Legendary Czechoslovak bullet train restored to its former glory

Slovenská Strela

After more than two years of intensive work, the legendary Czechoslovak bullet train, known as Slovenská Strela or Slovak Arrow, has been restored to its former glory. On Thursday, the train undertook its first ride from Přerov, where it had been renovated, to Kopřivnice, where it will go on display.  

Around two hundred fans gathered in the Moravian town of Přerov on Thursday to witness the departure of the sleek, cherry red high-speed train from the local train station to Kopřivnice, in north-east Bohemia. Among the lucky passengers on board of the renovated Slovak Arrow was conductor Marek Říha, dressed in a historical uniform:

Slovenská Strela | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

“I must say that the construction engineers did a really great job. The journey was very smooth because the coach has a very good suspension system.

“You can feel that the carriage sways gently when passengers get in or walk around inside. Surprisingly, the engine is not too loud in the passenger cabin when the connecting door is closed.”

The legendary Slovak Arrow first started operating on the Prague –to-Bratislava route on 13 July 1936, ensuring the fastest connection between the two cities - just under four and a half hours.

The man behind the train’s ground-breaking electromechanical transmission, inspired by automobile technology, was a Czech inventor named Josef Sousedík, known in his day as the “Moravian Edison”.

Mr Sousedík developed a hybrid train engine; while its ignition drew on an electric motor, which was also utilised on hills and around bends, the powerful combustion engines propelled the train on open stretches of railway line.

Slovenská Strela | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

The stunning exterior and interior of the carriage were conceived by Prague-born modernist architect Vladimír Grégr who is also known for his work on the famous Barrandov Terraces in Prague.

The restoration of the Slovak Arrow, which cost over one hundred million crowns, was completed with a new coat of paint provided by its original maker Tatra.

Special attention was also paid to historical details. The original dining car equipment, for instance, was provided by collector Petr Štěpánek:

“Everything apart from the beer glasses is original. There are napkins and plates and silverware of course. There is also a cream pot and a pot for coffee or tea.”

Slovenská Strela | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

Upon its arrival in Kopřivnice, the beautifully restored Slovak Arrow was put on display in a newly built glass pavilion, which is part of the Tatra Technical Museum, explains the restoration coordinator Jiří Střecha:

“The pavilion was designed with glass walls so that passers-by can admire the train in all its glory. There is also a balcony to see it from the top.

“There will be three display cases mapping the history of the train and showcasing some related artefacts. But of course the main exhibit is the bullet train itself!”

The exposition dedicated to the Slovak Arrow is scheduled to open to the public in the autumn. In the future, the museum also plans to organize regular rides.