Сеть городских журналов Where Magazines:
в 70 городах мира c 1936 года

English version

Horses on rails


Public transportation in Minsk began in the late 19th century, the first trams were horse-drawn. Horses were considered more reliable than steam engines, while carrying cargos by railways was convenient.

Horse-drawn trams entered into service in 1828 in the USA: first in Baltimore, and a couple of years later in New York and New Orleans. Europe saw the introduction of horse-drawn trams slightly later than in the New World; they were used for carrying freights, not passengers. The first tramway linked the cities of the Austrian Empire: České Budějovice, Linz and Gmunden. It was built between 1927 and 1936 and was used for transporting salt. 

Horse-drawn trams became widespread after 1852, when French inventor Alphonse Loubat suggested using special rails for flanged wheels. This innovation increased the bearing power, and, consequently, speed and quality of transit. 

In the Russian Empire, the new means of public transport started developing from the mid-19th century. In Minsk horse-drawn trams only appeared in 1892, which is quite strange, all the more so because two important railways linking Moscow with Warsaw and the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea were laid through the city in the 1870s. Minsk had two railway stations, and commuting between them was only possible on foot or by animal-drawn carriages for more than fifteen years.

Introduction of regular horse tram transportation in cities became a big step forward. Media would extensively cover the opening and operation of horse-drawn transport, it was described in literary fiction and praised in poetry.

125 years ago, the advantages of horse-drawn trams were obvious. A tram, unlike a carriage, held 25 passengers, the fare depended on the distance but anyway was lower. The ticket price varied from three to six kopecks. Fare collectors had to strictly control that all passengers are seated, only schoolchildren with special-rate tickets could stand while riding a tram. It could stop anywhere on demand.  

However, operating horse-drawn trams was associated with certain difficulties. One of them could be caused by hilly landscape. Each tram would be drawn by two or three horses at a speed of 5 km/h. On hilly parts of the route additional horses would be used. Alternatively, passengers would get off the tram, climb a hill on foot, and after that occupy their seats in the tram again. Horse-drawn trams made very loud noise when moving, and coachmen had to ring a bell every now and then and shout at heedless pedestrians. At night, trams would be lit with kerosene lamps. Horse-drawn trams worked until 11 pm. The track was only one metre in width, therefore cars were not very stable and could run off the rails, especially after showers or during high waters when the track was flooded.

At their heyday, Minsk’s horse-drawn tram lines connected two railway stations with the railroad branches converging in the city centre and diverging in Sobornaya Square (presently Svobody Square). The horse-drawn tram system came to an end in 1929 with the opening of trolley lines.

Date: 9/06/2017


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