Sunday, June 27, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Istanbul, Turkey

The history of the streetcar in Istanbul is not so different from that of many North American cities. The first streetcar service in Istanbul started in 1872 as horse-drawn trams.  Horse-drawn service was halted for a year, because the horses were needed for the Balkan War. That served as the impetus to electrify the system, which happened in 1914. After that, streetcar service quickly became the most popular mode of transportation, reaching its peak in 1956, with 108 million passengers, 56 lines, and 270 streetcars. By then, cars and buses also began to compete with the streetcars though.

If I haven't mentioned it already, I think the demise of the streetcar was largely due to a perception that it was antiquated. Buses seemed modern and more sophisticated at the time. The ride was also smoother, particularly in Istanbul, where  the streetcars had not been updated since the original cars from 1912. As a result, the streetcar network was closed down in the 1960s in favor of buses.

Similar to many North American cities, streetcars have returned to Istanbul. There is the nostalgia streetcar that looks like the ones shown on the postcards, and there are also very modern sleek ones in Istanbul now. 

For more detailed information check out the great Wikipedia page for public transport in Istanbul.


  1. I love it. I just saw a travel show about Istanbul and I didn't realize it was separated by a body of water.

  2. Interesting factoid about the horses and the Balkan War. It amazes me that people were so inured to the pain of an animal.

  3. Yes that's a wonderful postcard. And yes streetcars (trams) are making a slow but definite return over here as well.



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