Today we are taking a trip through history and looking at trams on Wenceslas Square. Why a trip through history? Because these days, you only see two trams at the square, and they act as a café, mainly for the tourists.
The two historic Křižík trams serving as a cafe have been located roughly in the middle of the square since 2003—a reminder of past times—a time when numerous trams rolled through the square for 100 years!
Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) is one of the oldest square in Prague. It was founded by Charles IV in 1348. Long before the demonstrations and parades, during the Middle Ages the square was known as Koňský trh (horse market) due to periodic accommodation of horse markets. In the Middle Ages it was also the location of public executions.
The square was renamed in 1848 to Václavské namesti (Wenceslas square) as a tribute to Wenceslas I, patron Saint of Bohemia. It is is known as one of the main city squares in Prague.
The rectangular square is lined on both sides by art nouveau style buildings which house various department stores, hotels, cafés, restaurants, and modern shops. Its streets have carried thousands of people through parades, celebrations, protests, political demonstrations, and through the routines of everyday life. The French have given Wenceslas Square the nickname “Champs Elysees of Prague” because of its dimensions of 750 meters long by 60 meters wide, the famous square resembles an avenue more than a traditional square. The buildings in Wenceslas square have a variety of architectural styles that display different eras of architecture throughout Czech history.
You can read more about that in our other post:
Today, we’re going to look at 75+ images that will take us on a nostalgic trip through the history of trams on Wenceslas Square, and you can see how the square has changed through the decades.
Even before the introduction of the horse-drawn tram on Wenceslas Square, the horse ran across the length of the square along Příkopy (from 1875) and Vodičková and Jindřišská streets (from June 1883).
The first tram entered Wenceslas Square on May 20, 1884.
The tram line along the length of St. Wenceslas Square appeared on May 20, 1884.
At that time, it was a horse operated by the General Directorate of the Prague Tramway.
The line was connected below Můstek to the line between náměstí Republiky and Jungmannov náměstí. In the middle, it intersected with another line between today’s Jindřišská and Vodičková streets, but it was not connected to it.
The Můstek – Museum section was electrified from May 14, 1900.
The tracks of the track were placed in the center lane of the square and a large avenue stood between them. The axial distance between the tracks was then almost 9 meters.
Nevertheless, the increasing level of traffic eventually led to the gradual removal of the alley and the moving of the tracks to the edges of the sidewalks.
The axial distance thus increased to 19 m, which was a record in the entire network of Prague trams.
In the mid-90s of the 18th century, plans were also submitted to connect the line with the crossing line between Jindřišská and Vodičková, but it was never implemented.
In 1900, the entire line was electrified in connection with the liquidation of the horse -drawn carriage and the gradual expansion of the network of the Electric Companies.
At the same time, the tracks moved a little closer to the center of the square (the axial distance decreased to 16 m).
In 1927, with the increase in car traffic, the track was placed in the center of the square on an elevated tram body with a width of 5 meters, with the center distance distance of 2.8 m.
The axial distance around the statue of St. Wenceslas was up to 12 meters.
The technical progress of the trams went forward gradually, the comfort for passengers increased, more lines were added in Prague, and the intervals were shortened.
The last revolutionary change occurred in 1927. At that time, the entire square was reconstructed in such a way that the tram line was moved to the middle lane on an elevated body; car traffic lanes ran along the sides of the square. Monument of St. Václav was then surrounded by one track on each side.
The axial distance was reduced to 2.8 m, around the statue it increased to 12 meters. The tram body was 5 meters wide, up to 7 meters in the area of the stops.
Due to the growing size of the city and traffic, Wenceslas Square soon became overcrowded with trams. The transport company tried to solve the situation by rebuilding the intersection at Můstek so that a third track was created from the direction of Republic Square. However, the situation did not improve.
There were numerous problems during the construction of the subway in the 1970s.
Gradually, individual parts of the square were closed and trams were led over temporary wooden double-track bridges over the construction site.
This is what happened first at the Museum (1969 – 1973) (for example, the tracks around St. Wenceslas even alternated depending on how the construction progressed; sometimes both led to the left of the monument, sometimes to the right, and sometimes one on each side), later (1976 – 1978) and in Můstek.
After the reconstruction of the square and the commissioning of the first part of the metro line A, the tram service was restored to its original state before the reconstruction. However, according to the new concept, a tram line in the very heart of the city was no longer considered, and it was expected to be fully represented by an underground railway.
On December 13, 1980, operations on it were terminated; however, the track itself still remained here. Until its abolition in 1980, the tram line on Wenceslas Square was the main hub of all tram transport in Prague, relatively the largest number of lines connecting the entire city always led here. After the cancellation of the line, the center of tram traffic moved to Karlovo náměstí.
As of March 2021, it has been announced that the trams on Wenceslas Square will once again begin to travel through the square beginning in 2023.
The new track—which will run down the sides—was given the green light by the city of Prague.
The Prague council approved a change in the zoning plan for the construction of a new tram line leading through Wenceslas Square around the Museum to Vinohradská třída. The new route will be built primarily because of the insufficient capacity of some tram lines in the city center. Widening of sidewalks, planting of new rows of trees, reduction of the number of parking spaces, a separate lane for cyclists and, above all, the return of trams.
Interestingly, the architects rendition looks much like the way it looked back in 1885.
In the framework of the renovation for the trams on Wenceslas Square, the sidewalk in the square will be expanded by 25% to 17 meters at the expense of 70 parking spaces, which will leave only 20 parking spaces at the square. The renovation plan also includes water sprinklers and recharging stations for electric vehicles.
Furthermore, by the Koruna palace, an additional row of trees will be planted. The aim is to completely redesign the area to meet urban-design and architecture requirements, including relocation of underground water, gas and electricity lines. Only delivery vehicles or vehicles with special permission will be allowed through and the space through which any car will be able to go will be narrowed.
Due to the size and the complexity of the space, construction work is planned in two stages.
A proposal to renovate the square by Jakub Cigler Architekti won a competition organized by Prague 1 City Hall in 2005. Its roots go back even earlier. The project originated when Václav Havel was president and Jan Kasl was mayor, from 1998 to 2002. The company Hochtief CZ won the competitive tender with a bid price of approximately 326 million CZK without VAT.
I have to admit – it is a lovely design should the plans finally go through. And from what I’ve read, the project has a green light and is a go.
Keep your eyes open because very soon, the upper part of Wenceslas Square will begin to transform and the trams on Wenceslas Square will appear once again.
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