of the authorities and legislation being as flexible and action-ready as they were then. The construction work progressed fast. The line opening ceremony was held on 28 October 1948, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the formation of Czechoslovakia. At this opportunity, a new two-digit numbering system replaced the system which used letters for distinguishing the trolleybus routes:

 

10 City Spa – Doubravka

11 City Spa – Central Cemetery

12 Božkov – Skvrňany.

 

The construction of route 12 was a challenging project in which a range of problematic areas had to be tackled by putting temporary solutions in place. The question remains on whether it would have been possible to get permission and build it in such a short time frame in the years that followed. The roads in the Eastern Suburb were in a bad condition, and the Pilsen – České Budějovice railway line had to be crossed via a wooden flyover that was temporarily adapted for this purpose. It was not possible to establish the route elsewhere, because the roads were impassable and there were high-voltage overhead lines. Nevertheless, the new trolleybus line increased the level of Pilsen public transport by leaps and bounds. Replacing the Božkov bus service and the outdated single track leading to Skvrňany, twenty roomy and comfortable trolleybuses set off to run along one direct and fast route. As expected, others claimed credit for this achievement: ‘The events of the revolution culminated with February 1948, when our working people took over all the power to govern this country. Our transport workers did not stay aloof either and unanimously joined in the efforts to build socialism. They were able to take part directly in the management and leadership of their company.’ [4] The 6.5-km line was divided into several isolated sections, and the only power to run the line was supplied from a rectifier station located in the hydroelectric power station in Denisovo Embankment (Hydro). Despite the use of modern overhead lines, the maximum speed was set at 40 km/h. Still, the journey time was only 22 minutes, including 17 stops. A total of 35 Pilsen trolleybuses waited till spring 1949 to be relocated from Slovany to Cukrovarská Garage.

 

(p. 52) Trolley wires are being fitted in front of the Božkov terminus in late summer 1947. [57]

(p. 52) Coming to Božkov, the line had to negotiate a wooden bridge above railway tracks. [57]

(p. 53) At the beginning of 1948, trolley wires were mounted in U Světovaru Street as well. [57]

(p. 53) The snowy plain looks nothing like the junction of U Světovaru Street and Koterovská Avenue. [57]

(p. 53) Assemblers finishing the line in Koterovská Avenue; the panorama of the Petrohrad quarter can be seen in the background. [57]

(p. 53) On the other side of the city, a trolleybus line runs through Hornická Street, running parallel to a single track that is nearing its lifespan. [57]

(p. 53) Unlike the original tram tracks, trolleybuses continued over the bridge above the railway line to Cheb. [51]

(p. 54) In Skvrňany, the line terminates in a small loop using tubular armatures from the Swiss Kummler & Matter system. [57]

(p. 54) The turning bay in Jiráskovo Square used by extra vehicles to boost services was designed later, on 2 July 1947. [51]

(p. 55) The U Práce junction was the first crossing of trams and trolleybuses in Czechoslovakia using the Kummler & Matter system. [52]

(p. 55) The route 12 opening ceremony held on 28 October 1948. The initial frequency set at 15 minutes was quickly becoming shorter in the years that followed. [51]

(p. 56) Permission to use the Božkov – Skvrňany line permanently. [51]

(p. 56) The trolley line crossing at the Skyscraper (Mrakodrap), an intersection where routes 12 and 13 met, was designed in 1947 as a simple crossing of two trolley lines and one tramway leading to the workshops. The shunting operations of the incoming and outgoing traffic could not do without re-routing trolley poles in the middle of the junction. [51]

(p. 57) The first two-axled 6 Tr2 135 trolleybus in Pilsen’s transport system at the end of 1949 and beginning of 1950. By then, the Skyscraper junction included a new line coming from Anglické Embankment. [57]

(p. 57) The atmosphere of Stalinova (present-day Americká) Avenue in 1950. The Skyscraper junction was named after the tenement shown on the right-hand side of the picture. The double-track line crossing of routes 12 and 13 was newly fitted with bidirectional arcs on the side closer to the railway station. [52]

Celebrating birthday with route thirteen

New route preparations started on 13 February 1946 when the design plans of a new converter station were outlined. The new Doudlevce – Bolevec line, which was to be 6.9 km long and include 20 stops, made allowances for a branch line going up to Košutka; this branch was designed to be 1.4 km long and have 3 stops along the route. Planning permission to build the lines was granted on 26 July 1947. The new line could only use a small part of the equipment from the original Doudlevce – Lochotín electric tracks, such as some suspension wires attached to houses. Two tracks of overhead trolley lines with a flexible suspension system had higher demands. The electric tracks were preserved between Republic Square and the workshops in Cukrovarská Street. It was proposed that a turning bay used by trolleybuses arriving from Košutka would be situated in front of the savings bank.

 

In early 1949, the PTCP was transformed into a communal enterprise. On 1 April 1949, a shunting line was introduced, going to the trolleybus garage from the City Spa, passing through Anglické (at the time called Charkovské) Embankment and Americká (Stalinova) Avenue. From 11 April 1949 onwards, it was used to provide a direct route for workers travelling between Doubravka and Skvrňany in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Route 13, operating between Doudlevce and Bolevec, was launched on Wednesday, 29 June 1949, replacing not only trams but also the Lochotín – Bolevec shuttle bus service.

 

(p. 57) The last 3 Tr3 134 trolleybus launching the route 13 service on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Pilsen tram service. [51]

(p. 58) The functionalist building of a nationalised insurance company became the seat of the Communist Party after the February 1948 coup. A 7 Tr4 156 trolleybus with a trailer is pulling into a garage. The first use of articulated trolleybuses, operating on route 12, dates back to 23 October 1949. [58]

(p. 58) The standard length of cantilevers used in Kummler & Matter design plans was 6.55 metres. To allow a wider clearance between the road and masts, a solution proposing to extend the cantilevers to 7.8 metres was designed. [51]

(p. 59) A new Škoda 7 Tr3 trolleybus is driving up Lidická Avenue towards Bolevec, passing a villa quarter. [57]

(p. 59) To build a line going over Roosevelt Bridge, atypically high masts were erected from the ground under the bridge structure. A 3 Tr3 trolleybus leaving Roudná is heading towards the city centre. [63]

(p. 60) Thanks to the good-quality architecture of the First Republic era, the section of Lidická Avenue between Procháska’s Institute and Higher Economic School became a gratifying motif of presentation pictures featuring new types of trolleybuses. This particular picture shows a 7 Tr3 made for an unspecified customer in 1952. [57]

The Košutka route is launched

The main reason why there were delays in the building of the line was a shortage of Mannesmann masts (seamless steel traction masts). In 1949, 26 tonnes were used on the building of shunting lines on the Embankment and in the garage. A further 8 tonnes were not delivered to Pilsen at all, because decisions regarding the distribution of steel were made by the state raw material committee. The construction work was completed in the end, and voltage was supplied to the wires on 6 November 1950. On 14 November, a technical and police test was conducted using trolleybus No. 107, and trolleybuses operating on route 14 set off the following day. They were running at 20-minute intervals on the Košutka – Kopeckého Gardens route, and the vehicles designated for commuting workers continued further to Doudlevce.

The longest route to Černice

Back in 1949, plans were in place to extend the tram tracks from Slovany to Černice. Preparatory works to introduce trolleybuses started in 1950. Large volumes of trolley armatures were ordered from Kummler & Matter. The design plans of the Slovany – Černice and Doudlevce – Slovany trolleybus lines were approved by the Ministry of Transport on 27 March 1951, although the Doudlevce – Slovany route was originally intended to operate as a workers’ service only. The most critical point on the route was Malostranská Street, which had a gradient of up to 10.5‰ and the width of the road was only 4.5 metres in certain parts. The police issued a requirement for the speed limit to be at 15 km/h, and at times when the road was covered with black ice, the traffic had to be stopped altogether. However, the new trolleybus line shortened the journey time to the Doudlevce division of the Škoda Works by up to 30 minutes. Because there were not enough masts in Malostranská Street, reinforced concrete was used instead. The PTCP started to produce many new features themselves, such as cantilevers, mast clamps and machined armatures. The conditions were made yet more difficult in 1953 when a monetary reform was carried out. The uprising of Pilsen’s residents was violently crushed. It was only thanks to the PTCP that the construction of the line, which was 4.6 km long, could be completed. On 12 October 1953, a test was conducted using a fully laden vehicle No. 112. Special instructions were issued for the operation of the new Doudlevce – Slovany line: ‘Because it is not allowed for two trolleybuses to meet in the ascending Malostranská Street, traffic control signals have been fitted in both directions. Lamps have been placed in the middle of the arm of the overhead trolley lines. Both lights are turned on and off at the same time. If the signal lamp is off, a trolleybus can drive into the area, and in doing so, it goes over a contact point. This automatically turns on the lights at both ends, so no other trolleybuses can enter the risk area, whether they are oncoming or following behind. When the trolleybus leaves the area, both signals are turned off automatically.’ [51] To cope with the amount of new switch points and crossings, a principle was established where driving into or from a branch line was done with live wires, whereas when going in the other directions the vehicle did not draw current from the trolley wires. On 18 October 1953, route 13 became Pilsen’s longest line, stretching 10.8 km and providing a trolleybus service between Bolevec and Černice.

