Buštěhrad Railway

Buštěhrad, no matter how small a town, is also famous owing to the Buschtěhrad Railway, which is well-known to railway enthusiasts all-over the world. Buschtěhrad Railway (from German: Buschtěhrader Eisenbahn BE) was a private railway company on Czech territory operating a railway network connecting Prague and The Ore Mountain Mining Region, where there also are several connections to the German railway network. A remarkably interesting fact is that the name of this railway had been derived from a town which it had never passed through. Thus, you would search here for a railway station or rails even absolutely in wain. The closest railway station is Buštěhrad - Vrapice (today Kladno – Vrapice) 3 km or 45 minutes’ walk from Buštěhrad.

The beginning of Buštěhrad Railway reaches as far as the middle of 19th century when coal mining was increasing. Therefore, as early as 1847, Duke of Fürstenberg, the owner of the nearby Křivoklát forests and a horse powered railroad operator, asked the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. for the privilege to prolong his horsecar railway to the coal mines in Buštěhrad manor territory. However, horse powered railways soon proved to be inefficient in comparison to steam powered locomotives and as a result Buschtěhrad Railway Company (in German: Buschtěhrader Eisenbahngesellschaft BE) was established, acquiring the privilege to operate the steam locomotive railway in 1855. Name of the company had probably been derived from Buštěhrad because it was then part of the emperor’s manor estates, i.e., owned by the Emperor himself.

The indicial purpose of building the railway hence was, not only to speed up and cheapen the transportation of coal to a transit shed in Kralupy on Vltava river, wherefrom coal moved onwards by water, but also to modernize the old horse powered railway between Lany and Prague from 1830s – important for transporting wood – into a steam powered one. The tracks were built by Klein brothers and the stations and buildings alongside it by industrial magnate Vojtěch Lanna. Originally it led from Kladno – Výhybka through Dubí, Brandýsek and Zákolany (with connection tracks to individual coal pits) to Kralupy. Regular traffic started to operate on 23. 2. 1856. Later the railway tracks connected Prague and Kladno and on the bases of the demand of sugar, hops, and beer producers in Žatec (Saaz) and Louny regions, as well as the brown coal mining development in the Ore Mountains’ lignite soft coal fields, Buštěhrad Railway (BD) had gradually begun to spread their network all over those regions. A track that was supposed to haul coal from new mines just within Buštěhrad region had thus, in a rather short time, evolved into one of the largest private railway companies of The Austro-Hungarian Empire reaching its record length of 465 km of railway lines by 1891.

Together with cargo haulage, passenger trains also started gaining their importance. The trains run from Prague through Kladno industrial region to Lužná, Žatec and Chomutov (with extension to Saxony) and then alongside river Ohře (Eger) under the Ore Mountains through Kadaň to spa region of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), thanks to which the rails of BD were used by the famed Orient Express, and then on to Františkovy Lázně and Cheb (Eger).

Before WWI it was considered that BD would be put under state control. In 1918, after the war, BD tracks were suddenly (found to be) stretched on the territory of a newly created country, The Czechoslovak Republic, which preferred the nationalization of railway lines. Financial difficulties after the war were the main reason why BD requested to become nationalized. In 1923 BD were, like many other private railway tracks, sold to the state and became part of ČSD.

By the end of 1922 BD operated 254 locomotives, 226 tenders (coal-cars), 330 passenger and 8366 freight trucks and 25 snow ploughs. Locomotives and wagons, cargo or luxurious passenger or express ones, were produced especially for BD by most renowned European manufacturers. Today, still marked BD/BEB/BE, they are adored and preciously kept in museums. Three locomotives of Buštěhrad Railway survived in the collections of The National Technical Museum in Prague. Steam locomotive KLADNO manufactured by the engineering works of Vienna-Raab railway in 1855 was used mainly for transportation of coal on the basic railway of the company from Kladno to Kralupy nad Vltavou since the very beginning of the traffic in 1856. Three similar half-tender locomotives have only been preserved all round the world, KLADNO being the oldest one of them. Two other locomotives are to be seen in Lužná u Rakovníka Railway Museum. Wagons and locomotives with BEB/BE or later BD mark ran the Czech rails long after the World War II.