Prague marks 135th anniversary of construction of Vinohrady railway tunnel

The 1860s and 1870s saw a boom of railway construction in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the city of Prague was no exception. 135 years ago this week, the first train went through a newly built railway tunnel which actually runs right underneath the Czech Radio building here in the Prague district of Vinohrady. On the day of the anniversary, a historic train complete with a steam engine went in the same route to mark the occasion.

Karel Schwarzenberg, photo: CTKKarel Schwarzenberg, photo: CTK A chamber music ensemble on the platform of Prague's Main Railway Station welcomed the passengers, just a few hundred metres away from the gaping mouth of the tunnel. Among the guests was a descendant of one of the original developers, Senator Karel Schwarzenberg, who paid tribute to his great-great uncle, Prince Schwarzenberg.

On September 19th, 1871, the Vinohrady tunnel, over a kilometre long, connected Prague with the world. Its history is closely connected to the Vinohrady district and Prague 2 municipality where it is situated. Michal Basch is the mayor of Prague 2.

Photo: Pavla HorakovaPhoto: Pavla Horakova "Well, originally it connected the Main Railway Station in direction to the south and west, that means all the railway connections to Western Europe, to Austria and so on had to pass through this tunnel. The significance for Prague 2 is that it connected one side of Prague 2 with the other side of the so-called 'Royal Vineyard' quarter. Also, the material which was dug in the tunnel was transported by count Groebe to the land which he bought where he formed the terrain and built his residence on top of that. He even renewed the vineyard which were there. That's Havlickovy sady Park also known as Grebovka. Even through this, the tunnel kind of connects us with our past."

Photo: Pavla HorakovaPhoto: Pavla Horakova In 1888, a small station was opened just outside the south end of the tunnel but, like many other small railway stations in the city, it had to make way for new development. Mayor Michal Basch.

"The original station Kralovske Vinohrady which in translation means 'royal vineyard' was at the other end of the tunnel. It was a station where only the local trains stopped, not express trains and so on. But then it had to be torn down because it was in the direction of the second tunnel which was built. There are three now. But the second went just through that building. So it was torn down, another building was erected again in place of that Royal Vineyard station. The building stand there but the trains don't stop there for about 20 years now."

A third tunnel, parallel with the first two, was finished just 17 years ago even though digging started during the Nazi occupation. The nearby Main Railway Station is now about to undergo thorough reconstruction which should turn it into a public transport facility for the 21st century.