 

(p. 62) ‘The mystery’ of the 25th vehicle ordered in 1945 was solved by a two-axle Škoda 5 Tr vehicle drawing. However, there was no mention of any vision to build a Černice line in the official documents at the time. [57]

(p. 63) Černice residents are offering their help with digging the holes for the foundations of masts to serve route 13. [51]

Bringing trolleybuses to Nová Hospoda

By 1954, Pilsen was served by as many as 63 trolleybuses and 16 trailers. For the first and last time in the entire history, the number of trolleybus passengers reached that of tram passengers. Trolleybuses transported 22.9 million passengers per year and covered the most kilometres out of the three modes of transport. Stretching along the state road leading to Domažlice was the largest compound of Pilsen’s Škoda works. In addition, more production plants were being built, which led to plans to extend route 12 from Skvrňany through Zátiší to Nová Hospoda. Local surveys had to be conducted repeatedly to determine the site where a turning bay in Nová Hospoda would be built. Other discussions were held regarding the level crossing on the Pilsen – Domažlice railway line. The PTCP had to cover the building costs of swapping the existing full-length barriers for two half-barriers which could be lifted under trolley wires. The entire trolleybus line was then designed to run along the completely straight, 6-metre wide, I/26 state road. Masts were erected directly between the trees along the avenue to ensure they would not damage the treetops and would not stand in the way of any future plans to widen the road. Due to the overall shortage of steel masts, reinforced concrete masts were used instead. Finally, on 16 December 1954, the overhead trolley lines were finished and received voltage. Two days before Christmas, a fully laden vehicle No. 108 drove along the line. The oldest Škoda 3 Tr trolleybuses were providing a trusted service throughout the entire decade after the war. To supply power for the line, a new converter station was built in the Zátiší settlement. ‘Trolley wires are attached to masts and wall hooks along the whole length, using support cables and wires in a flexible manner, in accordance with the time-tested Kummler-Matter system. The power lines crossing the body of the line at kilometre 0.467 are secured by a double support net, and the overhead lines are situated 6.2 metres above the rail head, in compliance with the regulations and an agreement with Czechoslovak State Railways.’ [51]. The Skvrňany loop was preserved. New overhead lines were attached to it using a switch point and crossing. The new section was 2.88 km long, making the total length of route 12, including the extension, 9.5 km. The passenger service started on 2 January 1955. Initially, only every other trolleybus went to Nová Hospoda, at 15-minute intervals.

 

(p. 64) A 3Tr3 121 trolleybus in Heldova Street is ready to depart. [74]

2.2       Limits and Boundaries

The vision of the city’s modern transport system based on the cooperation between high-performance tram and trolleybus transport was fulfilled before 1955. Today, we stand in awe that both means of electric public transport, which was already eco-friendly back then, covered 90% of all transport operations.

Overcrowded garages

Rapid growth was soon met with a wealth of limitations. The construction of new lines was faced with raw material rations. Expensive armatures made in Switzerland were no longer supplied. The capacity of Cukrovarská Garage was exceeded twofold. New bus garages were housing trolleybuses as well. Many vehicles were stationed under the open sky, such as in the area below the central workshops, while trailers were parked outside the garage in Černická Street in front of an old hall. In order to re-establish Slovany Trolleybus Garage, the PTCP even resorted to starting construction work to build a shunting line in Slovanská alej Street.

Bold plans to be shelved

An increased level of interest in expanding tram tracks was emerging in response to both the intensive building of flats and the volumes of employees commuting to the Škoda Works. Still, trolleybuses were favoured as the key player in the overall transport service across the city, so plans were made to extend some of the trolleybus lines to Bílá Hora and Újezd. There were talks about building intercity trolleybus lines that would run to Starý Plzenec and Ejpovice. A two-kilometre extension to Újezd seemed like the most realistic option, for which the Ministry of Local Economy approved an investment on 25 April 1955, intended for the expansion of the converter station in Letná. However, the streets of Újezd were in need of repair, and there was no suitable site to build a turning bay in the area. The line to Bílá Hora, which was designed to be a three-kilometre route operated by eight trolleybuses, was to be powered by a new converter station at Bílá Hora from 1956. However, the Ministry later raised doubts about the necessity of the whole line, and none was built in the end. The Ministry also declined the proposed plan for a tangential trolleybus route that would operate between Doubravka and Doudlevce via Slovany, arguing that the route would only be used at peak times.

 

(p. 65) The plan to build lines to Bílá Hora and Újezd was approved by the Minister of Local Economy on 31 August 1954. [51]

(p. 66) In the first half of the 1950s, a 3 Tr 128 in Hornická (present-day Domažlická) Street is passing a vehicle carrying an oil transformer of the V. I. Lenin Works (Škoda). [63]

(p. 66) A route map from December 1955.

(p. 67) The evolution of the trolleybus network between 1946 and 1955.


 

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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.

THE BRANCHES FROM WHICH TROLLEYBUSES EMERGED

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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80 years of Pilsen trolleybus / Chapter 3

 

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3   The Backbone of Pilsen’s Transport System

 

By 1964, the performance of Pilsen’s trolleybuses increased tenfold. In spite of this, the second densest trolleybus network in Czechoslovakia was in fact one of the first networks to be hit by stagnation. Efforts were focused on renovations, line relocations and purchases of vehicles. For the first time, the number of trolleybuses exceeded a hundred. They completed the ambience of most traffic junctions, including Republic Square. [57]

3.1      Under a Big Copper-Web

Musical notes for a symphony of trams and trolleybuses

By the 1950s, the city began to bid farewell to the contours shaped by the centuries of development. At the time, farmers were still ploughing their fields right up to Masarykova Avenue, and Karlovarská Street ran along greenhouses and vegetable patches. The ends of trolleybus lines carried the scent of fruit tree avenues and wagons filled with hay. However, the second five-year plan set the goal for Pilsen to become the centre of engineering with a population of 210 thousand. In 1957, the PTCP had 75 trams including trailers, 56 trolleybuses with 20 trailers and 25 buses with 4 trailers. Trolleybuses going from Doubravka carried 2010 people per hour at 3.3-minute intervals before 6 a.m. The route 12 trolleybuses carried even more, i.e. 2930 people per hour. The creators of the local plan were well aware of the dangers the unrestrained development of automobile transport could bring, but nevertheless carried on proposing roads cutting through the centre of the city. The plan factored in the dominant role of public transport. For the most part, the transport system was set to consist of a new overlay network of tram and trolleybus lines avoiding needless convergences. Pilsen’s ‘trolleybus cross’ was to be moved from the Skyscraper to Republic Square, which was expected to lose its trams. The target set for 1980 was to introduce four trolleybus routes covering 38 km, almost half of which were supposed to be new-builds. It was estimated that 101 trolleybuses would be needed for this. In addition to Cukrovarská Depot, Slovany Garages would house 30 extra trolleybuses and Na Jíkalce a further 35. Attention was drawn to the fact that new shunting loops and connecting junctions for redirections and traffic closures would have to be built as well.

 

(p. 71) Spring 1960: Marie Braunová, the first woman to drive trolleybuses in Pilsen, is checking carbon in the second 9 Tr prototype in Bolevec. Reportedly, her feet had a good feel for driving, and she soon gained respect: ‘This is the only occupation I’ve ever wanted to do. It is my life, and I would not wish to change anything. I have always got on well with people. I used to drive a passenger car as well and took the bosses to various meetings. I should have been a boy.’ [303]. By 1964, there were 14 female trolleybus drivers. [57]

A trolleybus station

The plans to rebuild the road networks reduced the PTCP plan for an overall redesign of the most important interchange public transport hub at the City Spa to only a temporary solution. In 1958, the hub was separated from car and tram traffic, and the direction in which trolleybuses turned around was reversed.

 

(p. 72) The U Jána turning bay (the City Spa) on the boundary of the historic centre. [52]

(p. 72) On Sunday, 23 February 1958, passengers are boarding a 6 Tr2 trolleybus bound for Doubravka. [75]

(p. 73) An 8 Tr8 175 is driving along Anglické Embankment under the supervision of the Joseph V. Stalin statue. The neo-renaissance Museum of West Bohemia can be seen in the background. [75]

(p. 73) The 1967 design plan of the construction of a light shelter over a boarding stop for trolleybus routes 10 and 11, and bus route 20. The 45-metre-long shelter complete with laminate benches was to be illuminated by a continuous neon tube. The design respects the landmark poplar of Luděk Pik. [101]

The tangled-up Skyscraper

The Skyscraper junction was a critical intersection of the trolleybus network. When a vehicle needed to turn, its trolley poles had to be pulled down and held on the rear bumper by employees, all the while the vehicle was moving, which was very risky considering how busy the main road leading to the railway station and to České Budějovice was. Still in 1961, the PTCP was defending the practice of moving the trolley poles manually by hand when going to Skvrňany, arguing that any additional switch points and crossings would distract the attention of drivers even when just ordinarily passing through the junction. Some people were also counting on re-routing the line, or building a new garage. However, in the end, the last missing arc was attached in 1964 as part of a general overhaul of the trolley junction.

 

(p. 74) A 7 Tr4 trolleybus converted to an 8 Tr is negotiating the Skyscraper junction, followed by a Škoda 706 RTO bus from 1970. [74]

‘Driving a trolleybus with a trailer attached was a bummer. When I left the garage, it was raining. I had to turn right at the Skyscraper junction. Some earthwork was in progress near a guardrail, so I slowed down a little around the bend. Then I heard some banging and clanking noise. I looked around but could not see anything. So, I carried on driving since we could not spare any time. When I drove past the Skyscraper again, the controller said to me: “Hey, Andula, when you’re done here, you’re expected in the police booth, where they want you to pick up the fender you left pinned to the guardrail.” What happened was that the trailer slipped when I was negotiating the bend, and its fender got stuck onto the severed guardrail. Obviously, I didn’t go to the booth. But after I had driven past a few more times, a policeman was already waiting for me and brought me the fender. Thanks to this, we became friends.’ [352]

3.2      Relocation, Relocation

The twists and turns of route twelve

The Eastern Suburb was becoming cramped with trolleybuses as soon as 1954. To facilitate road repair works in Houškova Street, a temporary line in Radyňská Street was established. Because of the construction of the Slovany housing development, the line was permanently relocated from Koterovská Avenue to Lobezská Street in 1958. A loop going through Guldenerova Street was introduced. The re-routing of line 12 brought a trolleybus service to new locations, so tram route 2 could be built and put into operation. Due to the construction of route 2, trolleybuses had to be diverted a number of times. It was not until 15 September 1962 that route 12 was established to provide a permanent service between Božkov and Nová Hospoda.

