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Electric Streetcar System in Prague Celebrates 120 Years

In Prague, July 13, 2011 – The first electric streetcar launched its operation in the Czech capital 120 years ago. Since then the Prague Public Transport Company trams covered almost 5.8 billion kilometres and transported over 36 billion passengers.


On July 18, 2011, the Prague Public Transport Company, in conjunction with the National Technical Museum, will celebrate a major anniversary of the city’s public transport system. On that day, 120 years will have passed since the city’s first electric streetcar went into operation.

“Saturday, July 18, 1891 was a red-letter day not only in the history of the metropolitan public transit in Prague but also in the history of railway transport in the Czech Republic and in the annals of Czech technology in general. We are very glad indeed to be able to celebrate this major anniversary with our passengers. Nobody can today imagine Prague’s public transport without streetcars. Development of light rail tracks is for us a priority, of great significance today is, for instance, construction of tramline to Podbaba,“ said Mr. Martin Dvořák, the Managing Director of the Prague Public Transport Company (known under its Czech acronym DPP).

To mark this anniversary, a special parade of veteran and current vehicles from the Střešovice Public Transport Museum to Letenské Square will be held by DPP on July 18, 2011 between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. “Watching the parade, visitors will see as many as 11 types of wheeled vehicles, from the oldest veterans (a pride of place is held by our museum car No. 500, which runs only on very special occasions, the last time Prague inhabitants could see it was in 2005) to the present tramcars. This will be followed by a special programme in Letná Park,“ said Mrs. Ilona Vysoudilová, head of DPP´s Press Department.

Accompanying Programme in Letná

In the morning (from 11:00 to 12:00 a.m.) the programme will feature a concert of the DPP choir, while a memorial commemorating the anniversary will be unveiled. Starting at 8:00 p.m. a special entertainment programme will get under way in Letná, again featuring DPP´s choir and Vladimír Kettner´s Small Orchestra playing old Prague songs. At 9:30 p.m. Cinebus will be screening a famous Czech musical film “Dáma na kolejích” (Lady on the Rails).

National Technical Museum

At 3:00 p.m. visitors to the National Technical Museum can attend the opening of its Transportation Hall (admission free), where a series of lectures will be given on the 120th anniversary of the first electric streetcar in Bohemia, starting at 6:00 p.m.: The First Tramline in Prague (Mgr. Pavel Fojtík), Current Tramcar Transport in Prague (Ing. Miroslav Penc), Vladimír List and the Underground Tramcar Project in Prague (Mgr. Hynek Stříteský), Prague in the Year of the Regional Jubilee Exhibition 1891 (PhDr. Jan Hozák).

Presented in separate stories, the Transportation exhibition in the National Technical Museum traces the entire historic development of automobile, motorcycling, cycling, aviation and shipping traffic. In shorter displays it highlights sections portraying the history of railway transport and fire-fighting technology in the territory of present-day Czech Republic. Definitely worth seeing is the car Tatra 80 from 1935, used by President T. G. Masaryk, or exhibits from the Museum’s aviation collections showing the Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk.IXE fighter plane from 1945, which carried the Czechoslovak airmen who had fought in Britain during WWII when returning to liberated Czechoslovakia.


History of the Electric Railway in Prague

Early Days

Prague inhabitants had the very first opportunity to travel in an electric streetcar on Saturday July 18, 1891, i.e. 120 years ago. This anniversary is of great importance not only for the history of Prague’s public transit system but also for the history of Czech railway transport and Czech technology in general.

This was the first electric streetcar line in the Czech lands, designed and built by the distinguished Czech electrical engineer František Křižík, a leading proponent of the use of electricity in transportation.

Since electrical engineering was then only an emerging scientific discipline, electric tramcar was really a very unusual sight indeed. From 1875 to 1891 public transport in Prague was provided only by a private horse-drawn carriage system.

The First Route in Letná

Křížík regarded the Regional Jubilee Exhibition, held in Prague Exhibition Grounds, as a golden opportunity to promote his electric streetcar. The track started at what is today’s restaurant Letenský zámeček, then the site of a tram depot, which also served as a covered waiting room. Standing nearby was a small power plant generating 150 V electricity to drive the streetcar.

The route led through Ovenecká Street to its northern end at the entrance to Královská obora (Royal Game Preserve). This single-track line with forked points at its end stops measured 766 metres. Thanks to the success of this demonstration journey the streetcar was operated on this line also in the following years and was extended to 1.4 km. However, overall interest in the track was gradually diminishing, and its operation eventually turned out to be loss making.

Initially, the streetcar system had at its disposal two simple open cars whose appearance resembled what were then popular summer horse-drawn tram carriages. In 1894 the fleet of cars was expanded by adding first two closed cars. But two cars proved to be quite sufficient to meet the requirements of what was quite weak regular operation. An interesting aspect of the Letná electric streetcar line (to put it in present-day words) was Prague’s first integrated transport system. Joint tickets were sold there for the electric streetcar as well as the nearby Letná funicular railway, even though both were operated by different transport companies. Operation of the first electric streetcar system in Prague ended on August 15, 1900. During its first 10 seasons the first Czech electric streetcar system carried as many as 593,027 passengers.

Further Developments in the Capital

Křižík then moved all the four cars to Prague´s district of Libeň where, starting in 1896, he operated his second private streetcar service: Electric Streetcar Prague – Libeň – Vysočany. Unlike the Letná streetcar line, the Libeň tramline turned out to be extremely successful. But several years elapsed before electric streetcars could dominate Prague’s public transport system.

Initially, the electric streetcar lines were built separately in individual Prague suburbs. In addition to the above - mentioned Libeň district, which also provided service to Karlín and later Vysočany, other independent electric streetcar lines were built in Košíře and Vinohrady, and only later on, in September 1897, the capital of Prague itself began to operate its electric streetcar system. It was only after the network of horse-drawn tramcars had been bought from the Belgian entrepreneur Eduard Otlet by the Electric Works of the Royal Capital of Prague and after its subsequent electrification that the city of Prague could proceed to building a unified streetcar system in Prague’s conurbation.

Electric Tramway Systems in the World

The world’s first small promotional electric railway system was operated at the industrial exhibition in Berlin in 1879, and the first real railway streetcar was launched into operation also in Berlin: on May 16, 1881 on the route Bahnhoff Lichterfelde-Ost – Kadettenanstalt.


Contacts for more information:

Ilona Vysoudilová
Head of the Press Department of the Prague Public Transport Company,

Mgr. Olga Šámalová
Head of the Marketing and Public Relations Department of the National Technical Museum,


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