Tram driver Karolína: I became a part of Prague
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I have experience that the interest in transport begins to manifest itself in childhood. When did you fall in love with trams?

Dad is a tram driver, this year he has been driving for the Prague transport company for the thirty-eighth year. My brother and I have been leading us to do this since we were little. More precisely, to all possible technical matters surrounding transport. He was close to it, before he started driving the tram, he worked as a locksmith at the Střešovice train station. So he knows all the old trams in the local museum down to the last screw.

From the age of fourteen I drove as a conductor on steam locomotives.

He is also a modeler of plastic models, just like my husband. So transport is reflected in our whole life thanks to it. Unfortunately, Bráška tragically died in his childhood, but I believe that if he had lived, he would still be one of the tram lovers today.

Nevertheless, you went to study pharmacy instead of traffic school. So now you should be wearing a white coat instead of a streetcar uniform and mixing salves in the apothecary, right?

It’s even more complicated. (Laughs) Although I was attracted by trams and technology, I was also always humanitarian-minded and most of all I wanted to go to study at an art school. I was attracted to visual arts, advertising graphics and the like. But they didn’t accept me, so I regretfully chose chemistry. My mother decided that since my grandfather was a dental laboratory technician, I would not be far from pharmacy. But in the end I didn’t enjoy it at all and the only thing that caught my attention there was botany. So I never did it.

Photo: Petr Horník, Law

She also enjoys driving older trams because it’s harder.

Traffic, on the other hand, has always accompanied me since childhood. I also went to the transport history club and from the age of fourteen I drove as a conductor on steam locomotives on historical rides. I devoted myself to this until I joined the transport company. I visited various associations that take care of old locomotives and museums in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Not only as a guide, I helped with everything. I even took a stove course, so I can throw things into the stove! (Laughs)

In that case, it’s even more of a mystery to me why you didn’t choose traffic school instead of pharmacy.

It’s probably a bit funny, but I was also involved in modeling at the time, and at home it was somehow out of the question for a tall, slender blonde to study at a school full of boys. My mom broke it for me so I wouldn’t get lost there! So I got bored anyway, because this is usually in the character, and not the team. (Laughs)

How long have you been modeling?

It wasn’t for long. I photographed under an agency, and there was even an offer from Italy, but I was only fourteen at the time, so I preferred not to go for it. In addition, they wanted me to lose even more weight, but I was already thin enough. Soon after that I quit it completely. I enjoyed it, I learned to walk in heels, I can stand up and smile. It’s enough for me.

So you got your first job in a transport company?

Exactly. I took a course to drive trams, but at first I just worked part-time. Later I joined the permanent position.

How was the first ride?

It was great! I am the type of person who is not afraid, I like to jump into new things with my feet straight, but I have a natural respect.

I remember the beginnings fondly. My colleagues in the course sometimes made fun of me, seeing me as a model in heels and teasing me that I wouldn’t leave without lipstick – but only in a good way. They took me in right away. After all, I’ve known many of them since childhood, through my dad.

You have been driving the tram for nine years. Have you ever encountered real prejudice as a tram driver?

Yes, from car drivers. Sometimes there are some gestures and I can understand what they are thinking: “Oh yeah, blonde!” But there are fewer and fewer of them, because during those years, after all, the number of female tram drivers has increased. It’s probably also because we have more modern trams that are easier and more comfortable to drive.

During the pandemic, I made as many acquaintances among passengers as I ever had before.

But this is simplified even with cars. A lot of things in them today are controlled by a computer unit. It will no longer happen to you that your engine starts to boil, this only happens to owners of vintage cars these days. I know it well from my own experience, because I drive an old Škoda 120.

Do hostile drivers ever spoil your mood?

It happened to me in the beginning, I used to come home depressed because of it. But three years ago I got to the Střešovice rolling stock, where I drive historic and retro trams, and people react to them a little differently than to modern cars in regular traffic. They represent an event for them.

Photo: Petr Horník, Law

Karolína Hubková is the first woman to drive historic trams in Prague. Its background is the Střešovice car park.

Another change was brought about by the pandemic. At that time, our historical excursion trips were canceled due to covid, but my colleagues from Střešovice and I rode retro trams on line 2 instead. The same thing at the same time every day. On the one hand, it’s a pain in the ass, but on the other hand, I made as many acquaintances among the passengers as I ever had before.

The people were extremely nice, they brought me Christmas cookies and cakes… Some mothers with children still come to see me at the museum in the Střešovice train station. Thanks to that, I became a part of Prague, not just a person who works in Prague. Since then, I also know that for one fool there are ten other nice people.

It really means a lot to me. Also because it is so unique. In normal traffic, the drivers take turns on the lines and the chance that you will meet someone regularly is very small.