 

(p. 75) A sample of the design plan outlining the route 12 relocation: the dotted line denotes the double-track line to be demolished, which was used as a temporary feeder line during the building work. The dot-and-dash line marks out an arch of the tram tracks to be built. [51]

(p. 76) The route serving Jiráskovo Square was re-established in 1967 as a separate branch line to be used by extra vehicles to boost services. This part of the route was then winning the hearts of many contemporary witnesses for nearly three decades. On Thursday, 5 August 1971, a 7 Tr 142 is ready to set off for Zátiší. [76]

Trolley wires lining Husova Street

Tylova Street, the busiest section of the route due to extra vehicles for commuting workers, was also in need of repair. That was the reason why the PTCP moved the overhead trolley lines to Husova (called Leninova at the time) Avenue in 1956. Back then, the PTCP was pushing for the building of a permanent parallel line running from Husova Avenue down to Anglické (Charkovské) Embankment and avoiding the overloaded junction at the Skyscraper. The City Council was resisting the idea but eventually gave permission to further extend the temporarily relocated lines around the theatre down to Jungmannova Street. This extension was used in 1957 and again in 1958 during road repair works in Klatovská Avenue. The overhead trolley lines going around the theatre were kept in place against the will of the City Council for many years. The reasoning behind this was that the routing of trolleybuses across the centre was still unclear. Additionally, references were made to a situation in Prague where the public transport company did not dismount the trolley wires after it cancelled the trolleybus service to Zbraslav. Despite the intentions of the PTCP, trolleybuses have remained firmly anchored to the Americká Avenue and Tylova Street axis to this day.

 

(p. 77) The proposed design of lines relocated to Smetanovy Gardens and Husova Avenue in November 1956. [51]

(p. 77) Trolleybuses could be spotted in front of J. K. Tyl Theatre only in 1957 and 1958. [76]

(p. 78) In 1960, the second 9 Tr prototype is returning from Bolevec via an avenue lined with cherry trees in blossom. The vehicle was a forerunner of the legendary ‘number nine’. The characteristic silhouette of Pilsen – St Bartholomew’s Cathedral in Republic Square – can be seen in the distance. [57]

The Malostranská Street palaver

The building work to move a large section of the line to Malostranská Street was postponed several times. To keep the service running on the Černice – Slovany route, proposals to temporarily reopen the former trolleybus garage in Slovany were considered. In the end, all construction work was carried out while keeping the trolleybus services fully operational.

To the amphitheatre by trolleybus (almost)

A statement from 1957: ‘This year, the City of Pilsen is set to complete the building of an open air theatre in Lochotín, which will have an approved capacity of 13 thousand spectators. The PTCP was tasked with providing public transport links to the site.’ [51] As well as tram line proposals, a trolleybus option was also on the table. The 350-metre-long branch diverting from the Košutka line was supposed to end in a double-track loop for 16 trolleybuses. The plan was abandoned, and to this day the amphitheatre and the present-day zoological gardens do not have satisfactory links to the public transport system. Instead, a narrow-gauge Pioneer railway was built, providing a connection between the zoo and the Pod Záhorskem trolleybus stop between 1959 and 1976. Its full electrification operating at a voltage of 600 V fed from a trolleybus converter station in Lochotín was unique across the world. When cultural events were held, trolleybuses with trailers operated on route 13; however, visitors had to walk to the amphitheatre.

 

(p. 80) The first 9 Tr prototype in Karlovarská Avenue; in the background are the remains of a passing loop on the tram tracks and a newly installed trolley loop over the Pod Záhorskem stop. [57]

(p. 80) A brand new 8 Tr for Prague is turning from Lidická Street into Karlovarská Avenue in early spring 1960. [57]

3.3      Congested Turning Bays

Workers in Hornická Street

The Nová Hospoda trolleybus line was the least used extension with unevenly distributed busy times on Pilsen’s trolleybus network. The introduction of a turning bay in Zátiší on 22 August 1960 contributed towards a more effective service that was able to serve the Domažlická Street section at more regular intervals. The original small loop behind a bridge in Skvrňany remained in operation and was used for turning extra trolleybuses that were needed to boost services. In 1967, 41 trolleybuses operated during the morning rush hours, 21 trolleybuses during the afternoon rush hours and seven more around 10 p.m. Trolleybuses with attached trailers waiting for commuting workers were slowing down the traffic on the state road leading to Domažlice. In August 1968, the PTCP built a balloon loop, although this was a temporary solution due to plans to shift some railway tracks.


‘During peak traffic times, trolleybuses operating in the Škoda area were running at one- or two-minute intervals. Despite this, converter stations were coping well with the increased frequency of trolleybuses. When trolleybus drivers arrived at the Škoda building, before they knew it, their vehicles were “fully laden”.’ [352]

 

(p. 82) A refurbished 7 Tr4 is negotiating a level crossing on the road to Zátiší. To overcome a 57-metre-long field between pairs of traction masts, it was necessary to use a trolley catenary. [76]

(p. 82) A 8 Tr6 trolleybus, the 12th vehicle on route 12, is pulling out of the Zátiší turning bay to go to Božkov on 5 August 1971. [76]

(p. 82) The design plans of a loop in Skvrňany intended to use residential houses for anchoring. [51]

Trolleybuses galore

The growing number of vehicles (111 in 1968) and more transport links created the need for more turning bay solutions. The Bolevec loop was widened, and a temporary turning bay was built at Pietas. The garage situation was still critical. The introduction of the second exit leading to Presslova Street at least prevented the risk of traffic gridlock when driving off in the mornings.

 

(p. 83) A 9 Tr12 trolleybus is making use of the new layby area at the Bolevec loop. [76]

(p. 84) The oldest Pilsen 8 Tr3 vehicle is turning around in a temporary turning bay at Pietas in August 1971. [76]

(p. 84) To build a new loop at Pietas, a third direction had to be added to the oldest trolley crossing. [76]

(p. 85) The north half of a bus depot temporarily provides spaces for trolleybuses. [76]

(p. 85) On a summer working day in 1971, the rows of ‘eights’ and ‘nines’ in front of a garage in Černická Street have thinned out for a while, only to be filled again to the very last place in the evening. [76]

3.4      A Dream of an Alternating Trolleybus

On 25 June 1964, a meeting between the PTCP and Škoda Ostrov took place regarding ‘a possibility to open a trolleybus line using alternating current. It would provide a service on the Pilsen – Slovany – Starý Plzenec route. The objective was to set a timetable for the construction work, the necessary costs and the number of vehicles from the T11-S testing series for this line’. [51]. The Škoda Works wanted the development of an alternating-current Škoda T11-S trolleybus to be included in the government’s commitment plan. It was not possible to test the new type of vehicle in any of the existing trolleybus facilities, so the PTCP saw the plan as an opportunity to build a trolleybus line to Starý Plzenec. To ensure that the alternating-current line did not disturb the operation of route 13 in the shared section going from Slovany, Nepomucká Avenue was supposed to have a single line running between both existing lines. In 1968, the power for the six-kilometre line was to be supplied from two transformer stations, and it was thought that a new depot housing alternating-current trolleybuses would be built in Slovany. Unfortunately, this noteworthy project emerged in the worst possible time, since the Czechoslovak Government had just approved the Principles of the Concept of Urban Mass Transport Development for the period of 1964–1970, whose objective was to reduce trolleybus and even tram transport systems throughout the whole country. [9]


(p. 87) A T11 working sample is passing through Tylova Street near Škoda Works Gate 1 in 1964. [76]

(p. 88) The spring thaw of 1961 made Božkovská Street and its temporary trolleybus route impassable, so trolleybuses, with passengers on board, had to be hitched to tractors that diverted them to other streets. [63]


 

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80 years of Pilsen trolleybus / Chapter 8

 

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8   The Vehicle Fleet

 

Hundreds of vehicles operated in Pilsen over eight decades. Each new type was a characteristic reflection of the time, technical discoveries and skills of design engineers. The West Bohemian metropolis is also associated with the production of trolleybuses, as many of them were tested there. [51]

8.1      From Three to Twenty-Seven

Three-axle beginnings

Pilsen’s trolleybus operation was launched by three Škoda 3 Tr vehicles in 1941. They were robust, three-axle trolleybuses with metal bodywork welded from steel profiles. Just as all electric vehicles at the time, they were fitted with resistance (contactor) hardware. Trolleybuses with resistance hardware were distinctive for their characteristic yanking movements and clicking noises, giving away the moments at which gears were changed. The third pedal was an emergency brake pedal, which was a new feature in the 3 Tr. The previous 1 and 2 Tr types were only operated with two foot pedals. Thanks to compound motors, the 3 Trs were able to regenerate (recuperate) when braking, which made them ahead of their time by decades. The 3 Tr trolleybuses were reliable and easy to maintain. The last vehicle No. 128 went on its last journey in August 1970.

 

In 1953, the Public Transport Company of Pilsen (PTCP, in Czech PMDP) also purchased used Škoda 2 Tr trolleybuses from Prague. They were used as extra vehicles to boost services at times when workers commuted to and from work; however, they were not very popular among transport workers. Apart from the fact that steering them was physically strenuous and that they were obsolete, their driving position was on the right side, which was impractical.

