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VUZ Test Centre Celebrates Fifty Successful Years

One of the most significant railway events of this year took place on 22 May near Velim...

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the start of operations at the large test circuit here, the Railway Research Institute (VUZ) organised a large celebration where invited guests could experience an excursion into the atmosphere of the 1960s but also the technical finesse of the modern era.

A 50th birthday is an important occasion when time stops for a while and one looks back. This approach was also taken by the Railway Research Institute, whose large test circuit in Velim began operations in 1963. The celebration of the jubilee, stylised to the era of its opening, took place right by the two steel ribbons around which rail vehicles began to twist in the early 1960s.

An entertaining excursion into history

Zkušební centrum VUZ oslavilo padesát úspěšných let

Railway enthusiasts came to extend their birthday congratulations, including famous moderator Eduard Hrubeš and a range of experts from the railway sector. In exchange, they could ride with exceptional speed on the circuit aboard modern units or soak up the atmosphere of a bygone era on Rybák carriages pulled by locomotive 423.009. Of course, before the graceful journeys took place, the guests were welcomed by the moderator team of Václav Žmolík and Marcela Augustová, who accompanied them throughout the festive day. They reminded the uninitiated – of whom there were only very few – of the most significant moments in the circuit’s history, with emphasis on the speed records which were broken on its tracks.

VUZ General Director Antonín Blažek commented on how far-sighted it had been to establish this modern railway circuit in the former Czechoslovakia. “Of course we don’t want to just look back fondly into the past; to the contrary, we are actively living the future,” said Antonín Blažek in response to an enumeration of the several periods of modernisation which VUZ underwent in recent years. The circuit’s historical significance was also described by Luděk Pilmann, one of the engineers working at the inception of this test circuit in the 1960s which upon its completion was visited by railway experts from around the world. And because this was a birthday celebration, there was even a cake in the shape of the test circuit, which was very much enjoyed by the attendant guests.

Pendolino and Railjet represent the modern era. They wouldn’t be researchers if they hadn’t prepared something much better – ČD’s Pendolino, which accelerated on the circuit to the maximum allowed speed of 230 km/h. It took a while, but the experience – which in the Czech Republic can only be had at the circuit in Velim – was well worth the six laps of waiting. By the way, at this speed it takes only a little over three minutes to go around the thirteen-kilometre circuit! The near future of Czech railway history was represented by a Railjet unit on loan from ÖBB travelling at “only” 200 km/h. Even so, not a single seat on it was empty.

For lovers of rail nostalgia, a ride was organised aboard a historic train pulled by steam locomotive Líza 423.009. Out of respect for her age, however, we will not state her time even around the small (and much shorter) test circuit, where she set out into the lightning and thunder of an approaching storm. The birthday celebration demonstrated that the people at VUZ not only know how to appreciate railway history, but are also prepared to carry on the legacy of the railway tradition into the technically increasingly demanding future.
VÁCLAV RUBEŠ

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