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Pula (Pola) tram, around 1910.

History of Trams


A tram, tramcar, trolley, trolley car, or streetcar is a railborne vehicle of lighter weight and construction than a train that is  designed for the transport of passengers (and, very occasionally, freight) within, close to, or between villages, towns and/or cities, on tracks running primarily on streets. Melbourne, Australia, currently has the worlds largest tram network which is a distinctive feature of the city. Other famous cities with tramways are Milan and Zagreb.

Tramways or street railways were common throughout the industrialised world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but they disappeared from many U.S. cities in the mid-20th century. In European cities they remained quite common. In recent years, they have made a comeback in many U.S. cities. Many newer light rail systems share features with trams, although a distinction may be drawn between the two, with the term light rail preferred if there is significant off-street running.

The terms “tram” and “tramway” were originally Scots and Northern English words for the type of truck used in coal mines and the tracks on which they ran — probably derived from the North Sea Germanic word “trame” of unknown origin meaning the “beam or shaft of a barrow or sledge”, also “a barrow” or container body.

Although “tram” and “tramway” have been adopted by many languages, they are not used universally in English, North Americans preferring “trolley”, “trolley car” or “streetcar”. The term “streetcar” is first recorded in 1860, and “trolley” is believed to derive from the “troller,” a four-wheeled device that was dragged along dual overhead wires by a cable that connected the troller to the top of the car and collected electrical power from the overhead wires, sometimes simply strung, sometimes on a catenary. The trolley pole, which supplanted the troller early on, is fitted to the top of the car and is spring-loaded in order to keep the trolley wheel or skate, at the top of the pole, firmly in contact with the overhead wire. The terms trolley pole and trolley wheel both derive from the troller.

Modern trolleys often use a metal shoe with a carbon insert instead of a trolley wheel, or have a pantograph. Other streetcars are sometimes called trolleys, even though strictly this may be incorrect: for example, cable cars, or conduit cars that draw power from an underground supply.

Tourist buses made to look like streetcars are sometimes called trolleys in the U.S. (tourist trolley). Open, low-speed segmented vehicles on rubber tires, generally used to ferry tourists short distances, can be called trams, particularly in the U.S.; a famous example is the tram on the Universal Studios backlot tour.

Electric buses, which use twin trolley poles (one for live current, one for return) are called trolley buses, trackless trolleys (particularly in the U.S.), or sometimes trolleys.

Istrian Tramways
(Istarski tramvaj)

Tramvaj (engl. tramway) vozilo na tračnicama namijenjen gradskomu javnom putničkom prometu. U Istri je postojao u Puli, Opatiji i Piranu. A tramway is a carriage on tracks used for city wide public transportation. In Istria it existed in Pula (Pola), Opatija (Abbazia) and Piran (Pirano).

Pula (Pola)

The rapid development and expansion of Pula during the 19th century after it became the naval base of the Austro-Hungarian Navy brought with it urbanization and rapid population growth. By te end of the century, the population had reached around 60,000 inhabitants. This created the need for the introduction of  local public transportation.

In August 1897, the Ministry of Railways commissioned the engineer Rudolf Urbanitzkoga (or Urbanitzki?) to design an ideal tramway which could be driven by electricity or pulled by horses. In December of 1900 construction of the project was given to the Wrede company from Vienna. The city issued a bond in the amount of 1,200.000 crones, which were quickly spent on the completion of the project and introduction of the tramway line.

A trial run was conducted on February 15, 1904 and the line was officially opened on March 24, 1904 in front of the Marine Casino. The tram had four wagons, reddish-yellow color, with the city crest on each side. On opening day, the first passengers were the members of the city council, a brass band and other guests. The tram quickly became the pride of the city. The first day sold 6,500, and in the next four months, 410,000 tickets and earning 50,000 crowns. The greatest number of tickets were distributed on Sundays when it was known that up to 11,000 tickets were sold, an indication of the active social life of the citizens of Pula.

The tracks initiated at the railroad station. One branch traversed along the coast and Arsenal to St. Policarp where there was tthe depot and today there is the cement factory. The second branch passed by the Marina Casino and across the center of the city along the Arena, and then again to the railroad station.