 

(p. 230) A brand new 3 Tr1 after the launch of the service in spring 1941 in the City Spa terminus. The blacked-out front headlights tell us it was wartime. [52]

 

(p. 231) The two doors in the 3 Tr were operated electro-pneumatically. The entrance to the driver’s zone was a single-leaf door on the left-hand side of the vehicle. [48]

 

(p. 231) The 3 Tr1 series had upholstered seats that were fitted longitudinally. The floor was made of wooden lath matting. There was no permanent space designated for conductors, who sold tickets while walking through the vehicle. [57]

 

(p. 232) Each vehicle was tested in the presence of the Ministry of Transport of the Czechoslovak Republic. [54]

 

(p. 232) The differences in the styles of front ends are represented here by vehicle No. 130 (3 Tr3, on the left-hand side of the picture) and 108 (a 3 Tr1, refurbished in the 1960s), standing in front of a garage hall. [45]

 

(p. 233) The 3 Trs went through a lot of changes over the course of their operation. On the left is No. 102 soon after the service was launched in 1941 [52]; on the right is No. 101 after two decades in service [47]. A middle door and trolley retrievers were added, and the roof air vent was removed.

 

(p. 233) After they passed tests in 1949, articulated trolleybuses with trailers remained in operation until 1971. After Zlín, Pilsen was only the second city in Czechoslovakia to use such trolleybuses. On working days, as many as twenty of them provided services on routes 10 and 12. In addition to the D 4 type (Sodomka and Karosa), Sodomka DR 6, Karosa B 40 and Jelcz PO 1E were also used. [6] The Karosa D 4 trailer trolleybus reg. No. 52, in the last stage of its life, can be seen here hitched to an 8 Tr 174 in Heldova Street on 24 April 1971. [74]

 

(p. 234) On 18 August 1966, a 3 Tr3 122 is approaching Pilsen’s most complex trolleybus intersection at the Skyscraper. Only some vehicles in this series were equipped with protective bars on their sides. [31]

 

(p. 235) The only known image of the Škoda 2 Tr in Pilsen: by 29 March 1959, vehicle No. 98 parked in Cukrovarská Garage was no longer in operation. [43]

Here comes the unibody

The only commissioned Škoda 6 Tr vehicle brought about a revolutionary change: it had only two axles, an integral structure and only one serial quadripolar motor. It included a new feature a semi-automatic, indirect traction circuit regulation system which semi-automatically regulated the dynamics of steering and was no longer just dependent on the amount of pressure exerted on the accelerator or brake pedals. The vehicle started and braked smoothly, and was free of yanking, though the regulation was not very reliable. That is why it was modified in 1958, and a simpler non-automatic regulation system was installed. The vehicle is now exhibited in the Technical Museum in Brno.

 

Vehicles with the same Škoda 7 Tr concept were supplied to Pilsen from 1952 onwards. They differed from the 6 Tr type mainly in the different style of the bodywork and electrical hardware. Originally, all Pilsen trolleybuses were painted green and cream, which was changed to red and cream in July 1955. As part of the remodelling of the vehicle, the PTCP replaced the unreliable semi-automatic regulation system with a time-tested, non-automatic indirect regulation system. Vehicle No. 146 operated in the streets of Pilsen for almost 25 years.

 

The Škoda 8 Tr trolleybuses were added to the fleet in the second half of the 1950s, and with the remodelled 7 Trs soon made up the majority of the fleet. The 8 Trs proved reliable and easy to maintain. Two used vehicles, Nos. 98 and 99 from Mariánské Lázně, were also new additions to the fleet. They were in use until 1978 and were withdrawn after large volumes of 9 Trs were acquired.

 

(p. 236) Škoda 6 Tr2 135 in Masarykova Avenue, Doubravka, on 27 March 1950. [57].

 

(p. 237) The 6 Tr vehicle was equipped with a dedicated area for conductors in front of the third door. [57]

 

(p. 237) Vehicle No. 135 in Cukrovarská Garage on 5 August 1971, accompanied by a 7 Tr 152 and 9 Tr 203. The trend where the bodywork was made rounder is noticeable here. Decommissioned vehicles and those waiting to be inspected are parked at a coal depot. [76]

 

(p. 238) This diagram of interconnected brake valves in the Škoda 7 Tr type outlines the basic principle behind the steering of trolleybuses that use three pedals. Next to the pedal regulating movement is an operational brake pedal, which is a combination of an electric and pneumatic brake, and a pneumatic emergency brake pedal. Before the first 7 Tr series were introduced, pneumatic/hydraulic brakes were used, which were then replaced by pneumatic brakes. [40]

 

(p. 239) The first representative of the 7 Trs 136 in Pilsen, here seen in the Bolevec turning bay. The protruding window above the back door, used for displaying the route number, was eventually replaced by a wider box above the back window, where the destination of the route was displayed. [63]

 

(p. 240) On 14 August 1975, a Škoda 7 Tr 155 trolleybus, a T2 tram, Romania’s Bucegi TV71R bus and a T 211 motor locomotive are crossing paths near a station. [32]

 

(p. 240) In front of Pilsen’s Brewery Gate is one of the first 7 Tr trolleybuses, remodelled in 1960. Its unusual colour scheme consisted of yellow paint with two blue stripes and a grey roof. [46]

 

(p. 241) The last 7 Tr 161 in Moskevská Avenue. By then, the plate with the route number was displayed in the back window only. [42]

 

(p. 241) From 1 October 1961, the letter ‘S’ was displayed on the front end of trolleybuses, indicating that the vehicle had a self-service system where passengers had to board the vehicle via the front door and insert coins in a money box. [63]

 

(p. 241) 7 Tr4 145 in Moskevská Avenue on 5 August 1974, which was the last year of its service. The original mechanical direction indicators were replaced with indicator lights. The protective wooden, tin-sheathed bars disappeared from the sides. The front end with a missing bumper became the symbol of the ‘effective’ maintenance of Pilsen’s vehicles after accidents. [76]

 

(p. 242) Škoda 8 Tr 171 with a trolleybus trailer is leaving a garage just after midday on 29 July 1968 to boost the service on route 12. The covered ‘S’ plate indicates that two conductors may have been on board. Route 12, which was the most frequent line, was the last to facilitate the self-service system on 19 August 1972. [31]

 

(p. 242) By August 1971, the 7 Tr and 8 Tr articulated trolleybuses with trailers were still stationed in Černická Street. Trailers were used by buses only for two more years. [76]

 

(p. 243) When extra trolleybuses were leaving the garage to boost services, it involved a complicated process of re-routing the trolley poles, which was done directly in Dukelská Avenue. Škoda 8 Tr 164 on 25 March 1977 at noon; RTO and ŠM buses can be seen in the background. [32]

 

(p. 243) Trolleybus No. 99 had a colourful history. It was a prototype from the Škoda 8 Tr range (named 8 Tr1, and 7 Tr5 before that) from 1956 with a more powerful motor that had an output of 120 kW. It was used as a demonstrator. As it was intended to be presented in Cairo, it was fitted with thicker thermal insulation. When it passed tests in Pilsen, it operated in Prague in 1956 and 1957 in order to compare its properties with rival three-axle Tatra trolleybuses. After that, it provided service as No. 7 in Mariánské Lázně for 18 years, after which it was brought back to Pilsen. Once withdrawn, it was used for storage and as an apiary near Tachov until 2000. [77]

 

(p. 244) On 28 August 1976, approximately a year after it was put into service in Pilsen, 8 Tr 98 (Mariánské Lázně’s former No. 9) is driving over a level crossing in Hornická Street. [32]

 

(p. 244) As many as three 8 Trs, headed by Nos. 180 and 163, are gathered in the Božkov turning bay on 14 September 1972. [78]

 

(p. 244) Unlike the other 8 Trs, the 8 Tr 162 had protective bars on the sides before it was withdrawn from service. The City Spa turning bay on 5 August 1971. [76]

Getting rounder and rounder

Pilseners could see the Škoda 9 Tr trolleybus prototype on their streets as early as 1958. The first 166 represented an intermediate stage between types 8 Tr and 9 Tr. Tests with passengers started on 18 June, primarily on route 11, which included a long ascending section. The second, improved prototype has already been fitted with the characteristic design of the ‘nines’. The new semi-automatic regulation of starting the vehicle propelled a lighter quadripolar Škoda motor that had an output of 115 kW. When the accelerator pedal was pressed down, an electromagnetic clutch ensured that the vehicle started moving off smoothly. By contrast, the regulation of the electric brake remained non-automatic and fully dependent on the driver’s ability to engage it sensitively. Among the vehicles used between 1961 and 1965, Nos. 192 and 193 type 9 Tr0, intended to be exported abroad, stood out, and so did the only representative of the 9 Tr4 203 series in Pilsen and spa prototype No. 194. The unique vehicle No. 213 was dubbed Sahara due to its atypical design adjusted for tropical climate. Exotic trolleybuses appeared in Pilsen thanks to deliveries that were centrally governed by the State Planning Committee. Because Škoda, as the only remaining Czech manufacturer, could not satisfy all the demand, the PTCP was eager to accept atypical vehicles as well.

 

After overcoming initial teething problems, the contactor 9 Trs became the symbol of modern trolleybuses in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. They were reliable vehicles that were very easy to manoeuvre and maintain. They weighed less and performed better. In contrast with the preceding Škoda types, they offered more comfortable seats and lower steps, and were less noisy. However, they soon started to fall behind the competition in the West. In the second half of the 1970s, the production of trolleybuses in this country was supposed to stop following a government decree, which would end their development at Škoda Ostrov. Luckily, it did not come to that, and trolleybus production caught a second breath. Starting with vehicle No. 279 (the 9 TrH25 series), hydraulic power-assisted steering replaced the original auxiliary pneumatic servo-control. They were also newly fitted with tilting collector shoes, which replaced the original ones that contained wooden parts. The 9 TrH25 series introduced in 1978 was historically the biggest single batch of trolleybuses delivered – a total of 34 vehicles No. 279 to No. 312. Consequently, this led to the elimination of all the other types, except for T 11 248.

