The Old Buses of 20th Century Warsaw
Warsaw keeps on changing, and so do its buses. For the past 95 years, they kept the capital’s dwellers company on their everyday commute. Most of the vehicles that once travelled across the streets of Warsaw have perished, and remain only to be seen on yellowed photographs, but Włodzimierz Winek’s book invites readers for a ride back in time.
The 1920s – A Trial Period
After a break of a few years, on 29th June, 1928, buses returned to the streets. The Warszawianka journal announced this "as a trial, with the purpose of lightening the tramway traffic on lines travelling trough Marszałkowska and Nowy Świat-Krakowskie Przedmieście streets towards the Teatralny square, a new bus line has been put into operation, from Teatralny square to Zbawiciela square, which will be for the moment served by eight buses, each capable of carrying 60 passengers. The course from the Teatralny to the Zbawiciela squares is divided into three sections and it takes 14 minutes, with a charge of 10 grosze for each section travelled.”
["Warszawianka", 1st July, 1928]
The 1930s – Still Not Enough Buses
"In 1931, more than 17 million passengers were transported by buses. Presently, six bus lines are operating, with a total length of their courses amounting to 23 kilometres. The biggest number of active buses is now 33 vehicles. Yet in spite of the significant expansion of the tramway network and the creation of the bus communication system in recent years, the transportation needs of the dwellers of Warsaw are by no means satisfied. The capital’s people, both in the city and in the suburbs, can painfully sense the insufficiency of the currently existing means of transport. The development of bus traffic must be sped up, which is announced by reliable factors and competent spheres as an urgent matter."
The 1940s – Nur für Deutsche
"The bus lines in Warsaw are only for Germans. Non-Germans are forbidden to enter them under strict punishment. The execution and governing of this command is a responsibility of the workers of the Urban Communication Institute in Warsaw (Städtische Verkehrsbetriebe Warschau)."
[From an information poster of the S.V.W. board for city bus drivers]
The 1940s – Faulty Urban Transport
"At present, cars travel across three lines: Bielany–Praga, Żoliborz–Śródmieście, Praga– Śródmieście. Soon, new lines will also be put into operation. All of it nonetheless depends on the further distribution of vehicles and the heightening of gasoline distribution limits. The petrol delivered to the MZK as part of the distributive process is often polluted, which of course causes unexpected defects of the engines during their running, as was the case last week.”
["Życie Warszawy", 9th of February, 1946]
The 1950s: Mavags on Their Way to the Capital
"In Cieszyn, a special technical team of the MZK has taken over a second consecutive series of seven Mavag buses bought in Hungary to strengthen the capital’s MZK stock. The vehicles are already on their way to Warsaw."
["Życie Warszawy", 19th of January, 1950]
"MZK already have 14 Mavag buses from Hungary, which will back up particular lines. Today, on Saturday 21st January, 1950, the Mavags will begin their service on bus lines nr. 100, 107 and 123.”
["Życie Warszawy", 21st of January, 1950]
The 1960s – Preparing for the Weekend Season
"A plan for so-called green line connections which operate on holidays and during the weekends is under preparation. They will start with the warm weather. The old lines will be maintained, such as those to Chojnów, Magdalenka and Struga. A new connection will be added, one going to Białobrzegi (it will be the third one in the direction of the Zegrzyński Lagoon). More than 100 buses will operate on these routes (in 1963, there were a little over 60). If there is be such a need, the Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Autobusowe [Urban Bus Entreprise] will start up new connections to attractive locations for Sunday tourism. With the coming of spring, MPA will receive proposals and requests for excursion bus rentals. This activity – and justly so, it seems – will not be pursued by the MPA. The vehicles can be rented for a few hours – between the peak hours of morning and afternoon. At peak hours, they should all be in operation on the routes”.
["Życie Warszawy", 26th of March, 1964]
The 1960s – Ticket Pre-sale at the Kiosks
"Finally, after two years of debate, the issue of selling disposable tickets for all means of urban transport in the Ruch kiosks has been settled positively.This allows for the board of the MZK to introduce buses without conductors and with automatic ticket validators. From 2nd August, 1965, validators will be mounted on buses of the 300 line, and on other additional lines. All of these vehicles will bear a plaque with the inscription "Vehicle with no conductor, ticket sale in Ruch kiosks”. Thanks to the initiation of ticket pre-sale in kiosks, we will no longer witness the paradoxical situations wherein, in spite of the numerous buses in operation, many passengers were forced to wait at bus stops for a vehicle with a conductor. This innovation should doubtlessly aid a rational and even distribution of passengers.”
["Życie Warszawy", 30th of July, 1965]
The 1970s: Berliets on Three Lines
"53 Berliets are already driving across the streets of the capital, and through to the end of December, 1973, there will be 210 of them. They serve the express A line, and, in part, also the F and M lines. Passengers have taken a liking to the Berliets, as they are quiet and better cushioned than the old buses. Thus everyone may be interested in the fact that towards late 1974, the capital will receive another stock of the Jelcz-Berliet, buses, meant for the regular lines. These buses, however, will be somewhat modified. The demands of local users were taken into account in their design. The new Berliets will thus have three doors, which will be longer and narrower.”
["Życie Warszawy", 19th of July, 1973]
Author: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, June, 2015. Quotes from Warszawskie autobusy. Najpiękniejsze fotografie by Włodzimierz Winek.
Translated by Paulina Schlosser, 13/07/2015 2015