History of trolleybus transport

History of trolleybuses in Hradec Králové in the context of their overall development

The term trolleybus means a specialized means of transport - a non-rail electric vehicle - serving the mass transport of persons or goods, which is both a road and railway vehicle. It shall be driven by one or more traction motors and shall draw electrical energy (direct current) via two bar pantographs from a two-wire overhead contact line.

Since the 80s of the 20th century, trolleybuses have been produced with an auxiliary diesel engine or batteries at the customer's request. This also allows them to drive in sections without overhead contact lines.

History of trolleybuses

The history of trolleybuses dates back to the end of the 19th century, when attempts to use electric propulsion in rail transport took place almost simultaneously.
The forefather of trolleybuses is considered to be the German inventor, electrical engineer and industrialist Werner von Siemens, who was probably brought to this idea by his brother Wilhelm working in England.

Siemens & Halske converted the first short and simple electric railway at an industrial exhibition in Berlin in 1879.

In 1882, from 29 April, Werner von Siemens conducted test and demonstration experiments with his vehicle (Elektromot) on a 540 m long track in the Berlin suburb of Halensee. His chariot was actually a classic open carriage normally pulled by horses. He modified it by installing two electric motors, each with an output of 2.2 kW. To them, electric current was supplied by a cable from a contact trolley, which traveled along a two-pole overhead line suspended above the road (the voltage in the contact line was 550 Vss) as if they were rails. The operation was stopped after six weeks, on June 13, 1882, the overhead contact line was dismantled a few days later.

The overall conclusion of these tests was that this concept is appropriate but needs to be further developed. The biggest problem seemed to be the contact of the eight-wheel collection truck with the trolley, mainly due to the poor condition of the road.

That same year, the first great-grandfathers of today's trolleybuses were presented in Vienna as the Schienenlosebahn (railless railway). Later, instead of the German breakneck name, the English term trolleybus was used - just after the trolley, which the first trolleybuses pulled on wires as a current collector. Later, when the somewhat clumsy carts were replaced by today's "sticks" - pole collectors, the name remained and was adopted by Czech. She first adapted it to her orthography to a troleybus (used in the 50s) and later completely adapted the standard form to the pronunciation (trolleybus).

Other patents and systems were created, which gradually improved trolleybuses. Of course, both the car itself in its mechanical and electrical parts, and especially in the biggest weakness so far - the transmission of electrical energy to drive the car from trolleys. Thus, systems were gradually created to improve contact trolley trolleys, up to the one commonly used today, i.e. using two bar collectors.

The year 1882 only began this continual improvement. The original idea of carrying passengers on a regular line was fulfilled by the trolleybus in 1900 on the occasion of the World Expo in Paris, when the French Lombard and Gerin put into operation the first public trolleybus line in Vincennes Park. That was the real starting shot, which began the construction of trolleybus lines throughout Europe.

After that, Germany again took a leading role in the development and Max Schiemann, who built a number of tracks here before the First World War. He built other lines in Great Britain, which influenced the development of trolleybuses in the next period.

Together with Schiemann, other factories were engaged in the production of trolleybuses and the construction of tracks, especially Carl Stoll in Dresden and Hansa-Lloyd in Bremen. They put into operation other tracks and vehicles, which, however, did not last long, in the vast majority not even the First World War. This meant that practical experience and the use of trolleybuses were almost a quarter of a century behind trams.

Road transport had neither suitable vehicles nor sufficient operational experience. There were no tires with a tube, road vehicles had insufficient suspension, the condition of the roads was poor.
Further difficulties were encountered in drawing current, which was more difficult than in the case of single-conductor rail vehicles with fixed tracks. Along with the above-mentioned technical problems, economic issues also contributed to the demise of the first trolleybus operations. Sometimes inappropriate choice of tracks, often used only for recreation, resulted in unprofitable operation.
In the First World War, work on trolleybus structures almost stopped. But while in Central Europe after the First World War we find almost no trolleybus line in operation, development in Great Britain continues. In Bradford, as early as 1911, vehicles fitted with two pole collectors were established. After the successful results in Birmingham, which launched the operation of "modern" trolleybuses in 1922, there is a substantial development of this mode of transport in Britain in the following period.

Greater development of "today's" trolleybuses begins in the 30s, trolleybuses spread to other European countries. We encounter them mainly in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, Sweden, the Soviet Union and Belgium. The rapid development of trolleybuses over several years has been made possible by the knowledge gained from other modes of transport, especially automobiles, and modern vehicle design. The technical design and driving characteristics of the trolleybuses confirmed their legitimacy in the urban public transport system.
The period after the Second World War is characterized by an even more significant expansion of trolleybuses popular mainly for their reliability (compared to the then less reliable buses) and excellent driving characteristics in hilly terrains.