 

The Škoda T 11 trolleybuses represented the outcome of the efforts to unify bus and trolleybus bodywork designs. The reasoning behind this unification was to simplify and reduce the costs of the manufacture of new vehicles and their subsequent maintenance. The T 11 trolleybus matched the Karosa ŠM 11, a mass-produced modern urban bus, to the maximum extent. The T 11 214 prototype started providing services to Pilsen’s passengers in September 1966. Other T 11 vehicles were made as part of a so-called T 11/0 testing series. The trolleybuses were operated with three pedals, whereas the prototype only with two. Resistors were located on the roof. Vehicle No. 220 was used for testing the automated lowering of trolley poles, which was evaluated as too sensitive. The T 11 type with the multitude of innovations it contained represented an important trend in the development of Škoda trolleybuses. They were not produced serially due to the high cost of their components, the already full capacity of their manufacturer, Karosa, and the insecure future of trolleybus transportation.

 

(p. 245) The 9 Tr 166 prototype differs in fenders and ornamental features placed in the front end and panoramic front glass windows. [74]

 

(p. 245) The second 9 Tr prototype in the Doudlevce turning bay. Its service as No. 191 for the PTCP was soon terminated due to a serious accident. [57]

 

(p. 246) The 9 Tr2 191 trolleybus originated from an untaken delivery intended for the Soviet Union. [32]

 

(p. 246) A comparative view of the interiors of the ‘nines’: No. 166 on the left brings the 8 Tr to mind; No. 191 in the middle has atypical fibreglass seats; No. 194 on the right has upholstered seats in a 2+2 arrangement. [57]

 

(p. 247) 9 Tr 194 spa prototype, lit up by neon lights, posing in Moskevská Avenue in 1961. [57]

 

(p. 247) The same vehicle, No. 194, now in its standard colours, in Republic Square in 1973. [38]

 

(p. 248) To this day, the colours of the Škoda 9 Tr 192, 193 and 195 trolleybuses have remained shrouded in mystery. They were most likely painted orange [372], then in the 1970s switched to the classical combination of red and cream. [38]

 

(p. 249) Starting with the 9 Tr2 series, some of the vehicles had their sides experimentally covered with aluminium sheets below the windows. However, the water between the sheets and the steel framework with no insulating paint made an electric cell, which caused fast corrosion and colour fading [15]. The appearance of the 9 Tr3 199 (passing through Mikulášská Avenue on 25 August 1976) suggests that aluminium plates may have been put on this vehicle too. [76]

 

(p. 249) The front and back end of the 9 Tr 213, dubbed ‘Sahara’, used some features from the T 11 type. Its large sliding windows are an atypical feature. At the garage in Heldova Street. [32]

 

(p. 250) A comparative view of the differences in the bodywork of the 9 Tr3 202 during a trial drive in Černice and 9 Tr8 206 at the Central Cemetery in pictures from 5 August 1971. The lower grilles behind the front axle in 206 were supposed to ensure better ventilation for resistors. The 9 Tr8 series was the last to have under-floor resistors; they were moved to the roof in newer vehicles. [76]

 

(p. 250) An encounter of vehicles Nos. 232 and 271 in Dukelská Avenue on 28 September 1976. [32]

 

(p. 251) The system in which trolleybuses, buses and trams are given numbers in parallel, using identical number series, is specific to Pilsen. This scene shows an encounter of a 9 Tr trolleybus and a ŠM 11 bus that both have the same number 266 on 13 April 1981. [32]

 

(p. 252) British photographer Peter Haseldine took this photo of vehicle No. 229 on Roosevelt Bridge in June 1977. [79]

 

(p. 252) Another British photographer, David Pearson, encountered a 9 Tr 282 in Kopeckého Gardens waiting to carry on to Černice on 25 May 1984. [77]

 

(p. 252) One of the last contactor 9 Trs, 309, is leaving Skvrňany on 25 November 1982. [76]

 

(p. 253) The Škoda 9 Tr 304 vehicle ended its service and was used for storage as seen in this image from 6 April 1991. [82]

 

(p. 254) Originally, both the front and rear windows in the T 11 214 prototype were single-piece; however, the front was given a two-part window after an accident. [32]

 

(p. 255) Škoda T 11 219 is leaving a garage to boost the service on route 10. [32]

 

(p. 255) Vehicle No. 220 with red ends is waiting in the City Spa turning bay in March 1975. [41]

 

(p. 255) T 11 248 on a test drive going through the Košutka terminus on 5 August 1971. [76]

 

(p. 256) The T 11 248 vehicle had six fewer seats. [76]

 

(p. 256) A working T 11 sample returned to Pilsen after many tests for the last time in 1975. [32]

 

(p. 256) T 11 248 near the Skyscraper, painted for presentation purposes, on 14 August 1975. [32]

The arrival of thyristors

Thyristor pulse regulation saved a quarter of electric power. A disadvantage of this new feature was the need for more specialised maintenance which had to be carried out with special devices and equipment. When driving, the vehicles produced an unmistakable melody because of the two-value regulation that was opening the thyristors with variable frequency. The first ones were installed in vehicle No. 247 as early as in December 1970, but they were not serially fitted in vehicles until 1979, starting with vehicles No. 313. Thanks to the acquisition of 9 TrHT vehicles, the PTCP managed to maintain its fleet in a reasonably good technical condition. The streets of Pilsen saw more than 150 ‘nines’ over the span of 36 years.

 

(p. 257) The front box of a 9 TrBKR with a block of thyristors. We should mention that contactors did not quite disappear from the vehicles – they were used for connecting the convertor to voltage, engaging the electric brake, switching over shunting stages, switching the heating, etc. [57]

 

(p. 258) 9 TrBKR 247 in the Škoda Ostrov production facility on 5 August 1971, before its autumn journey to Kiev. [76]

 

(p. 258) Thyristor vehicle No. 314 is leaving Hamburk entering Šumavská Street. [77]

 

(p. 259) An encounter of ‘singing’ nines Nos. 316 and 317 in the Doubravka turning bay. [77]

 

(p. 259) Vehicle No. 336 is showing a lot of signs of wear and damage on 4 April 1987. [32]

 

(p. 260) The last 9 Tr trolleybus delivered is seen resting in Cukrovarská Street on 13 April 1981. [32]

 

(p. 260) 9 Tr 332 on route 12 driving to Božkov on 17 May 1991. [82]

 

(p. 261) Trolleybus No. 339 covered in snow in the garage layby area in February 1993. [87]

 

(p. 261) More comfortable red and brown seats were a characteristic feature of thyristor 9 Trs (here No. 314). [82]

 

(p. 262) Houškova Street on 17 June 1994. 9 Tr 314 is carrying Pilsen passengers for the last time. [87]

 

(p. 263) The mechanical check-in system (MOC) introduced in Pilsen in November 1981 is still in place today, although it only plays a marginal role. [97]

The Square Age

The story of the Škoda 14 Tr type is the longest of them all. This vehicle is engraved in the memory of several generations of Pilseners. The vehicle was first introduced there briefly in September 1973. It had its second premiere there when prototype No. 340I was tested. Before the serial production of the ‘fourteens’ was launched, the 14 Tr0 testing series was made, whose representatives, Nos. 340II, 346351, were acquired in early 1982. Their distinctive features were square-shaped side windows and door windows inserted into aluminium frames. However, the bodywork soon started to show signs of fatigue failure due to the narrow window pillars. Vehicle No. 349 had to be withdrawn just after thirteen months of operation and 47,392 kilometres on the clock. The spaces over the doors were subsequently reinforced and covered with metal plates in vehicle No. 346 in 1984 and No. 350 in the following year, but it was to no avail. By the mid-1980s, most vehicles from the zeroth series were not in use, and usually just stood somewhere outside their garages. The vehicles in the new series, 14 Tr01 352 to 370, had windows with round corners and doors vertically rounded to echo the shape of the bodywork. Despite this, problems with bodywork stiffness re-emerged, and that is why the vehicles were sent to Škoda Ostrov between 1984 and 1987 to be strengthened.

 

Between 1984 and 1991, new vehicles from the 14 Tr series were arriving every year, so they eventually made up the majority of the entire fleet. Following their regular overhauls, their colour schemes underwent gradual changes, until they were settled on the final combination of green and white after 1997 to reflect two out of the four colours (red, green, yellow, white) featured in the Pilsen City coat of arms. At the end of the 1990s, their 11-year lifespan was coming to an end; however, Pilsen City Council had already decided in 1996 that it would only be procuring low-floor vehicles [188]. Due to financial reasons, the PTCP resorted to modernising 14 Trs itself. The first full remodelling took place in 1997 on vehicle No. 457, which had its front end adapted to accommodate DOT-LED signs, its interior refurbished with a nonslip floor and upholstered seats. After 1999, vehicles were fitted with lighter, laminate ESKO trolley poles. From 2002 onwards, the Pilsen City Transport Company (PCTC) adopted a more radical approach to modernisation and essentially began to re-build the vehicles altogether, using new skeletons supplied by Škoda Ostrov, including frames designed for the 14 TrM. All that was left from the original trolleybus design were axles, steering, pulse regulation and a traction motor, but even those had already undergone general overhauls. The first modernised vehicle was No. 412 in 2002, followed by a further 41 vehicles, where No. 457 was the only vehicle to undergo the modernisation process twice. On 1 May 2010, a dynamic traffic control system was launched that regulated the city’s public transport service. In autumn 2009, all vehicles were fitted with new onboard computers, GPS devices and communication units. With the arrival of new trolleybuses, 14 Trs were eventually withdrawn from operation. Most of the modernised vehicles had more than a million kilometres on the clock. No. 437 was a record holder since it had clocked up 1,113,058 kilometres over 27 years of service.