Later on, a branch of the tram line was built from the Arena to Siana forest. There was a plan to expand the tracks to Fazana and Vodnjan (Dignano). The width of the tracks was 1,435 millimeters or 1.435 meters (about 57 inches), which was equal to size of standard railroad tracks. After World War I, the tramway was challenged by bus lines. On June 16, 1934 the tramway line was closed and the public transportation was taken over by the “Gattoni” bus company. The tracks were removed and there is no trace of them left in Pola today.

Source: and

Opatija (Abbazia)

Opatijski tramvaj projektiran je 1892. kao parni tramvaj od Matulja do Voloskoga, što nije prihvaćeno zbog bojazni hotelijeri da će dim i buka parnih lokomotiva ometati goste. Pripreme za električni tramvaj započele su 1900. Sudjelovali su Bečka kreditna banka i graditelj Jakob Ludwig Müntz. Koncesija za 12 km tramvajske pruge bila je izdana 12. XI. 1906., a promet je započeo 9. II. 1908.

Tramvajem je upravljalo dioničko društvo Električni tramvaj Matulji-Opatija-Lovran, s kapitalom od 2 200 000 kruna. Pruga se spuštala od želj. stanice Matulji s 212 m nadm. vis. na obalu. Prtljagu su vozili posebnim vagonima. Ljeti su Opatijom vozili otvoreni vagoni. Konjske zaprege imale su prednost pred tramvajem, koji se kretao brzinom do 10 km/h. Nakon I. svj. rata tramvajsko društvo prešlo je pod upravu Società Anonima Ferrovie Elettriche Secondarie Abbazia.

Tramvaj je ukinut 31. III. 1933., a sljedeći dan počeli su voziti autobusi društva Consortio Intercomunale Servizi Automobilistici Fiume-Abbazia. Pruga je demontirana, a neki su vagoni prodani u Ljubljanu. Postojali su i planovi za spajanje Rijeke i Opatije tramvajskom prugom, a bilo je utemeljeno i društvo za njezinu izgradnja.

Lovran (Laurana) - Opatija (Abbazia) tram.

The Opatija tram line was planned in 1892 as a steam driven tramway line from Matulje to Volosko, however, this concept was not accepted due to complaints by the hotel industry fearing that the smoke and noise generated by steam locomotives would disturb their guests. The preliminary work for an electric tramway started in 1900. The Vienna Credit Bank and builder Jakob Ludwig Müntz* participated in this project. The concession for building this 12 kilometer long track was issued on February 9, 1906 and the tramway went into operation on February 9, 1908.

The tramway line was operated by the consortium Electrical Tramway Matulji-Opatija-Lovran with a capitalization of 2,200.000 crone. The line was descending from Matulje at the elevation of 212 meters (650 feet) to the sea level on the coast. The luggage was transported in separate wagons. In the summer they used open wagons to carried public through Opatija.  Horse carriages had advantage over the tramway, which was moving at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour due to steep terrain. After WWI, the Tramway Co, was taken over by Società Anonima Ferrovie Elettriche Secondarie Abbazia.

The tramway line was closed on March 31, 1933 and the next day the public transportation was conducted using Consortio Intercomunale Servizi Automobilistici Fiume-Abbazia busses. The tracks were removed and some of the wagons were sold to Ljubljana. Plans egsisted to build a line that would connect Rijeka and Opatija and they even established a construction company for that purpose, but it never materialized.

Jakob Ludwig Münz, a stone-worker and owner of stone-pits in Southern Tirol (Austria) and constructor of the well-famous Grand Hotel of Pula, was a promoter of the opening of the bus line Rijeka-Pula. He arrived at Opatija in the capacity as partner of Alfred Wrede, the concessionaire and founder of the tram service, which from 1908 to 1933 linked Matulji and Lovran.

Ludwig Münz in 1903 constructed one of the most attractive villas of Liburnian seaside is surely Secession-style Münz villa in Ičići.


