Steam travel returns to Czech republic

A post-war steam engine sounds its whistle as it prepares to set off from Prague's Smichov Station. The sights, sounds and smells of steam travel are for most people in the Czech Republic a thing of the past, however, they may well become more familiar over the next few months thanks to an initiative by a local company. More from Peter Smith.

The company, Vytopna Zlichov, has bought and lovingly restored several steam engines, and has obtained the license to operate trips for pleasure all over the country. Judging by the hundreds of passengers - young and old - cramming into the historic old wagons, there are certainly a lot of steam enthusiasts in the CR. Jan Kulhanek is the Director of Vytopna Zlichov..

"We are an association that has several steam engines. We are working together on this old Plzen engine, as well as others. We are really pleased than in winter - when people are normally a bit miserable - they can come down and have a ride on an historic steam train."

In fact the trip around Prague last weekend was so popular that there was a serious threat of the train being overloaded. Jan Kuhanek was philosophical about the problem:

"Of course we're pleased that people are interested in steam engines and historic steam trains. Unfortunately we don't have any more wagons and there's nothing that we can do about it."

Not that the numbers of - or indeed the wintry weather - did much to dampen the enthusiasm of the passengers. For one, the scene was very poignant. She spent 20 years working at Smichov Station in the grand old days of steam travel...