 

The articulated version that was derived from this vehicle was type Škoda 15 Tr. The second prototype was tested under Pilsen’s trolley wires in 1984 and 1985. The third prototype designated 15 Tr02/6 appeared in September 1987. Pilseners had to wait for more articulated trolleybuses until 1993, which was the year when five vehicles (Nos. 461465) arrived, originally intended for the former countries of the Soviet Union. In 1995 and 1996, a total of thirteen 15 TrM 466478 were supplied. In January 1997, trolleybus No. 462 was involved in a serious incident which saw one passenger get an electric shock when she was boarding the vehicle. It was found out that it was caused by ‘the high content of salt in the snow stuck to the insulators’ [317]. In the wake of this affair, the PTCP had the winding of traction motors and insulators impregnated, the sealing of its side boxes improved, etc. Devices monitoring the voltage of the vehicle’s framework were gradually added. Keeping in with the 15 TrM design, vehicles 461465 were given a green and white colour scheme and laminate trolley poles. All ‘fifteens’ were phased out between 2010 and 2012. Vehicle No. 473 went on its last regular ride on 20 December 2012 on a 16/16 shift.

 

(p. 263) A rare picture of a presentation ride of prototype 14 Tr in the streets of Pilsen in September 1973. [39]

 

(p. 264) One of the five brand new prototypes, No. 340I, posing in front of a trolleybus hall on 11 March 1981. [32]

 

(p. 264) A representative of the zeroth series parked in Černická Street in May 1984. [77]

 

(p. 265) The 14 Tr0 vehicles were allocated to set groups of drivers, which was evident from the “tuning” adjustments done at the time. [84]

 

(p. 265) The last vehicle from the 14 Tr0 testing series is turning into the old U Prazdroje Street. The added red stripes were meant optically to divide the large areas of its sides. [77]

 

(p. 266) A 1986 reliability analysis justified the early withdrawal of the 14 Tr0 vehicles which were just four years old (except for No. 340II). [51]

 

(p. 266) Vehicle No. 340II was ‘semi-painted’ as a bonus during a big service inspection in February 1986. This paint was used for speeding up repairs, because synthetic paint needed up to two days to dry. [359] [41]

 

(p. 267) The sad end of the zeroth series before it was scrapped in 1992 and 1993. [86]

 

(p. 267) Fairly new 14 Tr01 355 and 359 in Cukrovarská Street in May 1985. The windows above the doors were glazed only in the first years of service. [84]

 

(p. 267) A new feature in the 14 Tr01 series was single-panel windows on both ends. No. 356 is in Cukrovarská Street after its second big service inspection in summer 1991. [82]

 

(p. 268) The picture on the left shows vehicle No. 353 after its bodywork has been reinforced with metal plates fitted to the side windows and spaces above the doors. The picture on the right shows the vehicle after a big service inspection in 1988, in the ‘semi-painted’ design. Due to its atypical metal sheet design, it was dubbed a mail van, armoured truck and removal van. [38, 82]

 

(p. 268) Another atypical design of a remodelled vehicle in Černická Street. [82]

 

(p. 270) Due to the wider pillars between the windows, vehicle No. 376 was designed with pivot windows with large sliding panels at the driver’s seat. [99]

 

(p. 270) One-year-old trolleybus No. 380 on Wilson Bridge, with the Culture House in the background. Starting with the 14 Tr07 series, the arrangement of the outer lights was altered. [32]

(p. 271) This unique image of a 14 Tr trolleybus pulling a broken-down 9 Tr 320 in Mikulášská Avenue was taken on 11 September 1988. [32]

 

(p. 272) Vehicle No. 415 was used as a test-bed in the Škoda Research Institute in the Pilsen Borough of Bolevec, testing the noise level reduction in the Rába rear axle. [57]

 

(p. 272) The last 14 Tr series acquired, here seen in the Cukrovarská Garage layby area on 6 April 1991. [82]

 

(p. 273) After the Velvet Revolution, public transport vehicles became ‘mobile billboards’. The first advertisement covering the entire vehicle was from the Škoda Company. Vehicle 393 commemorates the 50th anniversary of trolleybus operation in Pilsen. [82]

 

(p. 273) Vehicle No. 417 is entering Nádražní Avenue on 14 October 1992. [35]

 

(p. 274) A trolleybus whose advertisement posters have been taken down is passing through Heyrovského Street on 10 January 1995. [90]

 

(p. 274) Vehicle 447 with unusual indicators is passing through Mikulášská Avenue below the construction site of Millennium Bridge (most Milénia). [78]

 

(p. 275) The evolution of destination signs displayed on Pilsen’s trolleybuses.

 

(p. 276) Trolleybus No. 380 with “tuning” adjustments in Mikulášské Square. [86]

 

(p. 276) Vehicle No. 404 posing at the Central Cemetery in the January sun. [87]

 

(p. 276-277) The metamorphosis of the legendary 14 Tr type driving over the tram tracks in the U Práce intersection in 1984, 1987, 1991, 2001, 2002 and 2011. [77, 82, 82, 87, 91, 96]

 

(p. 277) Vehicle 438 was fitted with a silent Škoda NH rear axle, which became a model for its future production at Škoda Ostrov. [88]

 

(p. 277) The first modernised 14 Tr is serving the Skyscraper stop in October 1999. [76]

 

(p. 277) By contrast, No. 406 was the last vehicle to keep its red and cream colours and heavy metal trolley poles, right up to its withdrawal in April 2005. [90]

 

(p. 278) Vehicle No. 449 painted white was often used for advertisements that covered the entire vehicle, such as this example for a printing company in Pilsen around Christmas 2002. [35]

 

(p. 278) The original bodywork of the 14 Tr trolleybus was replaced with a new 14 TrM skeleton after the extraction of power generators (shown on the right-hand side of the picture, in front of the PCTC central workshops). [33, 91]

 

(p. 279) From 2002, different types of air-conditioning systems for the driver’s cab were tested in Pilsen. [35]

 

(p. 279) Modernised vehicle 417 with a new skeleton, Railtech retrievers and a large single-piece glass rear window is pulling out of the Doudlevce ETZ stop in April 2009. [97]

 

(p. 280) On 19 June 2016, metaphorical storm clouds are gathering over the 14 Tr era. Tenements in Hálkova Street can be seen in the background. [96]

 

(p. 280) On 9 April 2018, 14 Tr trolleybuses are saying goodbye to Pilsen in the Božkov turning bay. The special journey of 457 is supported by historic vehicle No. 429, renovated to imitate its appearance when it was first acquired. [97]

 

(p. 282) During the modernisation of the 14 Tr, the interior for passengers was completely changed as well. [92, 97]

 

(p. 283) The design of the second 15 Tr 500I prototype matched the 14 Tr01 series. Because the reinforcement of the bodywork was not of a satisfactory standard, it was scrapped in 1987. [85]

 

(p. 283) The third prototype is passing through the Skyscraper junction on its test drive on 14 September 1987. [81]

 

(p. 283) When it was entered in the PTCP system, it was renamed No. 414. [82]

 

(p. 284) Trolleybuses Nos. 461 to 465 had their premiere on 27 October 1993, exceptionally operating on route 11 going to the Central Cemetery. Normally, they operated on the most frequent line, i.e. route 16. [90]

 

(p. 284) A 15 Tr vehicle decorated with celebratory flags is turning into Husova Street since the city centre is currently closed to traffic. [90]

 

(p. 285) One of Pilsen’s future vehicles 15 TrM 472478 is tested by its manufacturer, Škoda, on a test drive between Ostrov and Jáchymov. [82]

 

(p. 285) A new 15 TrM 474 is entering the Doubravka turning bay at Zábělská Street in August 1996. [78]

 

(p. 287) Vehicle No. 462 on a trial drive in Štefánikova Street in February 1999, displaying a ČSOB Bank advertisement. [87]

 

(p. 287) A representative of an older series, after it had been repainted, is turning into Šumavská Street. [88]

 

(p. 287) A 15 TrM has arrived at the Husovo Square turning bay on 30 March 2002 to help boost services on route 11 going to the Cemetery during the Easter holidays. [91]

 

(p. 287) Vehicle No. 467 is undergoing a service inspection in the central workshops at Cukrovarská Garage in February 2000. [92]

 

(p. 288) Trolleybus No. 464 was given a new front end during a big service inspection, but due to financial reasons, it had to wait for eight months, i.e. till May 2006, to have a digital sign installed. [91]

 

(p. 288) A 14 Tr and a 15 Tr, which had not been modernised, are seen in the Božkov turning bay on 29 December 2005. Both would be in operation only for a further year and a half, after which the era of plastic destination signs in Pilsen would come to an end. [96]

 

(p. 289) A comparative view of the interiors of vehicles No. 414, 461 and 464, the last of which demonstrates what it looked like after its second big service inspection. [92, 92, 97]

 

(p. 289) Vehicle 15 TrM is taking a diversion route through Radiová Street due to some construction work in Doubravka. [49]

 

(p. 289) Saying goodbye to articulated trolleybuses 15 Tr on Friday 21 December 2012, after 16 years of service. [97]

Lose a pedal, add a low floor

The 19951996 trial period of the 22 Tr prototype operation signalled the arrival of low-floor vehicles that had two pedals only (the electrodynamic and pneumatic functions were fully integrated into a single pedal). Škoda 21 TrACI could be branded as a typical Pilsen type of vehicle. What set it apart from the serially produced 21 Trs was that it had an asynchronous motor with IGBT regulation and an auxiliary diesel generator. After four decades, it was the first trolleybus to be assembled in Pilsen again.

