Jan Molin, a Polish Motoring Hero

In the late 1920s Jan Molin organised the bus transport network for the Cieszyn Silesia region and became a leading local coachbuilder. Piotr Pluskowski recalls his story

A Chevrolet COE bodied by the JMC Company (nac.gov.pl)

Cieszyn has a long and illustrious history. In the 13th century it became the seat of the Duchy of Cieszyn. In 1805 it was absorbed into the Habsburg Monarchy. Cieszyn Silesia was one of the most intensively industrialized areas in the entire Habsburg monarchy. Cieszyn was sometimess dubbed little Vienna.

There were over a dozen printing houses in Cieszyn, with the most famous one from 1883, Karol Prochaska, who was the Imperial and Royal supplier of the Vienna court. There were the Kohn brothers’ bentwood furniture factories from 1870, the Thonet-Mundus-Mobel factory, the Archduke Castle Brewery and many other private enterprises. There were steel mills, mines, oil refineries, pulp production, glass and terracotta works, brick factories, beet sugar factories, refineries and spirit distilleries, there was production of vodkas, broths and liqueurs, over 50 beer breweries. At the end of WW1 when the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was dissolved, the city was divided to a Polish and a Czech part.

The Polish part was still an important industrial centre, but it lacked a proper transportation network. Jan Molin, a local merchant saw an opportunity and organised the first bus line in 1927.

Within 12 years, Jan Molin built a bus netwok system covering the entire region of Cieszyn Silesia. During this period, his transport company grew from one vehicle serving one line to the position of the largest carrier in the region, with around 50 buses operating on 24 routes. Due to such a dynamic development and the constant need to build new passenger car bodies, he founded the first automotive production plant in the Polish part of Upper Silesia, specializing in coach bodywork.

He built bus bodies using chassis of such brands as: small Fiat, medium Citroen and larger Chevrolet. In the early 1930s, Molin employed 90 workers and 10 officials. Over time, this number has grown to over 500 employees. Originally he was capable of building 14 bus bodies a year. In 1937 he took over a bankrupt factory in Skoczów and converted it to a coachwork facility. At the end of the 1930s, Jana Molin “produced” 1 bus per week, which was 48 vehicles per year. In fact, he built other vehicles as, such as trucks and specialized vehicles (e.g. fire-fighting vehicles).

On the eve of World War II, JMC employed over 300 people with 54 buses, 6 passenger cars and 8 trucks (according to another source – 46 buses). The rolling stock was based in its own garages at the headquarters in Cieszyn and – branches in Skoczów, Wisła, Istebna and Bielsko.

The outbreak of the war meant the requisition of almost all Molina vehicles for the needs of the Polish Army and the evacuation of institutions and the population.

Jan Molin was a Polish patriot. In September 1939, the population was evacuated to the east by Molina buses. Molin himself also went in this direction, but at the beginning of October he returned to Cieszyn. He was arrested by the Germans and sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he died in 1940.

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