However, the promising development of trolleybus transport stopped at the end of the fifties. There was a drop in oil prices, which led to a sharp development of motoring. The bus came to the fore more and more, which gradually displaced the trolleybus, whose operational and economic results were then worse in comparison with buses. Trolleybus transport began to be reduced, canceled entire lines and operations not only in Europe but also overseas.

After the sharp rise in oil prices between 1974 and 1980, ways to reduce the consumption of petroleum products in urban transport began to be sought again. The use of electricity to a greater extent was offered as a starting point, and therefore the importance of trolleybus transport began to be reassessed and it again recorded further development. This fact is also motivated by the second important factor, namely the improvement of the environment - their operation eliminates emissions and noise is relatively low. In addition, trolleybuses have better dynamic properties.

Trolleybus transport in Czechoslovakia or in the Czech Republic

Trolleybus transport in our country can be divided into two basic development periods - historical (1904 - 1916) and modern (from 1936 to the present).
In the historical period, four tracks were built in our country. The first rather interurban character led from Poprad to Starý Smokovec and the operation started on August 2, 1904. The second line leading from the railway station in Gmünd (today's České Velenice) to the city centre (today located in Austria) started operation on 16 July 1907. From July 19, 1909, trolleybuses began to operate in Bratislava on a track serving more recreational purposes. The last town with a historical trolleybus transport was České Budějovice, which started operation on the line Pražská předměstí - Hřbitov sv. Otýlie on October 4, 1909. However, none of these lines lasted long - in 1906 the line ended in Poprad and in the years 1914 - 1916 the other three. It was then a long twenty years before trolleybuses appeared in our cities for the second time.

In the modern period, the development of trolleybus transport in our country was relatively late. Regular operation on the first trolleybus line with a length of 3.63 km was launched on 29 August 1936 in Prague. During the Second World War, after the good experience in Prague, trolleybus transport was introduced by other cities: Plzeň on 9 April 1941, Bratislava on 31 July 1941 and Zlín on 27 January 1944. Development during the Protectorate was hampered by a lack of finances, but the lack of oil during the war contributed to the electrification of transport. After our liberation, this transport was first started by Most and Litvínov on December 6, 1946.

In the following years, it developed rapidly, both by expanding the existing networks and by building lines in other cities. In 1948, České Budějovice (for the second time) and Jihlava started transport. In the spring of 1949, there was even an incentive to provide public transport by trolleybuses from the central authorities in Prague (in order to save on the import of foreign diesel). In 1949, trolleybuses appeared in Hradec Králové and Brno, in 1950 in Děčín, in 1952 in Pardubice, Mariánské Lázně, Teplice, Ostrava and Opava. After a ten-year pause, Prešov followed in 1962. Trolleybus transport was cancelled in 1959 in Most and Litvínov as part of the construction of a high-speed tramway. After 1965, transport stagnated and, thanks to cheap Soviet diesel, trolleybus transport was replaced by bus transport. This was reflected in the fact that the extent of the network remained unchanged or decreased in most cities, but also by the fact that in 1971 trolleybuses in České Budějovice were abolished, the last trolleybus ran on 16 October 1972 () in Prague (in 1959 the tracks reached 57 km) and in 1973 in Děčín.

At the turn of the seventies and eighties, based on the reassessment of the importance of trolleybus transport - due to the energy crisis and the increasing importance of environmental protection - our cities were revived and other lines were built. In 1988, trolleybuses were launched in Ústí nad Labem, in 1991 in České Budějovice (for the third time!) and in 1995 in Chomutov and Jirkov. At the beginning of the 90s, the renewal of trolleybus transport in Prague was being prepared, but in the end it did not happen.
At present, we can find trolleybuses in 13 cities in our country: Brno, České Budějovice, Hradec Králové, Chomutov - Jirkov, Jihlava, Mariánské Lázně, Opava, Ostrava, Pardubice, Plzeň, Teplice, Ústí na Labem, Zlín - Otrokovice.

The fleet is being intensively modernized with low-floor vehicles, which significantly contributes to increasing the level of public transport.

Trolleybuses in Hradec Králové

Public transport in Hradec Králové was provided until 1949 by buses associated with the establishment of the Autodráhy města Hradce Králové in December 1928. The pre-war plans for the construction of the electric railway were not realized, and only after 1945 the transport system was rebuilt, which included the construction of trolleybus lines.
The project originated in 1947, at the beginning of the second quarter of 1948 the construction of trolleybus lines began, and already after a year, on Sunday, May 2, 1949, the line marked as No. 2 began operation with two vehicles in a half-hour interval. It ran from the main railway station through Koruna, today's Gočárova Avenue, through Ulrich Square to the Prague Bridge and to Mostecká Street, then to Fortna, across the Moravian Bridge and along Brněnská to Nový Hradec Králové. In the same year, on 28 October, line No. 0 to Slezské Předměstí was put into operation. At that time, the fleet consisted of four trolleybuses Vetra - ČKD. Only the construction of a new depot in 1951 enabled further development of trolleybus transport and the network was gradually expanded with new operational sections. A year later, the line Komenského Street and around the Regional Court was put into operation, creating a closed circuit around the old town, as well as lines leading to Kukleny and Plačice (1952), Malšovice (1958) and to Slezské Předměstí - housing estate North (1965).

