The era of horse-drawn trams (1869-1881)
Local public transport appeared for the first time in Brno on 17th August 1869 with the operation of the first horse-drawn tramway in the land, the third in the Austro-Hungarian Empire after those in Vienna and Budapest. “Brünner Tramway Gesellschaft für Personen und Frachtenverkehr” (Brno Transport Company for Passenger and Freight Transport) was in charge of running the line. Six carriages ran on the first line from Kiosk (Moravské náměstí) to Kartouz (Královo Pole, Semilasso) every fifteen minutes. There were 57 carriages in operation by 1870, running on four lines for passenger transport and one freight siding. There were also three depots as part of the network, in Pisárky, Královo Pole (before what is now Semilasso) and Raduitova (Marešova) Street. Horse-drawn trams ran in Brno, with a break in 1875 and 1876, until 1881, when the service stopped as a result of its unprofitability.
Steam-powered transport (1884-1899)
The “Brünner Damf - Tramway” Company, Brno Steam Tramway, was established in 1884 and launched the operation of a steam-powered tramline between Pisárky and Královo Pole on 24th May 1884. This was joined that same year by another line between Václavská and Ústřední hřbitov. Fifteen locomotives and 31 tow vehicles were gradually put into operation. A new company was founded in 1886, this time under the name of “Brünner Local Eisenbahn Gesellschaft” (Brno Local Railway Company). Steam-powered transport remained even after the electrification of passenger transport, although the number of steam locomotives fell to four. These were used in freight siding transport, but could be employed in passenger transport if the electricity supply was cut off or to help cope with increased traffic demands on Sundays and public holidays. The last of the steam locomotives, Caroline (now an exhibit at the Technical Museum in Brno), drew rail freight wagons through the streets of the city until February 1926, when it was transferred to the Zbrojovka siding, connected directly to the Czechoslovak rail network. This ended the first stage of steam operation on the tracks of street transport in Brno. The second stage came during the 1940s after the local Brno - Líšeň track became part of the Brno Electric Tramways Company.
Electric transport (from 1900)
The Austrian company “Österreichische Union Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft” began the construction and operation of an electric tramway in Brno in the year 1900. It was also in that year that a company was founded with the participation of the City of Brno – “Gesellschaft der Brünner elektrischen Strassenbahnen” (Brno Electric Tramways Company). This company, in fact, is the direct predecessor of the present transport authority. Operation began on 21st June 1900 on the adapted tracks of the steam-powered tramway. Other tracks were laid, meaning that there were five lines in operation by the end of 1903, distinguished by different colours. There were 41 motorised vehicles and 12 carriages, made in Graz, and 29 carriages that were gradually modified from the times of horse-drawn and steam-powered trams. The first domestically made vehicles were 7 motor vehicles from Lederer – Porges in Brno (later the Královo Pole Engineering Company) that were delivered in 1903 and 1904. The old depot in Pisárky was reconstructed for electric transport and a new one built in Královo Pole (now used as the substation building). Only minor adjustments and changes were made to the tram network before the First World War.
The War-time years made their mark on the deterioration of the technical condition of tracks and vehicles alike. For this reason, the new administrative bodies in Brno were forced to begin modernising tracks and vehicles after the end of the War, work coming to an end in 1920. The Twenties and Thirties saw the rapid development of electric rail lines and the changes and expansion of tram lines associated with this. Tracks were gradually extended into the suburbs that were connected to Brno. The extension of the lines was accompanied by deliveries of new railcars, for which a new depot was built in Husovice in 1926. Of course, demands on the traction power supply rose together with the development of transport. To begin with, trolley lines were powered from the rectifier station of the city power plant in Radlas. Two new substations with fully-automated operation were built in the years that followed - Tábor (1926) and Křížová (1928).
The Brno Tramways Company decided to introduce bus transport to accompany the existing tram transport in 1930. And so it was that 11 bus line were in operation by the end of 1938. The fleet of buses, incidentally, was housed in modern garages in Grmelova Street. Naturally, the Second World War had a negative effect on the whole system of local public transport. Many vehicles and much equipment were/was destroyed or damaged in the bombardment of Brno and the arrival of the front. It took several months to restore tram operation, not just because of the time taken to repair damaged tram tracks, but because the overhead trolley lines also had to be restored, 60 % of them having been destroyed. Electric operation was restored in full on ten lines of a total length of 74.6 km by the end of 1945. Bus transport had to be built again from the very foundations after the War given that most of the buses capable of running had been confiscated by the retreating Nazi army.
Ship transport was launched on 5th May 1946. The use of the valley reservoir on the River Svratka for recreational ship transport and boating was first mooted in the 1930s, when the reservoir was completed. These plans, however, had to be put on hold until the War had come to an end.
Two German-built ships that had been delivered during the War were used. The fact that the ships were powered by an electric traction engine supplied by ship storage batteries emphasised the function of the reservoir as a source of drinking water and was an environmentally-friendly measure in an area of recreation. The 1950s saw the greatest development of the fleet of ships, when the ships that sailed were predominantly made by our own shipyard and work reliably to this day.
Operation began on the newly-built trolley bus lines in July 1949, although Brno had tried to introduce this form of transport during the First Republic. Three lines were put into operation by the end of the year. The extension of one of these lines in 1954 meant that trolley bus transport was now part of the transport system in the Brno region rather than just the city.
The original company which ran local public transport was replaced by a communal enterprise at the end of the 1940s. It was then provided with the name it has to this day - Dopravní podnik města Brna (Brno Public Transport Authority) – in 1951. There was no major expansion of the rail transport that had been built in the years after the War during the 1950s and 1960s. What did happen, however, was that the fleet of vehicles, tracks and technical facilities were all modernised. Fundamental modernisation of the fleet of trams began with the introduction of four-axled T trams from ČKD Prague that were derived, under licence, from American PCC streetcars. Articulated K carriages were then added to the fleet in 1967. The enterprise ran 17 regular lines over a total length of 157.7 km by 1968. However, the use of more powerful traction engines meant that the demands on the traction power supply system rose dramatically. Ten stable substations of a power of 30 MW were therefore put in place by 1970. The second half of the 1960s saw bus transport taking preference over the gradually stagnating trolley bus system. Bus transport, it appeared, was a simple solution to providing the new housing estates with transport services. Nonetheless, the fuel crisis of the 1970s meant that attention returned to electric traction. The city of Brno, as one of the few cities in the Czech Republic, had not followed the trend of tearing down lines, meaning that the renaissance of trolley bus transport was possible.
New routes, mainly bus routes, that always led to the centre of the city, were gradually introduced after 1970 as a result of the application of the non-transfer tariff in public transport. Several new tramlines were also built to meet the needs of the new satellite housing estates. These high-capacity sections were connected to the existing rail system in the centre of the city.
The system began to stagnate in terms of how much it was used at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. The sharp rise in individual motor transport put public transport under immense pressure. For this reason, town leaders decided in favour of organisational changes to the system of public transport as a temporary measure until finding a definitive solution to maximising the capacity of the track system in particular. A new system was introduced in 1995, the change in the organisation of local public transport clearly brought about by the need to make its operation more effective. Emphasis was placed on the following issues in preparing and actually implementing the plans:
the maximum use of tram and trolley bus traction and restriction of parallel bus lines;
the environmental situation in the city centre and other important places;
the simplification of the tram network and reducing the time between services.