One of Bratislava’s most interesting museums, at least for the technically-inclined, is the Museum of Transport, adjacent to the city’s main railway station.
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As well as trains, it contains a large collection of cars – especially Czechoslovak motoring icons – and transport memorabilia, as James Thomson found out.
Aside from its contents, the building which houses the Museum of Transport is significant in its own right: it is part of what was once the city’s first steam railway station. The first train arrived here in 1848 (the grander bit of the original 1850 station is now the Railway Police headquarters next door). The rails and platforms remain, so naturally the exhibits include a selection of locomotives, among them a magnificent 155-ton 1947 Škoda steam engine.
Not quite as big, though equally monstrous, is the Soviet-built ZIL 115 limousine, a favourite of the pre-1989 communist elite, among the extensive car collection indoors. The ZIL is in fact a foreign exception: most of the vehicles in the collection are of Czechoslovak origin, and most of these were actually made in what is now Slovakia.
Highlights are a battered but still imposing 1937 Praga Golden, a rare Tatra 613K cabriolet, a Škoda 130 RS rally car and a 1932 Škoda Sentinel steam-powered truck, with chain-driven rear wheels. Don’t miss Hall B, where the more modern vehicles are parked: getting to it involves walking via the railway platform into a second building.
Other parts of the museum include an exhibition of unusual motorbikes; a map from the early 1940s of the truncated wartime railway network, showing the southern part of present-day Slovakia – at the time annexed by Hungary – beyond the country’s borders; and an old railways signalman’s office which has been re-created from salvaged equipment and furniture.
One of the museum’s railway carriages, containing a large and elaborate model railway system maintained by local enthusiasts, is often open to visitors at weekends. The model’s operators can also provide information about the regular meetings of steam trains which take place around Slovakia (like this recent event in Zvolen, central Slovakia).
If you enjoy this museum, there are several others like it around the country, part of a network managed by the Slovak Technical Museum.