CZ/SK verze

A Century-Old Blunder: The Unassuming Railway Worker Who Scolded President Masaryk

A Century-Old Blunder: The Unassuming Railway Worker Who Scolded President Masaryk
photo: RAILTARGET Archive/A Century-Old Blunder: The Unassuming Railway Worker Who Scolded President Masaryk
01 / 11 / 2023

Although Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk played a pivotal role in the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic on October 28, 1918, he wasn't in the country at the time. He only arrived in Prague on the winter solstice, December 21. Associated with his return to the republic is a humorous railway tale.

Masaryk embarked on an almost month-long journey back from Washington, USA. He began his trip aboard the ocean liner Carmania and made his way through Paris, then Padua in Italy, and Austria, before heading to Czechoslovakian territory. His first stop was just outside the border at the Horní Dvořiště railway station. The first to greet Masaryk in the newly formed state was Dr. Bucket, the section chief of the Pilsen railway directorate. The main welcoming address was delivered by the Minister of Railways, Dr. Isidor Gardener.

Following the ceremonial greetings, the special train set off for České Budějovice. Even though the war had concluded in November, rigorous security protocols remained. Masaryk's train consisted of 19 carriages and two locomotives, preceded by a train carrying legionnaires. Up to Velešín in southern Bohemia, the track was flanked by armed Falcon guards and returning Italian legionnaires. This heightened security was crucial, as German volunteer Volkswehr units had resisted the formation of the new republic in Kaplicka even in early December. At the České Budějovice station, the president spent the night in a saloon car, around which a humorous anecdote revolves.

On the morning of December 21, 1918, TGM was about to step out of the saloon car, now a part of the National Technical Museum's permanent exhibit, to get some fresh air and stretch his legs. As the story goes, a railway worker responsible for maintaining the platform's cleanliness approached the unrecognizable president and sharply remarked, "Your Honor, don't keep walking on this carpet. I won't clean it twice; it's reserved for Mr. President!"

Masaryk made several more stops before finally arriving at Wilson station at 1:15 p.m. Eager crowds of Czechoslovaks, along with family members and government officials, including Prime Minister Karel Kramář, awaited him. The welcoming address began with writer Alois Jirásek presenting Vítězslav Novák's cantata, "Glory to You, Masaryk."