 

Test drives with passengers began on 13 March 2000, after which the vehicle was sold to Hradec Králové. Successful test results meant that serial deliveries could start in April 2001 (Nos. 479II482). Due to financial reasons, the second series (Nos. 483486) was only fitted with manually operated Lekov-Esko trolley poles instead of the semi-automatic Kiepe poles that were in the previous batch. An alternative drive option meant that road closure situations could be tackled with more flexibility. The date of 1 July 2002 marked a milestone in the history of Pilsen’s public transport system, as it was the day on which the first guaranteed wheelchair accessible vehicles appeared on route 11 and 16 timetables. In November 2004, vehicle No. 496 was added, which also became one of the last trolleybuses made in Škoda Ostrov. Large deliveries of 26 Trs in 2017 and 2018 put an end to the service of the 21 TrACI vehicles.

 

(p. 290) The 21 TrACI prototype went on its first test drive on 9 June 1999, and was presented to the public at the end of June, during the celebrations of 100 years of Pilsen’s public transport system. [37]

 

(p. 291) A power generator with an air-cooled four-cylinder ignition engine is hidden in the back end. [97]

 

(p. 291) The first delivered vehicles had semi-automatic Kiepe trolley poles. They could be pulled down by pressing a button and had to be manually repositioned by the driver back on the wires that were not fitted with inverted troughs. [91]

 

(p. 292) These fairly new 21 TrACI vehicles are posing in the Tyršův Bridge turning bay facing the opposite direction of traffic on 24 April 2003. [87]

 

(p. 293) Neither torrential rain nor voltage outage could stop this 21 TrACI trolleybus in Českých bratří Square. [97]

 

(p. 294) Thanks to the auxiliary diesel generator, the disused terminus at Jiráskovo Square saw trolleybuses once again, albeit just for a birthday ride for a transport enthusiast. [91]

 

(p. 295) The interior of the 21 TrACI. The driver’s space attracts attention with the multitude of control features and an onboard computer which was a new feature at the time. [97]

 

(p. 295) Vehicle No. 484 with advertisements at the Skyscraper stop. [96]

 

(p. 296) LED lights were fitted during service inspections, whereas its white decorative stripes disappeared from the lower part of the vehicle. Vehicles Nos. 483496 were given semi-automatic Lekov trolley poles between 2004 and 2006. [91, 97]

 

(p. 296) On 25 September 2018, a 21 TrACI was seen on a farewell ride going through Černice and Čechurov accompanied by two buses from the Škoda 21 Ab unified range. [97]

Asynchronous motors and convergence with buses

Škoda Ostrov decided that it would not be developing its own bodywork, but would procure it from other manufacturers instead. The first types were 24 Tr and 25 Tr which had the Citybus (Agora) bodywork. Prototype 24 Tr was introduced on 25 September 2003. Numbered 999II, it was providing services on standard routes for Pilsen passengers from February to April 2004. The first Škoda 24 Tr vehicle in the PCTC fleet was trolleybus No. 497, which was added in December 2004. The same vehicles Nos. 498503 followed next year. A small fridge and air-conditioning in the driver’s cab were now provided as standard. The vehicles that were supplied from that point came with a new version of bodywork, Citelis. Vehicle No. 507 was a prototype in terms of a new electric generation and control software. Deliveries of these vehicles continued until 2009, and some of the vehicles were subsequently fitted with diesel generators. Pilsen transport workers appreciated the good dynamic driving properties and strong diesel generator with which the 24 Tr was equipped. One of its weak points was that the electronic system could play up sometimes. Thanks to the auxiliary drive, these vehicles clocked over 800 thousand kilometres. From 2019, they began to be phased out slowly.

 

The articulated version of the Škoda 25 Tr appeared for the first time as early as in July 2004, but it was not until 2009 that the PCTC procured five vehicles, Nos. 520 to 524. All of them had an auxiliary diesel generator. Just as its successor, type 27 Tr, it had a single traction motor with an output of 240 kW, which gave power to the third axle. After that, all trolleybuses supplied to Pilsen were fitted with bodywork made by Polish manufacturer Solaris.

 

The first Škoda 27 Tr vehicle was presented on 27 August 2010 at the new Bory Fields (Borská Pole) branch opening ceremony. Among the new features were a camera system and semi-automatic trolley poles, which had been included even in vehicles that did not have an alternative propulsion system. Vehicle No. 541 was used for testing an automated passenger counter system. 12-metre-long Škoda 26 Tr trolleybuses were acquired in parallel with articulated vehicles. Delivery of the first seven vehicles Nos. 565571 equipped with traction LTO batteries was a breakthrough. They were charged via trolley wires and had a guaranteed driving range of twelve kilometres even after seven years of use. They quickly started to push out diesel generator vehicles used in regular services.

 

(p. 297) A prototype of the Škoda 24 Tr trolleybus is waiting to drive across the U Práce junction during a test drive. [91]

 

(p. 298) Two weeks into service, vehicle No. 497 is approaching the Central Cemetery. [91]

 

(p. 298) A diesel generator with an output of 100 kW is fitted in the back. [33]

 

(p. 298) Semi-automatic trolley poles are guided to the trolley wires with the help of inverted troughs as shown here on route 13 in Černice. [35]

 

(p. 299) During the 2008 repair works in Americká Avenue, trolleybuses returned to J. K. Tyl Theatre after 50 years, albeit without overhead trolley lines. [91]

 

(p. 299) Beside its electrical hardware, trolleybus No. 507 and other representatives of 24 Trs 1B differed in a more compact covering of the equipment on the roof. Zborovská Avenue in Doudlevce. [97]

 

(p. 300) In 2008 and 2009, this vehicle was used to test current collectors and Ganz-Škoda retrievers in place of the usual Lekov+Esko. [33]

 

(p. 300) Vehicle 24 Tr 516 is driving beyond Pilsen’s boundary during a traffic closure in summer 2019. [96]

 

(p. 300) The arrangement of the roof components in vehicles 24 Tr 501 and 26 Tr 551: in the front is the driver’s air-conditioning system, then a container with the traction equipment, trolley poles and brake resistors. [97]

 

(p. 301) Prototype 25 Tr paid a visit to Starý Plzenec as part of an ordered ride. [33]

 

(p. 302) In September and October 2004, it carried passengers on the trunk 16 route. [91]

 

(p. 302) To this day a unique experience, the 25 Tr provided a special service on route 13 on 26 September 2009. [97]

 

(p. 302) The Museum of West Bohemia is the backdrop to a 25 Tr trolleybus on a diversion route along Anglické Embankment. [96]

 

(p. 303) The popular Simt Simulator game quickly adopted the modern types of trolleybuses that operate in Pilsen.[259]

 

(p. 304) The bare (bus) bodywork of a future 27 Tr vehicle for Pilsen arrived in front of Škoda Electric in Průmyslová Street, Doudlevce, in April 2010. [97]

 

(p. 304) The first two 27 Trs had a different shade of green, which was lighter. [97]

 

(p. 304) Buses with the same bodywork, Solaris Urbino 18, were helping out during voltage outages. [97]

 

(p. 305) A 27 Tr trolleybus on another diversion in Anglické Embankment. [97]

 

(p. 305) A brand new 26 Tr 531 on its debut ride operating on route 11. [97]

 

(p. 306) The interior of most 26 Tr trolleybuses is adorned with plastic seats with fabric-covered padding. [93]

 

(p. 306) One of the two 26 Tr vehicles fitted with a diesel generator on diversion in Nepomucká Avenue. [97]

 

(p. 306) The newer vehicles are equipped with orange LED panels and fog lights on the bumper. [96]

 

(p. 307) The back ends of 26 Trs: on the left is a motor tower with a diesel generator, in the middle is the classic version with no alternative propulsion, together with a new 26 Tr NU battery model; on the right is an older battery-powered vehicle. [97]

 

(p. 307) The PCTC is the biggest Czech operator of trolleybuses that have the Solaris bodywork. Passengers are boarding three 26 Trs at a temporary bus stop in Tylova Street. [97]

 

(p. 307) On the right is a rear box holding a traction battery; on the left is a distribution board with a control unit. [97]

 

(p. 308) On 3 February 2019, trolleybuses are driving on a diverted route along Samaritská Street, due to tree branches touching overhead trolley lines. [97]

 

(p. 308) Upon an agreement with fire-fighters, all battery-powered vehicles are now designated with an orange registration number. [97]

The presence of a battery

New models are built with New Urbino (NU) generation IV casings. The vehicles capture attention with their square-shaped design and novel light fittings in the door areas. On 22 March 2019, seven Škoda 27 Tr NU vehicles Nos. 583589 became Pilsen’s first trolleybuses to be air-conditioned throughout the whole interior. Their standard equipment now included a traction LTO battery, an APC system and an online communication system between the control electronics and the manufacturer. Drivers took to the new vehicles quickly, also thanks to the separated driver’s cab. The trolleybuses coming in autumn 2021 will be the first trackless vehicles used in Pilsen’s public transport system to have front-sliding leaves of the second door, which will improve access to the platforms for wheelchair users and people with pushchairs. Standard Škoda 26 Tr NU vehicles have also been acquired since autumn 2019. In summer 2021, the number of vehicles in the fleet reached a total of 95 and contained the largest number of articulated vehicles in its history. The continual renovation and gradual electrification of bus lines is a priority for the next decade. In the period of 20252030, the number of vehicles may increase up to 110 due to zero-emission transport projects. From now on, all newly-purchased vehicles will be expected to have air-conditioning throughout the whole interior, a passenger counter system and an alternative battery drive as standard.

