The article below was published in Pinnable’s newsletter in .


The National Technical Museum

Today, Czechia lies in Central Europe, but when I was young, it lay in Eastern Europe, safely tucked away behind the Iron Curtain. In Holland, we watched Pat & Mat (‘A je to!’) on television & saw the occasional Škoda driving by, but otherwise we were clueless as to what the Czechs were up to, tech-wise. That is why the National Technical Museum in Prague is so interesting: most of what you see here, you won’t find in the West. Almost all of the vehicles & aircraft in the Transportation Hall were new to us, and of their manufacturers, such as Aero, Avia, Jawa, Tatra, Praga, Zbrojovka and Zlín, most of us had never heard before. And there is more to be seen than just wheels & wings: the other exhibitions are about astronomical instruments, clocks, mining, metallurgy, chemistry, the sugar industry, printing, photography, television, architecture, and household appliances. Children will appreciate the playroom with Merkur toys, construction sets similar to Meccano.

The Transportation Hall at the National Technical Museum
Planes, trains & automobiles in the Transportation Hall

Among the oldest cars in the museum are a Benz Viktoria (1893) & an NW Präsident (1898), the first car produced in Austria-Hungary, along with an NW Rennzweier (1900), a racing car. Other notable cars are President Masaryk’s Tatra 80 landaulet (1935), a Jawa 750 sports car (1935), which was specially built for the 1,600-km rally Tisíc mil československých, a Mercedes-Benz W154 racing car (1938), and a streamlined Tatra 87 (1947), with a rear-mounted air-cooled V8 engine, three headlights & an iconic dorsal fin. The highlight among the steam locomotives is an Austro-Hungarian Class 310, a powerful six-coupled express locomotive with a four-cylinder, superheated compound engine, built in Prague in 1911. Apart from the transportation exhibition, the household appliances will be of great interest to anyone running a household, and typographers such as myself will love the printing presses. Visiting the entire museum takes two to three days at least.

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Zbrojovka, or Československá zbrojovka (ČZ) to be precise, started out as the Czechoslovak State Arms Factory in 1918, and was best known in the 1920s for its ZB-24 rifle & ZB-26 machine gun. In 1923 ČZ became a carmaker as well, and from 1932 onward the factory also made motorcycles, and built Remington typewriters under licence. Two of its cars are on display at the National Technical Museum: the Z-4 & the Z-5 Express, both dating from 1936, the year that the company ceased production of cars to concentrate on firearms. After the war, in 1946, Zbrojovka started to build tractors under the name Zetor, today an independent company. The first model, the Z-25, and its little brother, the Z-15, can be found next door, at the National Museum of Agriculture.


The NTM also has on display, besides the Tatra 87, its predecessor, a Tatra 77A from 1937, which is an updated version of the Tatra 77, the first streamlined car ever to be mass-produced. The original T77 was outfitted with two headlights instead of three, so if you ever come across one, you know what to look for. Incidentally, these cars are a different brand than the Tatra trams in operation for the № 23 tram — the former were made by Závody Tatra and the latter by ČSD Tatra, two companies unrelated to each other.


If you like the transportation exhibition at the National Technical Museum, you might enjoy the Museum of Public Transport at the Střešovice depot as well. Its collection features dozens of trams, including several Tatra T1–3 tramcars from the 1950s & ’60s, and some buses, of which the Škoda 706 RO bus from 1948 and the Tatra T400 & Škoda 8Tr trolleybuses from 1954 & 1960 are the most interesting. The historical № 41 tram runs on days that the museum is open, i.e. on Saturdays, Sundays & public holidays. (Once a month, on a Saturday, metro operator DPP takes its 1976 Soviet-built Metrovagonmash Ečs train out for a ride; check out DPP’s website for information if you want to catch this train.)