Last April the wife and I did our regular Euro trip from Oz. And as is our wont, we don’t actually plan or have an itinerary; we just wing it, letting the fabulous Euro rail system whisk us around.
We were working our way from Holland with a loose plan to eventually get to Berlin, so the route went to Cologne (we love the cathedrals), then the Bavarian mountains, stopping wherever we could get good Airbnb accommodation. Next loose plan was a couple of days in Vienna, but were not able to get a place in our budget range. Next good one we could find was in Bratislava, Slovakia, just another hour or so on from Vienna.
Well Bratislava turned out to be fantastic.
Some have dubbed it “Partyslava” but that is not our scene. Bratislava Castle, perched on a hill next to the Danube, along with the Old City is very picturesque. After a couple of days exploring the sights the wife had organized through the language barrier to have her hair done locally, and as all you guys would know that can be a fairly long process. So I had a few hours to myself. I had previously worked out that there was a transport museum in town. It is tucked away in some old railway workshop buildings adjacent to the current Bratislava Hlavna Stanica railway station, a short bus ride away from our accommodation.
Well, what a wonderful little find, only cost a few Euros entry, a very quaint little place brimming mostly with Czech & Iron Curtain era cars & motor cycles.
We had previously visited the famous Louwman museum in the Netherlands, which was magnificent but still managed to leave me a little cold as the exhibits were all a little bit too perfect, if you get my drift. This little museum I enjoyed more as it is obviously run on a shoestring by enthusiasts.
There are quite a few models of the Tatra T12 there, very interesting mechanically. Here you can see the cylinder head of the flat twin cylinder engine. Not so obvious is the backbone tube chassis and swing axle rear suspension.
Tatra T57 Sport. Similar design to the T12 but this time with a 4cyl flat four.
Now how do you suppose this Buick model 31 (1913) got here? Appeared to be in original unrestored condition.
This one is the Tatra T603 MB, basically a people mover body on a T603 Floorpan but with the air-cooled V-8 driving the front wheels. As far as I can work out they were not put in to volume production, and this is the only remaining one of its type.
Another prototype, the Skoda 743 Locusta BAZ. In the early 80’s this vehicle was developed from the rear engine Skoda 743, i.e. Rapid, but redesigned for a front engine transverse powertrain from the Zastava 101, which itself was based on the Fiat 128. The plans were for it to be built in Bratislava which never eventuated. This is the sole remaining example.
Another highlight is the wall posters all over, showing quite a few experimental & prototype Skodas & Tatras.
This is a real T603; it appeared to be in original “well used” condition.
Skodas, Octavia & Estelle. Unfortunately all of the vehicles’ signage is in Czech.
First gen GAZ Volga, from around 1956.
Praga was a brand I had not heard of previously. Further research reveals it was a huge company, producing cars, trucks, motorcycles, aeroplanes, military equipment etc. The Praga Golden was a luxury vehicle only produced between 1934 & 1935, so there cannot be many left.
The Praga Piccolo was made during the early 30’s.
Not sure how these got here; I did not think the US Army got this far east? Perhaps some of the war historians among you can shed some light on it. The poster behind appears to show US Army personnel.
And outside is the largest Skoda of them all.
Bratislava train station back in ’95, I noticed a sleeper pulling in from Moscow. On the side of the all the cars was a pressed metal plaque with crossed hammer and slide caliper, like this, only painted over with the same green color as the rest of the cars:
Thank you for a nice contribution, not long ago I planned to visit Bratislava. My friends study there and since they visited me in my place of study (Brno, CZ), now it’s time to return the favor. And coincidentally we’ve been to the Technical Museum in Brno, being located near my university (but far from the city center, though). I can definitely recommend it, there is a rich showcase of not only old cars and motorcycles, but also old heavy machinery, historic computers and examples of how small businesses looked like in mid-war Czechoslovakia. Maybe I could visit it for the third time and write something about it. But first, let’s cross out this one in our capital city.
Cool A friend has been to the Chech republic and some car museums there so Ive seen photos of some of these unheard of brands there was quite an extensive vehicle industry around that area nobody seems to have really noticed Skoda goes back into the late 1800s with some of its early stuff.
