The JHMD (Local Railways of Jindřichův Hradec) is a corporation which own and operates the narrow gauge railways (760 mm or 2 ft 5 15⁄16 in) leading from Jindřichův Hradec in Southern Bohemia, northbound branch to Obrataň and southbound one to Nová Bystřice.
As the first of these two picturesque south-bohemian railways the southern line Jindřichův Hradec – Nová Bystřice was built. In the first half of 1885 the preparatory works towards building a standard gauge railway were carried; however after long negotiations the narrow gauge option was selected. The construction works were started on 4th September 1896, when the building company Leitnet & Fröhlich from Vienna assumed the building site. On 31st October 1897 at 11 o’clock a festive opening of the new railway line took place, and the next day, 1st November 1897 at 2:48 the first scheduled passenger train set off.
The today more significant line, Jindřichův Hradec – Obrataň, is roughly a dozen years younger. The preparatory works were conducted from October to December 1895 and the construction works were started in July 1905 by the company of Ing. Antonín Los from Prague-Smíchov. The first train run on the Christmas Vigil 24th December 1906 at 4h20m in the morning from Jindřichův Hradec. The definitive approval was given, however, no earlier than on 21st May 1910.
In the 1970s the first significant political pressures to cancelling the so-called “inefficient services in transport” appeared, which naturally included also the narrow gauge railways, due to all their parameters. Based on this “political order” the first study “On solution of an underutilized railway ČSD Jindřichův Hradec - Nová Bystřice” was created, its result actually being determined in advance, without any respect to the actual state. A huge resistance against this study raised within the Regional authority ONV of Jindřichův Hradec; however, effectively the real threat of the closure of the narrow gauge lines was mitigated as late as in the late 1970s in coincidence with the energy crisis.
The 1980s saw no further quakes at the railways, some parts of the railway network and the rolling stock were even modernised. However, shortly after the fall of the communism in 1992 the pressure to cancelling the inefficient branch lines reappeared, this time with aim of the cost cutting within the state organisation of the Czechoslovak Railways, ČSD. This status contributed to the decision of the now independent Czech government in 1993 to prepare the narrow gauge lines as the first railways for privatisation.
A gathering of persons who were not neglectful to the fate of the railways decided to apply for a privatisation project for both lines.
The first and foremost aim of the company was to obtain the narrow gauge railways of Jindřichův Hradec by means of privatisation and thereby to save them from abandoning the operation, which was to be, of course, carried further.
The company pursued also other business activities, above all operating the tourist steam trains. This was allowed by its licence for operating occasional public railway transport, which was issued as the very first licence for passenger transport save the Czech Railways ČD (although in occasional service).
Later the steam engine U 47.001 was borrowed from the National Technical Museum (NTM) in Prague, which was for a longer period the only engine operated by the narrow gauge company.
In 1996 the southern line to Nová Bystřice was announced to be closed due to a poor technical state, and on 25th January 1997 the last train with two engines set off. Its six coaches were fully occupied by passengers and the event raised a huge response. It might also contribute to pushing the long postponed privatisation further again.
On Wednesday 19th March 1997 the government of the Czech Republic approved the privatisation of the narrow gauge railways of Jindřichův Hradec at its regular meeting, namely by means of a direct sale for a symbolic price of 1 CZK, in favour of the company JHMD a.s. On 4th June 1997 the JHMD and ČD signed an agreement on the railway rental, and on Saturday 14th June 1997 the first train was allowed to set off for Nová Bystřice on the southern line. The regular daily passenger service, the first one outside the state-owned ČD, was later started on 20th July 1997 in accordance with the first Amendment of the yearly timetable.
As early as in the summer 1997 the first rumours of huge reductions on the northern line to Obrataň appeared, brought into effect in autumn. Naturally the local authorities disagreed with this. Another rental agreement was signed, however, and the privately operated trains set off also to Obrataň on Thursday 23rd October 1997.
From that time the narrow gauge railways serve their duties and carry passengers on their journey to work, into the school, to the doctor’s, or on trips in the wonderful landscape of so-called Czech Canada or of the western edges of the Czech-Moravian Highlands. Of course they provide also the freight services to the factories and companies in the region, and transport their materials and products.
After establishing the business operation the JHMD focuses on the further improvement of the railway infrastructure and on boosting the significance of the railways, both as a living touristic attraction, and as a modern railway operating system.
The history in dates