Buda-Past: 130th Anniversary of Budapest’s First Electric Tram Line
Fanni Kaszás 2017.11.28.
130 years ago today, on 28 November 1887, the first urban tramway of continental Europe entered into service in Budapest. For more than 20 years, trams were run by horsepower, and the city’s leadership originally intended to break the monopoly position of the horse tram company with a steam powered railway. However, businessman Mór Balázs suggested that an electric tram system should be introduced to Budapest, with the help of the technology of German company Siemens&Halke.
The construction works started in October 1887 with the help of Siemens&Halke, who also constructed the world’s first public tramway, which had been introduced seven years earlier in Gross-Lichterfelde, near Berlin. Budapest was the seventh city in Europe to introduce an electric tram system.
The first electric trams of the capital began operating run at half past three on Monday, 28 November 1887, on today’s Grand Boulevard, between Nyugati Railway Station and Oktogon square. The maximum speed of the cars was limited to 10 km/h but they crossed Andrássy street even slower.
They did not have to wait long for the first tram accident: it happened just 3 days after the introduction, on 1 December 1887.
Trams became very popular, and at the beginning of the 20th century, seven tram companies competed for travelers on the streets of Budapest.
In the last years of World War I, 1072 trams ran in Budapest or in the periphery districts of the capital and delivered more than 382 million passengers per year. Beginning in 1941, trams switched from left-handed to right-handed traffic.
On 20 August 1946, after the siege of Budapest, the first tram passed over the Liberty Bridge, connecting Pest and Buda again. The tram was driven by the driver who fell in to the Danube with the vehicle when the Margaret bridge had been blown up in 1944.
During the 1956 Revolution, less than a third of the overhead electrical lines remained intact, and 109 vehicles were damaged or destroyed.
Just like the first tramline, Siemens&Halke celebrated its 130th birthday this week. In 1896, the same company built the first underground of continental Europe (today’s M1 subway) in the Hungarian capital. In 2006, the company introduced Budapest’s first low-floor tram, the longest in the world (Combino) and in 2014, Siemens built the control systems of the capital’s first driver-less metro line (the M4 subway).