History

The extensive engineering production of the Škoda plants, founded back in 1859, laid the groundwork for the successful development of Škoda Transportation today.

In 1859, Count Wallenstein – Vartenberk established a branch of his foundry and machine shop in Pilsen. In 1866, Emil Škoda, a skilled engineering expert and dynamic entrepreneur, started working as chief engineer at the factory with more than a hundred workers, subsequently buying it in 1869. It wasn’t long before he expanded his plant and in the 1880s he established a steelworks that was very modern for its time, capable of delivering castings weighing tens of tons. Steel castings and later forgings for large passenger and military ships became, along with sugar factories, important export branches of the Škoda factory.

In 1899, the ever-expanding company became a joint-stock company, and before the outbreak of the First World War, the Škoda Works became the largest arms factory in Austria-Hungary. They supplied both the navy and the ground forces with mainly heavy guns and ammunition. Not only castings were exported, of which the most noteworthy were parts of piping for the Niagara Falls power station or the Suez Canal locks, but also machinery for sugar factories in Turkey, breweries throughout Europe and artillery material to the Far East and South America. The war years of 1914 – 1918 meant a decline in peacetime production. Significant resources were devoted to the construction of additional production capacities. At that time, Škoda Works already controlled a number of companies with non-weapon production in the Czech lands and abroad. In 1917, 35 thousand employees were working in Pilsen.

After the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, the company was transformed from a pure armaments company into a multi-field concern under the difficult economic conditions of post-war Europe. The production programme included, in addition to the traditional ones, a number of new fields, such as steam and later electric locomotives.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Škoda produced locomotive axles, spiders, tyres and wheel sets. Production was gradually expanded to include other major locomotive parts, such as steam cylinders. The Škoda Locomotive Works was founded after the First World War, but the initial experience was gained in 1917 and 1918, when locomotives for the state railways were repaired in Pilsen. The production of Škoda-designed locomotives commenced with an order from ČSD for 20 locomotives of the 270 series and 10 locomotives of the 170 series. The first export order for 50 locomotives for the Romanian State Railways was placed at the same time.

The first produced locomotive with the factory marking 1 Lo, series 270 ČSD was handed over to the customer on 11 June 1920. Production began quite swiftly and on 13 September 1921, the 100th locomotive (type 5 Lo for the Romanian state railways) could be handed over. The great success of the locomotive meant that in a very short time it broke into markets not only in Europe, but also in Asia, Africa and South America. In 1928, for example, Škoda supplied narrow-gauge locomotives to Colombia. Another significant development was the order to Manchuria, where satisfaction with the locomotives opened the way through northern China to southern China. Many orders also went to India, whether they were narrow-gauge or broad-gauge locomotives. Škoda also became an important supplier for the Lithuanian State Railways, which bought several types of locomotives during the interwar period.

In 1923, the now world-famous trademark, a winged arrow in a circle, was registered in the Commercial Register. In 1926, the first triple-expansion express locomotives of ČSD’s own design, type 6 Lo, series 534.0, were built, which became the development base for the construction of other types (series 386.0, 475.0, 498.0). Orders of this type were often repeated, so that by the mid-1950s no other type at ČSD matched it in number. It goes without saying that during repeated deliveries, many innovations and improvements were tested on the locomotives of the ČSD 534.0 series.

In 1926, the first triple-expansion express locomotive of the 387.0 series, type 10 Lo, nicknamed the Mikado, left the Pilsen plant. A total of 43 locomotives of this type were built between 1926 and 1937 and represented the peak of the development of the time, enhanced by their artistic beauty. The Mikado locomotives became the development basis for the construction of other types of triple-expansion locomotives for the ČSD (series 475.0, 486.0, 498.0). Elements of the same basis were used for double-expansion locomotives for Lithuania and high-speed locomotives for the Kanto-Kowloo railway in China.

For the Košice-Bohumín line, it was necessary to build locomotives with higher tractive power, and so the type 31 Lo, series 486.0 ČSD, was born, which was in production in 1934-1936. Before the outbreak of World War II, locomotive orders were still going to South Africa, Egypt and Lithuania. The locomotives for Lithuania represented the peak of the pre-war era of ŠKODA steam locomotives.

In addition to the development of steam locomotives, design work on electric locomotives was also carried out in Pilsen. In 1927, the first E 486.0 series fast-track electric locomotives were built for Prague railway stations and were in service until 1964. In the same year, two electric locomotives for freight transport and for shunting at Prague railway stations of the E 424.0 series were produced. One of them is now part of the Techmania Science Centre in Pilsen. The parameters of these locomotives were remarkable for that time, as the electrification of railway lines was still in its infancy in the world. The electrification of the railway was limited only to Prague railway stations; the planned electrification of the Prague-Zdice-Pilsen line was not realised. By 1945, a total of 20 electric locomotives of various types had been built for industrial purposes, most of them battery-powered.

In 1927, the production of rail vehicles was extended to include railcars with internal combustion engines. There were several types of diesel-electric railcars, two-axle and four-axle. Their successful operation was crowned by the order for powerful four-axle M 274.0 series fast railcars. The very popular carriages were named “Blue Arrow” and were delivered until 1936, being the most reliable motor cars of ČSD at that time. In 1934, light rail buses were ordered for Turkish Railways.

