Things of the tram (5)


A lovely title though in my case nothing to do with the original intention the maker had in mind. Tennessee Williams, an American play writer. The play performed on many stages and every time the curtain felt there was applause.
When the drape would cover tramway systems for ever there was no applause at all, neither from the public nor yours truly, only disappointment or like the song of Elton John: It is so sad, it’s a sad, sad, situation and it’s getting more and more absurd…
The good old Straßenbahn, the trolley, it all started with horses pulling a cart (coach) rolling on rail embedded in the street surface given people a paid ride were before they had to walk.


The invention of the century at the beginning of the industrial revolution. In the end of the nineteenth century horses were replaced by overhead wire with electric driven motorcars underneath. Single motor cars often with a open balcony and the wattman exposed to wind and weather. Two or four axle (boogie) motorcars with a trailer or double trailer depending on demand.
However, steam trams last much longer even beyond W.W.II in some cases. In The Netherlands e.g. during the twenties and thirties every province had his own network before the decline started. Those lines were not pure city lines but interurban often a single track in the kerb of the road.


The age of the tramway can’t be described with a few words only. It’s a well known mode of public transportation and till today runs from A to B. On the contrary; in the new age it has not only survived but celebrating a new start as well. Many cities let the tram return to the streets but building new lines as well were never ran a tram before.
The revival of an old principle, a common habit, a city is a city only when it does have a tram. A list of all systems on earth goes beyond the scope of this article; a dedicated fan needs almost a lifespan to see them all and riding the lines. That’s no fun but hard working and by the way unpaid. So I stick to what I did and saw during the years of adoration and made a series out of it for my Flickr account. A personal record, a private enterprise, and now shared with the public. It’s a sin to keep pictures that can’t be taken any longer in a box and let them become dusty.


The heritage, history frozen on a certain moment of vividness and now a lust for the eyes. Armchair travelling through the past along the loss. The lines no longer existing but above all cars replaced by a more modern approach. Technology, electronics, and new design, a change from the outside only because the theory of a wheel guided by rail did not changed. It’s the old way it once started with and since never improved because there’s none.
Two bands of rail with different measure in between from narrow till broad but mostly standard gauge (1435 mm) fixed on sleepers rooted in the street surface or having its own way of ride. An almost pollution free mode of transportation.
Almost; the plant generating power is not but more efficient and easier to control (filtering). It is that a lot of us dreaming of their own car; one person on four wheels in his or her beloved tin can and polluting the environment. It’s a kind of growth that cannot sustain. Imagine every Chinese would drive his own car and life came to a halt, something to be admired already at capital cities. Beijing and Bangkok are a breath taking example. Both lost their tramway and even not they would stock in the endless gridlocks caused by too many cars unless they had their private course in stead of ordinary street running.
In Bangkok there’s no tram revival the last one ran till the last day of September 1968. Beijing builds a subway system and so does Krung Thep, the Thai name for the city. Elsewhere in China new tramway systems sprouted but old Europe still takes the lead with France ahead in repeating what once considered as a wonder. Trams, not only for fans, let’s enjoy them and forget about the private car. It’s far better for the future.

The pictures

top – Rotterdam in the Netherlands, a motorcar on route Nº 1 at the terminus Honinger-dijk around 1966.

middle 1 – The horse pulled tram, a double deck coach and for sure it must have been fun to ride on the roof top. Berlin around 1900.

middle 2 – The provincial tramway company of Gelderland (750 mm gauge) even in the fifties still run steam trams though for special occasion only. Steam locomotive Nº 607 + coach celebrating 75 years of the line Doetinchem – Doesburg, the last one of the network before closing on August 31st 1957.

middle 3 – The bygone days and only sweet memory. With cars like these one could travel electric through two Dutch provinces (North- South Holland). The famous ‘Blue Tram’. Picture taken in the fifties at Zandvoort aan Zee.

bottom 1 – The Hague in the Netherlands, a classic motorcar made by HAWA – Germany in the early twenties. On this picture in preserved condition on a private excursion organized by the author in June 1967. Anno 2016 the car still running as part of large heritage fleet, old but indestructible.

bottom 2 – Not only why they dominated my youth in The Hague but being representative of a standard tramcar era started in America; the PCC car. Picture taken December 1967.

bottom 3 – Another standard motorcar, Germany this time, type KSW and mainly build during the war and short after. On this picture a survivor on the Mulheim network taken April 28th 1969.

bottom 4 – Old design, made in East Germany the DDR. A motorcar from the Gotha factory with matching trailer but not build by Gotha though at RAW-Schöneweide (Berlin) as type: REKO. The difference: four windows instead of three (Gotha). Schöneiche – September 1991.

bottom 5 – New design, French style and made by Alsthom, they run in Rouen. 09.08.1996

For more pictures see the Flickr site Rail Asia:







About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
This entry was posted in Germany, Netherlands, Things of the tram. Bookmark the permalink.

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