Piran (Pirano)

Piranski tramvaj bio je najprije otvoren 24. X. 1909. kao trolejbusna pruga do želj. postaje Sv. Lucija na Porečkoj pruzi. Vožnja makadamskom cestom bila je neudobna, pa s ubrzo počele pripreme za izgradnju tramvajske pruge Piran-Sv. Lucija, a koncesija je 11. XI. 1911. dodijeljena društvu iz Augsburga. Pruga, dužine 5447 m i širine 760 mm, otvorena je 20. VII. 1912. Tramvajsko društvo Piran-Sveta Lucija-Portorož imalo je pet motornih kola i dvije prikolice. Troškove izgradnje od 150 000 kruna snosili su općini Piran i Pokrajina Istra. Tramvaj je vozio najviše. 26 km/h, a el. energiju dobivao je iz elektrane u brodogradilištu. Premda je ukidanjem pruge Trst-Poreč 1935. izgubio putnike, prometovao je sve do 31. VIII. 1953. Vagoni su potom prodani u Sarajevo.

LIT.: J. Orbanić, Istarske željeznice. Zagreb 1996.



  • Istarska Encyklopedia, Leksikografski Miroslav Krleža (Zagreb, 2005), p. 816.

The tramway in Piran went into operation on October 24, 1909 as a trolley bus line to the railroad station of Santa Lucia on the Parenzo (now Poreč) railroad line. Riding on the macadam-covered roads was very uncomfortable and because of that the city decided to start planning for a tramway line Piran-Santa Lucia. The building concession was given to a company from Augsburg on November 11, 1911.

The rail line was 5.5 kilometers (3.6 miles) in length and 760 millimeters (30.4 inches) wide, and it was put in service on July 20, 1912. The tramway company Piran-Santa Lucia-Portorose (now Portorož) had five motorized cars and two trailers. The construction cost of 150,000 crone was covered  by the county of Piran and region of Istria. The maximum tramway speed was 26 km/hr and the electric power was provided by the shipyard’s electric plant. Even though the closure of the train line Parenzo-Trieste caused the tramway line to lose a lot of riders, it continued operating until August 31, 1953. After that the cars where “sold” to Sarajevo.

(Piran) The old electric trams were closed in 1956 and dreadful traffic congestion has been the result. Already in the 1980’s a short distance Park’n Ride was introduced from a large and recently further expanded car park on land reclaimed from the sea just outside Piran. The whole of the town itself was designated as a single car park and a barrier installed which has reduced excessive visitor access and made even locals pay (a discounted amount) to enter the town. It was therefore an implicit, early and largely unreported example of road pricing for residents and tourists. The management of the system has become rather rigid and it operates with the same fixed prices: summer and winter, weekend and weekday, day and night. There is a frequent but often over-loaded and congestion affected bus service between old town and resort, made up partly of a shuttle bus that penetrates to the main Tartini Square and regional services that reach only to the bus station at the edge of the historic area.


Rijeka (Fiume)

The Rijeka tramway was in operation in the Carnaro cities from November 7, 1899 to Jime 15, 1952.

Tram traffic in Rijeka was introduced in 1899. The first electric tram appeared on the streets of Rijeka on November 7, 1899 and thus marked the beginnings of organised public transport in the town. By a single-track line that was four kilometres long it carried passengers from the bridge on Rječina to the Railway Station. Each of the eight existing trams could take twenty-eight passengers.

In 1907, the tram started to run also from Školjić to the place where today’s shipyard "3. maj" is, while three years later it went all the way to Kantrida. During the Second World War it was the only means of public transport in the town while after the War new buses were acquired and they gradually took over the public transport in the town. Tram tracks that were in a poor condition became a danger for the traffic safety so that on June 15, 1952 the Rijeka tram had to be retired.

See: July 14, 2005 - Riječki tramvaj krenuo 1899, Vecernji list

See: Santa Claus Tram - Tramvaj Djeda Mraza (English & Hrvatski)

Rijeka (Fiume) tram, before 1935.