In the 1920s, the Doudlevce plant began producing electric equipment for trams, both for domestic and export operations. In the 1930s, the City of Prague announced a public tender for the supply of trolleybuses and thus laid the foundation for a new manufacturing industry in Škoda. The prototype of trolleybus 1 Tr was constructed in 1936 and put into service the same year. Two years later, five type 2 Tr trolleybuses were again delivered to Prague.

During the occupation and World War II, the Škoda plants were incorporated into the German Reich industrial complex. The locomotive production was transferred to locomotives of uniform German design of series 50, later of the wartime design of series 52. A number of 900 mm gauge construction locomotives of type 49 Lo and heavy industrial locomotives of type 1435 CS 500 were also built at that time. In 1941, diesel locomotives of the T 333.0 series were produced for the then ČMD along with diesel locomotives of the M 133.0 series running on generator gas.

The aerial bombing in April 1945 destroyed a large part of the plant (practically 70% of the plant was destroyed in the air raids), but production was able to start in a very short time. In 1945, the company was nationalised. Gradually, parts of the company were separated from the Škoda plants, such as the automobile plant in Mladá Boleslav, the aerospace factory in Prague, plants in Slovakia and other food equipment factories. The main task becomes the production of equipment for heavy engineering, industrial plant construction, mass transport and energy. Exports were mainly directed to the socialist bloc countries.

In the middle of June 1945, the first repaired locomotive left the factory gates and in December the first new steam locomotive of the 534.0301 ČSD series was produced. The deliveries of the 534.0 ČSD locomotives were followed by the 5th series of the 31 Lo type, already designated as the 498.0 ČSD series due to the changes made. For the transport of heavy passenger trains and freight trains, the locomotive type 57 Lo, series 475.1 ČSD was designed with a combustion chamber and a thermosiphon and also with a self-propelled fuel loader.

Also after 1945, the locomotive works managed to obtain orders from abroad, from Yugoslavia, Argentina, Turkey, while the most numerous ones came from the Soviet Union, where only type 64 Lo locomotives were exported, a total of 420 pieces.

ŠKODA steam locomotives culminated in the development of the Type 68 Lo, 556.0 ČSD series and the Type 69 Lo, 498.1 ČSD series. All modern elements were used in their construction. The 556.0 ČSD series also held the record for the total number of locomotives produced – 510. The ČSD 498.1 series express locomotive was the pinnacle of performance and speed. On the test circuit in Velim, it achieved the Czechoslovak speed record of 162 km/h. These locomotives mark the end of the production period of ŠKODA steam locomotives. Two prototypes of type 72 Lo, series 464.2 ČSD were built, but serial production never took place. At the same time as the last 556.0 class locomotives for ČSD, a series of 50 locomotives of type 73 Lo were built for India. In 1958, the last steam locomotive left the factory with only electric locomotives following after that. A total of 3,247 steam locomotives were built there.

The production of trolleybuses also took on a new life after 1945. The first war series of type 3 Tr was followed by other series of this type and also new types that found their way abroad (Poland, China, Germany, USSR, Norway).

The development of ŠKODA electric locomotives took off after World War II. Firstly, by building powerful stripping locomotives for opencast mines, where a special locomotive design connected from three parts was applied, which enabled reliable operations on very uneven tracks, as it was necessary to overcome gradients of up to 40% when leaving opencast mines.

The operation of steam locomotives was at the limit of its efficiency in the mountainous sections, so it was decided to electrify the section Liptovský Mikuláš-Štrba-Spišská Nová Ves using a DC system with a voltage of 3,000 V. After the first test of a new type of universal four-axle locomotive in 1953, which had remarkable parameters for its time (a weight of 82 tonnes, hourly power of 2 350 kW, maximum speed of 120 km/h), it was proved that this locomotive met the requirements for the transport of all trains. Based on the experience gained in the operation of electric locomotives on the Czechoslovak railways, deliveries abroad, especially to the USSR, Bulgaria and Poland, began in 1959.

The requirements to increase the transport performance of railways led to the development of a more powerful six-axle locomotive. A 3,000 kW electric freight locomotive was developed for Czechoslovak railways, while for export a DC high-speed locomotive with a power of 4,200 kW for a speed of 160 km/h. It was put into service on Soviet railways with the type designation ČS2. In the USSR, the machines had to overcome very difficult climatic conditions, with operating temperatures ranging from +40 °C to -50 °C. Despite this, ŠKODA locomotives reliably transported express trains on all lines leading from Moscow in all directions, as far as Novosibirsk. A total of 1,062 locomotives of this type, including a modernised version, were delivered.

A series of 30 eight-axle freight locomotives with the serial designation ET 40 were delivered to the Polish railways for a 3000 V DC power supply. The locomotives transported coal trains weighing 4,000 tons from Silesian mines to ports on the Baltic Sea coast.

