Tram - History and Different Types of Trams
Trams are railway-based transportation vehicles that originally evolved
from regular train networks into urban-based passenger transportation
services when those railway lines became too embedded inside cities, making
them unsuitable for transport of large steam, electric or diesel-powered
trains. Modern trams (also known under names tramcars, streetcars, trolleys
or trolley cars) are usually traveling on ground level alongside regular
car tracks, but with clear segregation so that cars, foot and bike traffic
is not using parts of the road where tramway is laid (except on crossings).
Today, over 380 cities around the world have purpose-built their tram
systems that transport passengers in regular intervals and fixed city
lines, enabling the much larger flow of population across large distances
without impacting the flow of regular car transport. Many cities have
elected to adopt tramways because they are much cheaper to build than
digging entire underground subway network, and they can be added into
already developed cities without the need of major overhauling of streets.
Modern tramways are operated by electricity (via suspended overhead cable
network, or recently via ground delivery), and they are usually built to be
light and usually between one to five passenger carriages. Larger models
can be found, especially in areas where city trams are also working on
inter-city relations. In addition to working on tram tracks, some can
operate on traditional railway tracks or even magnetic tracks.
History of trams began in first years of 19th century in South Wales, UK,
where a small part of Swansea and Mumbles Railway located in urban areas
was reconfigured to be used for trams. That very first model of the tram
does not have many similarities with modern trams. It consisted of a
railway car that was made from wheels and a single platform that featured
no walls or seating positions. This simple platform was pulled by a team of
two horses on a regular route where anyone could use them without the need
to pre-hire the transport. This design from the UK quickly has spread
across the world and the urban areas where old railroad networks could be
re-purposed for passenger use. Some of the first tram networks were in
appeared in the United States (New York in 1832, New Orleans in 1835),
France (1839), Chile (Santiago, 1858), Egypt (Alexandria, 1850), Australia
(Sydney, 1860) and Indonesia (Jakarta, 1869). In late 1800s trams became
powered by small steam locomotives (although Paris trams used larger steam
engines that were located below passenger carriage). They became very
popular not only in Europe, North America in Asia but received complaints
because of their smoke, noise and relatively low power that prevented them
from pulling larger sets of carriages.
While the majority of early tram networks were built in cities that were
placed in level areas, some cities faced issues of extreme elevation, which
caused them to adopt cable-operated tram lines. The first and most famous
example of this drive system comes from San Francisco which introduced its
cable-operated tram lines in 1873. Other cities that faced similar
elevation problems quickly adopted this system (Dunedin in New Zealand in
1881, Melbourne in 1885, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dresden,
London, and others. Even though cable-operated trams are effective, their
integration, upkeep, and accident prevention mechanism costs are
1880 saw the appearance of the first fully electric tram. This marvel was
created in Saint Petersburg, Russia by inventor Fyodor Pirotsky. The basic
operation principle of that first electric tram remains in use today –
gathering of electricity from overhand cable network via pantograph or
trolley pole (all attempts of building trams with built-in batteries
failed). Just a year later in 1881, the first regular electric tram line
was opened in Lichterfelde, then a suburb of Berlin. After that successful
experiment and integration of electric trams in several other European
cities, electric trams became a commonplace all around the world. However
even though electric trams won the popularity battle, other power sources
were also examined and used. This includes gas-powered trams that started
being implemented in several cities between 1886 and 1908. Other power
sources for trams can be petrol, compressed air, diesel motors and hydrogen
cells. Some cities choose to implement those alternative power sources
because of the higher costs of maintaining a strong electric network in
specific areas (for example in hurricane-prone territories, rail networks
with stronger elevations and more).
Types of Trams
Types of trams by their design:
– Tram that has operator position at just one end of the tram.
– Tram with two operating positions, one on each side of the tram. This
approach makes tram more versatile (it does not need to run only in
circular tracks), but it also increases its complexity and weight.
– Modern design of trams that allow passengers to more easily and
quickly enter or exit the tram. Disabled users with wheelchairs can
much more easily use these trams because only a small platform is
needed to serve them.
Ultra low floor
– Recent technical improvement in which most of the motor systems are
located in the roof, leaving the floor area very close to the ground.
Because these trams have entry height of just 18cm (similar as sidewalk
height), they can be very easily used by users with wheelchairs or baby
carriages. On the other hand, their integration into city lines is more
difficult because this tram type demands unique floor.
– Trams that have articulated joints and a walking platform that
connects adjoining passenger carriages. They are very popular all
around the world, with some trams having up to 5 or six passenger
compartments that are connected this way.
– Trams with 2nd floor. They are mostly used in Great Britain,
Australia, Hong Kong and Alexandria.
– Trams that fulfill all technical requirements (power, wheel type,
safety, etc.) that can operate on both city tram lines and regular
gauge railway tracks. They are mostly used on longer lines that connect
more than one urban area separated by a regular railway track.
Interesting Facts about Trams
Early horse-driven trams were also sometimes powered by oxen, and in
cases of emergency, by human workers.
First electric tram in England was opened in 1885 in Blackpool.
There are more than 200 European cities who have active tram lines.
More than 36,000 trams and light rail vehicles are currently in
operation all around the world.
The largest fleet of trams is in a city of Prague (920). Other large
fleets are located in cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Budapest,
Trams are using almost 16,000 kilometers of light railway tracks.
First trams in the United States were adapted from stagecoaches.
First tram line in the US operated along Bowery and Fourth Avenue in
New York City in 1832.
The longest single tram line in the world is Belgian Coast Tram (68
km), which runs along entire Belgian sea coast.
The largest tram track network is in Melbourne (256 km). Others large
networks are in St. Petersburg, Cologne, Berlin, Moscow, Budapest and