Throughout history, the fleet was supplemented exclusively by Škoda trolleybuses.

A milestone was the year 1964, when trolleybus operation with nine lines provided two-thirds of the city's traffic load and transported 16.3 million passengers.
In 1967, the Municipal Council decided on the gradual liquidation of trolleybus transport after the expiration of the service life of vehicles and traction equipment until 1980.

In the second half of the 60s, the reconstruction of the main Hradec roads began. The reconstruction of the roads required financiallypositive relocation of trolleybus lines. The reconstruction of Gočárova Street then resulted in a temporary cessation of trolleybus operation (from 30.11.1967), but by the decision of the city it was changed to permanent, and trolleybuses returned to this busy artery almost three decades later. Under the influence of the general diversion from trolleybus transport in Czechoslovakia and Hradec Králové, the replacement of trolleybus lines by buses progressed. Therefore, trolleybuses did not return to some of the reconstructed sections (apart from the already mentioned Gočárova Avenue, it was also Kladská Street and Pospíšilova Avenue), but there was no further cancellation of the tracks and the main directions of trolleybus transport were preserved.

In the 80s, as in other cities, there was a change in the view of trolleybus transport and a gradual reassessment of intentions, trolleybus transport was preserved. The existing sections and rolling stock were gradually modernized, and the construction of new sections did not begin until decades later.

In 1993, trolleybuses began to run on part of the II. ring road, two years later they returned to Gočárova and Pospíšilova avenues. Since 1994, selected connections of line No. 1 from Nový Hradec to Kluky have been running, although this section is not equipped with overhead contact lines. The operation was provided by a pair of 14 Tr cars, modified for operation with a specially manufactured single-axle trailer diesel generator NZ 600, which was a rarity - it drove as the only one in the Czech Republic. This solution was replaced in 2001 by the inclusion of a two-power trolleybus 21 TrACI. Two 30 Tr SOR vehicles are now available, also equipped with diesel generators.

In 1999, the renewal of the entire trolleybus network was completed and trolleybus transport in Hradec Králové belonged to medium-sized in terms of the scope of operation and number of vehicles (there were five lines in operation, where 44 vehicles transported 10,230,707 passengers).

At present (2014), 35 trolleybuses on five routes carry more than 11 million passengers, which is 32% of the total passengers.


After World War II, the republic did not have enough capacity to produce its own trolleybuses, so the lack of supplies of two-axle trolleybuses was solved by importing cabinets and other mechanical parts of Vetra trolleybuses from France. These vehicles were fitted with ČKD electrical equipment originally intended for Praga trolleybuses. These trolleybuses were delivered not only to Hradec Králové but also to other cities (České Budějovice, Děčín, Zlín and Jihlava). They had a capacity of 75 people, of which 25 were seated. The wagons were equipped with batteries for operation outside the contact line, which was used when the wagons were pulled into the original depot. The vehicles proved themselves for their simplicity and helped to solve the situation in the fleet in the post-war period. In many towns, including in Hradec, trolleybus transport was also launched.

Other cars appearing here were: 7 Tr (1951 - 75), 8 Tr (1957 - 75), 9 Tr and 9 Tr HT (1962 - 1990), 14 Tr (1983 - 2011), 15 Tr (1989 - 2011), 21 Tr (1997 - 2013) - first low-floor, 21 Tr AC (from 2002), 21 Tr ACI (2000 - 2012), up to the current 30 Tr SOR (of which two with built-in diesel generators) and 31 Tr SOR. At present, the Hradec Transport Company has one of the youngest trolleybus fleets in the Czech Republic. During the 65 years of trolleybus transport, a total of 199 vehicles have been delivered to Hradec (190 of them directly from the manufacturer).

More details from the history - not only trolleybuses - can be found in the publication History of Public Transport in Hradec Králové 1928-2013, where its author Helena Rezková and her co-authors for the first time comprehensively mapped the remarkable history and present of public transport in Hradec Králové. The book was published in October 2013 in an edition of 1,500 copies with a range of 272 pages and contains 890 photographs.

Current details from the history - not only trolleybuses - can be found in the publication History of Public Transport in Hradec Králové 1928-2020, where its author Helena Rezková and her co-authors added newly acquired information and photographs - both current and from new sources, about the history and present of public transport in Hradec Králové. The book was published in June 2020 in an edition of 700 copies.

František Meduna, Head of Marketing