 

(p. 309) This image taken in Anglické Embankment illustrates the transition of the Solaris bodywork from generation III to generation IV. [97]

 

(p. 310) The interior of the new 27 Tr NU trolleybuses. [97]

 

(p. 310) The new-generation articulated vehicles are providing extra services on route 11 on All Souls’ Day. [97]

 

(p. 311) A 26 Tr NU 593 is passing a 208+198 articulated tram in Milady Horákové Square. [97]

 

(p. 311) With the New Urbino bodywork, a separated driver’s cab returned to Pilsen. [97]

 

(p. 312) The newest vehicles, operating on a trial route numbered 19, are paying a visit to new territory near Křimice Chateau, which is gradually being renovated. [96]

 

(p. 313) One of Pilsen’s most modern vehicles, No. 589, is posing in the Bory Fields turning bay. [97]

8.2      Trolleybus care

The quality of public transport is the cachet of every city. New vehicles need adequate maintenance as well. It has become essential to have a facility with floor pits, crane tracks, and particularly in this century, vehicle hoists and catwalks. The level of maintenance available in Pilsen was at its worst in the 1970s and 1980s. Trolleybuses parked around garages were affected by vandalism and by the fact they could not be taken in for repairs. Deliveries of spare parts were sluggish. This led to situations like that of vehicle 9 Tr 330 which had to be withdrawn just after nine months of service following an accident in July 1981. The state of affairs improved in the 1990s when a new paint workshop and vehicle wash were acquired. Proof of this was the successful modernisation of the 14 Tr trolleybuses and repairs of the 15 Trs(M). Today’s maintenance process cannot do without computer diagnostics and the ever-increasing levels of expertise of the maintenance staff. On the other hand, new vehicles now provide valuable data on their condition. Since 1 January 2013, Bammer Trade, a member company of the Škoda Transportation group, has been providing vehicle maintenance for the PCTC as part of a contract for the construction of a new garage in Karlov. The maintenance provider is obliged to ensure that there are enough vehicles in working condition. In the garages, data from the information systems in vehicles are automatically updated and downloaded via wireless network on a daily basis. The interiors of the vehicles are manually cleaned every night, and their bodywork is washed every other day.

 

(p. 313) In the Czech Republic, the trolleybus is considered a railroad vehicle, and therefore stricter legislative requirements apply. Each vehicle is issued with its own certificate of roadworthiness. [51]

 

(p. 314) Vehicle 3 Tr1 from 1941 is being renovated in the PTCP central workshops in 1956. [63]

 

(p. 314) The modernisation of trolleybus 14 TrM 435 in January 2006. [93]

 

(p. 315) This scene shows a recovery vehicle responding to the breakdown of trolleybus 15 TrM in Bory. [97]

 

(p. 316) Lorry LIAZ 100.45 is towing away vehicle 21 TrACI 480 which has broken down. [97]

8.3      Withdrawal need not be the end

The fate of some withdrawn vehicles is not lacking in adventure, emotion and excitement.

From beehives to museums

Over a third of Pilsen’s 3 Tr vehicles were sold off. The robust bodywork of this type, as well as the other types, predestined them to be re-purposed as shacks, apiaries and garden sheds. They were also used by various businesses as storage rooms, caravans and changing rooms. The records of written-off vehicles, which over time became overgrown with vegetation, were kept by transport enthusiasts even during the socialist times. This contrasted with the attitude of Czech transport companies, except for the Prague company, for they failed to keep any of the vehicles for museum purposes. Only the Technical Museum in Brno housed a complete trolleybus collection preserving Pilsen’s vehicles 3 Tr, 6 Tr and T 11. Since 2009, an association called ŠKODA-BUS Club has been managing the Transport Museum in the village of Strašice in the Rokycany region. At the same time, the PCTC began restoration work on vehicle 9 Tr 323, which the company had on long-term loan. Unfortunately, its efforts to acquire the unique 14 Tr0 vehicle from Plovdiv came to nothing. In 2015 and 2016, the company presented the renovated 15 Tr 414 and 14 Tr 429 vehicles. The fleet of historic trolleybuses includes the 21 Tr trolleybus 496, and it is expected that the 24 Tr 497 will also be preserved. More treasures, headed by a 9 Tr2 195 made in 1963 which makes it the oldest surviving representative of this legendary type, are hidden in private depositories situated south of Pilsen.


(p. 317) Pilsen’s 3 Tr 122 in Spořilov, Prague, in the 1970s. [31]

 

(p. 318) Despite the masking coat of green paint, the Pilsen City coat of arms beneath gives away vehicle No. 329, stationed in the fields near Nebřeziny between 1993 and 2004. [82]

 

(p. 318) A 9 Tr 339 in the garden of driver Miroslav Marek: ‘We took care of the vehicle, so that it would look a little presentable. It was a nice place for barbecues and parties…’ [87]

 

(p. 318) Wrecks of Pilsen’s famous vehicles are waiting to be moved from Zruč to a museum depository in Pilsen after their recovery on 16 May 1997. [34]

 

(p. 318319) The long story of the recovery of No. 323, starting in 1997 and ending in its presentation at the celebration of the 70th anniversary of trolleybuses in Pilsen. [34, 93]

 

(p. 319) The restored 3 Tr 119 vehicle is on display in Pilsen’s Techmania. Hopefully, its electrical hardware will be put back into operation one day. [97]

 

(p. 320) A few beautifully restored PCTC vehicles have gathered in the Čechurov turning bay. Prototype No. 414 can boast the title of the oldest preserved articulated trolleybus with the Škoda bodywork. [97]

One city’s trash, another’s treasure

Starting with type 14 Tr, many of Pilsen’s withdrawn vehicles were still able to provide services to passengers in the Baltics, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and elsewhere in Czechia. Between 2002 and 2005, Pilsen’s ‘fourteens’ made it as far as Almaty, Kazakhstan.

 

(p. 321) After they were repaired in April 1995, trolleybuses 14 Tr 362, 363 and 369 were sent to Riga. Vehicle 369, with its new number 2-237, is driving through the streets of Latvia’s metropolis in June 1996. [78]

 

(p. 321) Ternopil’s 15 Tr 152 (formerly No. 465) is still operating in Pilsen colours. [98]

8.4      In Pilsen just for a while

The first trolleybus drove through the streets of Pilsen in the first half of 1936. The tram track leading to Doudlevce was used to test the 1 Tr for Prague. One of the trolley poles was positioned on the trolley wire that had positive polarity, while negative polarity was provided by a single-axle collector skate that was pulled behind the trolleybus along the tracks. In order to test 2 Trs, a short trolleybus test line was built in the Doudlevce branch of Škoda.

The latest technology trends

Other prototypes with passengers on board were then tested in the streets of Pilsen, such as prototype 9 Tr 166, vehicle 14 Tr 340 and prototypes 15 Tr 500 and 501, as well as 22 Tr, etc. Type 17 Tr was the only Škoda-made vehicle that was not tested in Pilsen at all. Trolleybuses with a dual drive system made by Škoda Energo looked exotic with their Neoplan bodywork and were intended for export to Boston.

 

(p. 322) Between 15 and 25 July 1985, the Škoda-Sanos S 200 Tr articulated trolleybus appeared in Pilsen as well. [81]

 

(p. 323) The first Czech low-floor trolleybus, i.e. the second prototype 22 TrS, was presented in Pilsen in May 1995, and began carrying passengers from 28 October. It was admired for its microprocessor regulation of pulse convertors, computer diagnostics, an on-request door opening facility and its electronic information system. Unfortunately, these vehicles were not supplied to Pilsen after that. [76, 94]

 

(p. 324) In July 2006, asynchronous prototype 22 Tr is driving over Wilson Bridge before it is sold to Szeged. [26]

 

(p. 324) Test trolleybuses made for Boston, USA, in the streets of Pilsen: on the left is prototype ETB No. 998 in Americká Avenue on 6 November 2002; in the middle is working sample DMA No. 997 in Domažlická Avenue in May 2004; on the right is prototype DMA No. 995 in Šumavská Street. [91, 33, 49]

 

(p. 324) The presentation Solaris Trollino 12 AC from Ostrava visited Doubravka in April 2003. [91]

 

(p. 325) Trolleybus 31 Tr, intended for Hradec Králové, is driving below the District Court on 6 March 2011. From 1977, trolleybuses turned around this building. [97]

 

(p. 325) In April 2020, Ekova Electron 12T 990 became only the third trolleybus (after Trollino and Tatra T400) with non-Škoda hardware to carry Pilsen passengers. It was driving mainly on trial route 19 for a month, but occasionally went to Doubravka as well. [97]

Repaired or modernised in Pilsen

The first trolleybuses were repaired in Pilsen in 1946 and 1947. They were vehicles seized by the Germans in Milan, Italy, and were intended for the newly established trolleybus services in Most and Litvínov. Out of fourteen vehicles, the Škoda Works reconditioned eleven working vehicles (four of them were Type I, one of them Type II and six Type III). The bodywork extracted from Type I had been kept in a garden shed in Ejpovice until 2002.

 

From 1994, extensive service inspections were conducted in Pilsen’s transport company workshops, during which trolleybuses 14 Tr, intended to start a second life in the Baltics or Ukraine, were overhauled. Other inspected vehicles were from Pardubice and Mariánské Lázně, and were meant for Sarajevo where they helped restore their war-torn transport system. Pardubice’s transport company took advantage of the successful modernisation programme in Pilsen between 2005 and 2007. In the new Karlov Depot era, Bammer Trade has been in charge of external contracts, such as the repair of the wrecked 24 Tr 54 from Mariánské Lázně and the renovation of Chomutov’s 15 Tr 008 intended for museum rides.


(p. 326) Repaired ‘trophy’ trolleybus OMS-Isotta-TIBB type I (Most No. 102) in Masarykova Avenue. [57]

 

(p. 326) Vehicles from Pardubice intended for Sarajevo are waiting outside a new paint workshop to be inspected at the PTCP. [34]

 

(p. 327) Freshly repaired 14 Trs painted in Sarajevo colours in the Cukrovarská Garage in 1996. [81, 90]

 

(p. 327) One of the eight vehicles that have been modernised for Pardubice, here seen in Americká Avenue on 6 June 2007. [96]

 


 

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