The transition of the railways to the use of the alternating current system with a voltage of 25 kV, 50 Hz required a completely new development of electric locomotives with silicon rectifiers for this modern current system. In 1961, tests with prototype locomotives were started on the first section of the Pilsen-Nezvěstice-Horažďovice line electrified by alternating current. The experience gained on the prototype locomotives gradually led to the development of four-axle electric locomotives with an output of 3200 kW for ČSD and Bulgarian railways. The locomotives were the first in the world to have a fibreglass body. A six-axle electric locomotive with a power of 5100 kW was developed for the transport of express trains weighing 1,000 tons at speeds up to 160 km/h on Soviet railways with alternating current of 25 kV, 50 Hz and deployed on the Moscow-Kiev line.

In 1974, the development of new types of “second generation” electric locomotives began. The first locomotive of this designation was the double-current locomotive 55 E, series ES 499.0 ČSD with a power of 4,000 kW and a maximum speed of 160 km/h, which could run on both AC and DC lines. It was intended for the transport of express trains on the Prague-Bratislava line.

If the 1950s can be described as the period of development of four-axle locomotives, the 1960s as the advent of six-axle locomotives, the 1970s were marked by the construction of two-part eight-axle electric locomotives, the production of which continued in the 1980s and 1990s, although six-axle locomotives for Soviet railways and ČSD formed the production programme of the plant until 1986.

For the St. Petersburg-Moscow line, eight-axle type 66 E express locomotives with an hourly power of 8,400 kW for an operating speed of 200 km/h and a weight of 185 tonnes were delivered. The Soviet Union was by far the largest customer for electric locomotives. Out of four thousand locomotives produced (as of 1981), 1,692 locomotives were intended for Soviet railways alone. A total of 1,286 electric locomotives were delivered to ČSD and more than 400 locomotives to other countries, mainly Bulgaria and Poland. More than 580 industrial locomotives for surface mines were produced.

Two-current locomotives with the type designation 69 E, series ES 499.1 started serial production in 1984 and ČSD purchased 237 of them. The experience and advantageousness of the introduction of two-current locomotives led to considerations about the transitionability of locomotives to the neighbouring former German Democratic Republic, where a single-phase 15 kV, 16 2/3 Hz system had been introduced since the beginning of the electrification of the lines. A prototype for the German railways was produced in 1988 and a series of 21 locomotives in 1991. In 1991, the production of a series of 14 locomotives with the type designation 76 E, series 372 ČSD, began for ČSD. Based on the experience with the locomotives type 69 E and 71 E, ČSD ordered a series of locomotives 98 E and 99 E, but the locomotives type 99 E, series 163 were not financially covered by ČSD and 51 locomotives only left the company in 1995. The private Italian railway company Ferovie Nord Milano was also interested in nine of these locomotives, but they were modified according to the customer’s wishes.

With the development of public transport and environmental requirements, the demand for trolleybuses increased. Until 1958, assembly took place in Pilsen-Doudlevce, but by government decree, production was transferred to Ostrov nad Ohří. The reason for this was the desire to introduce alternative production and create alternative jobs in Ostrov to replace the reduced mining activity in the region. The type 8 Tr trolleybus started to be produced in Pilsen, but its production was terminated in 1961 in Ostrov. In that year, production of the new Type 9 Tr started in Ostrov, which achieved considerable popularity with customers. It was in the production program until 1981, of course with many modernisation modifications. The majority of the more than 7,000 vehicles headed abroad. The successor of the trusty “nine” became the “fourteen”, whose last car left the plant’s gates in 1999. The demand for a high-capacity vehicle led to the construction of the articulated ŠKODA SANOS trolleybuses and the type 15 Tr, which was produced until 1998. After the year 2000, trolleybus production returned to Pilsen.

In the 1990s, production of the last series of 82 E locomotives for the then Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the USSR) was completed and a contract for the modernisation and repair of old locomotives for both ČSD and Russia was accepted. A significant part of the locomotive factory’s production capacity was also used for the reconstruction and modernisation of Prague’s metro trains. The trams of most transport companies in the Czech Republic were being modernised and the three-section low-floor tram project ŠKODA 03 T was launched, which marked a breakthrough in the previously highly-specialised production of electric locomotives. A prototype was built in 1997 under the trade name ASTRA, and series production began a year later. In addition to Czech cities, Portland and Tacoma also expressed interest in ŠKODA trams, laying the foundations for further tram exports in the following period. Another completely new product in 1994 was the suburban electric double deck unit of the 471 series for ČD with an aluminium alloy cabinet, produced in cooperation with ČKD Vagonka, now ŠKODA VAGONKA Ostrava.

After 1989, ŠKODA transformed from a state-owned company into a joint-stock company, not only by seeking an optimal production programme, but also by expanding its business contacts and seeking markets other than the previously-preferred markets of the former Soviet Union countries, which had collapsed after 1989.  In this situation, Škoda proceeded to diversify its production programme from the core business of manufacturing railway rolling stock to the field of urban public transport. Since the end of the 1990s, the extensive modernisation of metro vehicles has been underway, followed by the production of modern low-floor trams, locomotives, trolleybuses and electrical units.