Very interesting. I don’t know Czech (or should it be Slovak?) but the poster of 2 door Skoda’s and Tatra’s suggests that Henry Ford wasn’t the only one to call 2 doors “Tudors”.
But I’ll bet Henry Ford was the only one to call his 4 doors “Fordors”.
US troops did advance into Czechoslovakia in 1945. The Russians were heading in from the east and the Americans into the Western part of Czechoslovakia. The Americans later in 1945 withdrew from Czechoslovakia. It became Communist in around 1947, so Czechoslovakia lost the democracy they had soon after the war. So the Jeep might be from when the Americans were in the western part of country or maybe it came later. Looks like a neat little museum! :)!
Yes – US troops liberated Plzen (Pilsen in German or English – like the beer we know) and the event is still celebrated in the city.
I have seen older Praga city delivery trucks making rounds in Prague.
Sweet little museum. Love that T603MB. Seen pictures of it, but never the real thing.
Well, as should always be a never-ending part of life, I have been (slightly) relieved of my extensive ignorance. I had no idea Skoda had made trains, or armaments, for that matter. I sure didn’t know that they’re currently of the big players in electric trains/trams manufacture in Europe. I didn’t know the Skoda industrial conglomerate has for a long time been a separate entity to the VW-owned car brand. All this, and so much less, did I know.
I shall now enter a very pleasant CC Rabbit Hole, this one labelled Slovak Industrial History. To misquote slightly Scott of the Antarctic, “I am going inside, and I may be some time.” (His was “outside” and he never returned, but you get the general idea).
That Skoda Locusta is really sweet, with the unlikely combination of an Alfasud Sprint body and late-’70’s Celica nose. Pity they kept on with the rather grim Estelle instead.
There was one bit of info I DID know, because I was paying attention in Dr Tatra87’s classes – for it was in one such where I learnt of the Praga, on these very pages. A very dim lightbulb in the dark of my ignorance, but I’m trying to salvage some dignity here.
Great post, Mr R Dog, and thankyou for my continuing further education.
Taking control of the Skoda tank and armaments factories was one of the motives for the Nazi annexation of western Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland to the Germans) in 1938 – as acquiescedto by Britain and France at Munich.
Thanks for the kind words Mr Baum
Viewed from the train on the way in to Bratislava i could not believe the numbers of new vehicles being transported out,VAG & the smaller Landrover vehicles,Kia & PSA
Further research revealed that Slovakia,in particular the immediate Bratislava region has for some years help the record for number of vehicles built per capita,
For 2019 they built 1.1 million vehicles for a population of only 5.5million!!.
Take care down that Rabbit Hole
Per Wikipedia, Doosan (Korean conglomerate), owner of a part of Skoda, owns the skid-steer loader company we know as Bobcat!
Visited last summer. Very nice museum. Unless you set out to intentionally find it you probably won’t. It is hidden away pretty good 🙂 I enjoyed the autos and my son enjoyed the trains. I too wondered how those Dodge trucks got there. Thank you to the previous person for clarifying.
When Hans Ledwinka was at Tatra, Tatra let employees of the automotive division borrow company cars for the weekend. One day some employees of the railroad car division approached him and said that they should get the same perk. Ledwinka said, “Gentlemen, I have no objection. Take a coach and go anywhere you like.”
Looks like a great little museum with some extremely interesting cars, that T603MB is indeed very cool!
As an aside I was walking through the local Porsche dealer’s lot a couple of weeks ago and was looking at the sticker on a new Porsche Cayenne – right at the top across the page from the Porsche logotype was the legend “Built In Bratislava” (!) as if it was the new company slogan or something. While the bodies have always been made there it now seems that final assembly occurs there as well which is interesting. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it almost seems like they are actually trying to turn it into a selling point. I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to use the pic of that so soon!
For future travelers who don’t already know: If you have Wifi available and the google translate app, you can take a photo of the signs, select the input and output languages, highlight the key text and get some sense of what that placards are saying…
Terrific unexpected pleasure of the day!
That T603MB is a real find, and the FWD Skoda is an interesting turn up too.
I hope your wide didn’t think you’d been too long! But academic rigour cannot be rushed.