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The Pendolino Celebrates 110 Years of the Railway Line to Bechyně in South Bohemia

Ten years has already passed since the 100th anniversary celebration of František Křižík’s “Bechyňka” electric railway. This is why on Saturday, 22 June, crowds of people between Tábor and Bechyně attended a rich programme accompanying the 110th anniversary of the start of operations on the first electrified railway in Austria-Hungary.

The main attraction was a ride aboard a Pendolino. For the first time, a class 680 unit with passengers on board had a look at South Bohemia.

Pendolino na jihu Čech oslavilo 110 let dráhy do BechyněYou will not find the InterCity “František Křižík” connection in the book timetable. But despite this, curious onlookers welcomed it with great excitement in South Bohemia on the fourth Saturday in June. This was a special train which ČD dispatched on the occasion of the 110th anniversary of the Tábor – Bechyně line, which occupies a privileged position in our country’s railway history, as it was here that electric power was used for the first time thanks to distinguished Czech inventor and entrepreneur František Křižík.

The Pendolino’s premier journey

On its journey from Prague to České Budějovice, the Pendolino tried out standard speeds on the original line as well as its full speed of 160 km/h on the already-completed segment of the corridor from Tábor to Doubí. Practically all of the seats in 2nd carriage class were occupied already at departure, which demonstrated the great public interest in this unique experience. After all, this was the first opportunity for regular passengers to ride a Pendolino on line 220. Yet on the InterCity “František Křižík” connection the regular ČD tariff applied with a required reservation. Anyone who needed to improve their mood during the journey could go to the bar. By the way, there was extraordinary interest in the bar carriage during its stay in Tábor.

It is worth mentioning that due to a failure of safety equipment in Grygov, a different Pendolino unit departed from the South Storage Yard than had been planned. Employees of DKV Prague deserve thanks for making the switch in time, so the special train was not even delayed.

The electric Elinka in in its full beauty

The main programme of the festivities took place naturally in Tábor. Among the attendees were South Bohemia Governor Jiří Zimola and Tábor Mayor Jiří Fišer. After the guests had been welcomed, a historic scene took place on the stage in front of the station building depicting a meeting between a burgrave and a viceroy when the first train arrived. And immediately thereafter began a programme reminiscent of a classical music festival. Music was played or sung by the non-traditional bagpipe bands Duha, Hlahol and Spojené zpěvy táborské, the group Swing Trio Avalon and Švejkband – this one even danced again in the late afternoon during a unique performance when the special train stopped on Bechyně’s “rainbow” bridge.

The programme also included an exhibition of locomotives, featuring a historic electric railcar in red, lovingly nicknamed Elinka, which was available for rides and not just for inspection. The “Bechyňka” railway in general was enlivened with electric vehicles. The noon and afternoon train was pulled by an original Elinka railcar designated M 400.001 by the National Technical Museum with two four-axle carriages. There were also many Bobinka units (E 422.001) with Btee289 carriages. Fans of electric traction were also pleased by the one-day return of the Žehlička (also number 001).

A nostalgic look back

“The railway line from Tábor to Bechyně is very nostalgic for me,” Tabor Mayor Jiří Fišer told us during the festivities, calling himself a fan of the railway. “When I hear ‘Bechyňka’, I recall scenes from old Czech films, Vlasta Burian in Station Master, but also snippets from certain plays by the Divadlo Járy Cimrmana theatrical ensemble,” added the mayor, who takes the train often, for example at weekends during his cycling excursions. He also praised ČD for the fact that regional connections today are mostly at a good level of quality and are comparable with Austria, where state support for the railway is a few crowns – or rather euros – higher, after all. Regular service on the 24-kilometre line between Tábor and Bechyně was launched on 21 June 1903. Gradually, four electric railcars of then class 40 were added. One of them, after repairs, has been preserved to the present day in the ownership of the National Technical Museum under the designation M 400.001. Later, a fifth railcar was added, and in the 1950s certain older electric locomotives which had originally operated in Prague and central Bohemia were deployed here. Until the reconstruction of the electric line in 1938, the railway had two lead wires powered at 2 x 700 volts direct current. Like the electricity for the city of Tábor, the railway’s electricity was supplied by a steam plant on the banks of the river Lužnice in Tábor.

Martin Navrátil

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