Tramvaj Zicara - Opcina

 Trieste Transporti, koji posluju sa jednom mrežom od 60 autobusnih linija i dvije brodske linije, također posluju sa Opicina tramvajskom linijom, koja se sastoji od jedne hibridne kombinacije tramvaja i zičare, koja omogućava direknu vezu između gradskog centra I Ville Opicine.  Tramvaj je izgrađen 1902-e godine kako bi povezao centar Trsta na morksoj razini do Opicine koja je udaljena 5 kilometara pokraj slovenske granice ali na 339,5 metara nadmorske visine. Da bi se tramvaj popeo do Opcina brijega, tramvaj je upotrebio zubčani sistem između Piazza Scorcola i Vetta Scorcola. Prema tome od 1902 do 1928-e godine linija Trieste-Opicina je upotrebljavala zubčani sistem pogona, međutim takav sustav ima jedan nedostatak a to je sporost i velike troškove.  Ali 1928 godine taj zubčani system bio je odstranjen i zičara je izgađena na tom mjestu, tako da su nabavili dva specialna vagona koji su gurali sačuvane tramvajske vagone po toj zičazri. Ta konfiguracija ima prednosti u povećanju prometa i smanjenje troškova poslovanja radi manje upotrebe energije. Energija spustajućih vagona kompensirala je upotrebu energije uspinjajućih vagona. Jedini uvijet je bio da su ti vagoni sinhronizirani tako da jedni stignu u isto vrijeme na dno zičare kad drugi stignu na vrh zičare.



  1. Tramway -

  2. Funicular railway -


Tram Funicular - Opcina

Trieste Trasporti, which operates a network of some 60 bus routes and two boat services, also operate the Opicina Tramway, a unique hybrid tramway [1] and funicular railway [2] that provides a more direct connection between the city centre and Villa Opicina.[The tramway was built in 1902 to link the center of Trieste, at the see level, to Opicina which is at quite 5 km to the north near the Slovenian border but at 339,5 m above the see. To climb up to the Opicina hill, the tramway was first used with a rack section between Piazza Scorcola and Vetta Scorcola. So, since 1902 to 1928 the Trenovia Trieste - Opicina was a cog-wheel tramway but this configuration had the disadvantage to be too slow for the traffic and too expensive. In 1928 the rack was removed and a funicular section was built at the same place with two special cars used to push and retain the tramway cars. This configuration has the advantage to increase the traffic and to be more economic because the necessary energy is very small. The energy of the descending cars is used for the ascending ones. The only constraints is that the tramway cars must be synchronized, they must arrive at the same time at the lower and upper stations of the funicular.

See also:


By electric traction on the entire line, supplemented by a cable section (the only one of its kind).

Normal doublefacing tram cars coupled, on the Piazza Scorcola - Vetta Scorcola section, to two buffer wagons attached to the ends of a traction cable running between the rails.

The terminus is located in the centre of town, in Piazza Oberdan, and the cable railway section begins just a few hundred meters away.

The tram's original form of transport (a cross between an extraurban tram and a cable railway) takes you up from the city to the surrounding beautiful natural environment of the Carso plateau, 348 m above sea level.


September 9,1902: Inauguration of electric traction rack-railway on the Piazza Scorcola - Vetta Scorcola section, with double axle cars of Austrian construction.

1906-1936: Construction of an extension, with terminus moved from via Nazionale to Opicina station.

April 26, 1928: Opening of cable section replacing the rack-railway.

1935-1936: Introduction of 5 bogie railcars built by Officine Meccaniche STANGA - T.I.B.B. (Tecnomasio Italiano Brown Boveri).

1942: Introduction of two further bogie railcars identical to the five existing ones.

March 6,1978: Restoration of service after rebuilding of the track and replacement of the superstructure and buffer wagons (phase 1).

June 14,1984: Completion of work in compliance with ministerial regulations regarding the funicolar railway, with the introduction of automatic running and control system (phase 2).


Image Gallery

Trieste - postcard of horse-drawn tram, S. Andrea (1904).
Trieste - postcard of tram and cart, Via Giulia (1905).

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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran and Pino Golja (translations)

Created:  Sunday, October 26, 2008; Last updated: Saturday, November 19, 2016
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