When you switch lines, do you ever get confused and get off track?

Sometimes it happens, especially when you have so-called shaders, that is, two lines during the day, between which you have a break of a few hours. Once I had route 18 in the morning and 22 in the afternoon. I got confused and after lunch I took the morning route. Of course, getting out of it with a tram is a bit more difficult than with a bus, but given that in Prague we have one of the most intricate railway lines in the world, it is not as difficult with the help of the dispatcher as if it happened to you elsewhere.

What made you start blogging on social media?

Actually, I don’t even know exactly. It spread gradually. Like many other people, I created an account on Facebook and then on Instagram, and because I like taking pictures, I started sharing photos of old trams…

The diary of Prague’s tramway got off to a good start about five years ago. For me, regular writing has become a form of therapy. Every evening, tired, I lay down in the bathtub and replayed what kind of day I had, how many good people and events I met, who made me happy, who made me laugh, who I made her laugh… I then went to bed with a clear head and in in a good mood instead of being upset about something. When I started to write it down and publish it together with the photos, I had no idea that it could ever have such a big response.

People still read it, it still fascinates me and I can’t believe it. The diary has no purpose, no marketing behind it, just life.

I never thought that thanks to this I would give interviews or that Albatros publishing house would call with an offer if I wanted to publish a book based on my blog.

She wanted to, I should hand it in soon, but I’ll probably have to ask them for a little more time.

What did you think when they came to you from the management of the company that they wanted to use you in an advertising campaign?

I was surprised, but in a moment I replied that I am always for any nonsense. (Laughs) Of course, it’s nice to see myself in a recruitment campaign and in an advertising spot, because I get good feedback from people, and that makes me happy, of course. They ask about my work, I’ve been here for ten years, I’ve experienced a lot, so I have something to say about that…

My husband is also a tram driver, we had our wedding at the Střešovice train station.

The spot on you revealed that you have a tram tattooed on your body. Does the tattoo have any special meaning?

Yes, but I don’t have it on hand. It got there by trick because I actually have it on my thigh and that didn’t fit the ad after all. It is one particular tram that is important to me. On the one hand, I rode in it as a little girl, but my husband and I also had it at our wedding. We had our wedding in the courtyard of the museum in the Střešovice train station, and our colleagues set it up for us as a wedding tram, and we rode it to the banquet.

Photo: Petr Horník, Law

Karolina Hubková

My husband is also a tram driver, we have known each other for quite some time, but not close, we just knew about each other. We have mutual friends, transport enthusiasts, in some places such people are also called shotos. It used to be a derogatory term, but not so much today. The nickname comes from English and is already very old, it comes from the 19th century. At that time, crowds of admirers with cameras began to appear around the railway tracks and stations, and they were able to climb nearby trees, break branches to get the best photo, for nice shots.

I understand, so they must have seemed a bit crazy to the local people and they were not happy about them.

Today, the word no longer has the negative connotation it used to have… In any case, a spark jumped between my husband and me at an event where we went to Košice with a bunch of these friends to take a picture of this particular tram. The renovated one is now also running in Prague, so it is possible to see it here as well, but the original ones are running in Košice, so we made a trip to see them.

You mentioned that the father and husband are model makers. Do you have any collections of your own?

The husband is a very active modeller, he makes tram models, he has about one hundred and fifty of them, mainly products of ČKD Tatra Praha Smíchov, which were destined for foreign countries. I prefer not to touch those for him so as not to destroy them, but thanks to this I learn a lot about the history from him. I’m a retro lover, so I collect Czech Prim watches, but also other things.

I have only one car – a vintage car – so far, but there won’t be any more. We bought a house in Rakovník, so we already have a place to park it, but we still have an old motorcycle, a so-called piggy bank, a čejeta, and a lot of other things… We probably wouldn’t fit any more cars.

It is no wonder that you prefer to ride with historical and retro trams if you are a lover of old things in general.

But I didn’t plan it in any way, it just came my way. When the offer came to transfer to the Střešovice train station and the local museum, it was an unexpected, great thing for me. I was then the first woman to drive these old trams.

Until then, some of the female drivers drove some older work cars, but not sightseeing historical drives. I like riding them very much, I enjoy it, even if it is physically harder than riding with trams from, say, the sixties.

You worked as a conductor on steam locomotives. Have you ever been tempted to learn to drive them?

It was tempting, but I have a lot of respect for them. After all, it’s a much livelier machine than an electric tram, you have to be able to work well with fire and water, there’s that high pressure… Anyway, it’s a colossus. I’m not even attracted to the modern locomotives, they go too fast for my taste. (Laughs)

So the adrenaline of a fast ride is not for you?

It’s not, I like to make love!

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