Tramway over the ice of the Neva river

Tramway over the ice of the Neva river
18 February 2017

The first tram system ran through the streets of Saint-Petersburg in 1865. A ticket for a ride with this horsecar cost 5 kopeks. When you decided to travel on the roof it only cost 3 kopeks. From 1895 till 1910, a very unusual way of crossing the Neva during winter became popular. An electrified tramway over the ice was created. Due to this, Vasilevsky Island, Vyborg and Petrograd side stayed connected with the city center during winter. The first electrified route over the ice was operated by a Finnish company. To organize this, an amount of 28.000 Ruble was reserved.

At the end of the 19th century, crossing the Neva by tram was very usual. In comparison to traveling by sleigh or by foot, this was considered one of the fastest ways of transport at that time. The first ice trams were converted from used horsecars and could reach a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour. Each carriage could transport 20 people at the same time, and a ticket only cost 2 kopeks. The trams moved over rails, embedded in the ice. The carriages received power from overhead wires, stretched over wooden poles, frozen into the ice. An interesting fact is that because ice is not always even, the contacts at the overhead wires sparkled sometimes. This produced a curious light and amused spectators in the night.

The ice tram provided four routes over the frozen Neva. From Senate Square to Vasilyevsky Island or to the Imperial Academy of Arts. From the Palace embankment to the Mytninskaya embankment. From Suvorov Square to the Vyborg side. And from Suvorov Square to the Petrograd side. At the beginning of each line, was located a passing loop. Here, trams travelling in opposite directions could pass each other.

Like the railway builders claimed, the system was very safe. Nevertheless, few accidents happened. One time, there was an accident with the overhead wires. As a result of this, the tram came to a standstill in the middle of the Neva river, and people had to walk to the other side. Another time, the ice began to thaw and the level of the river rose. This made tram transport impossible. But overall, the ice trams worked very properly and enjoyed popularity.

Unfortunately, this original way of transport to cross the Neva river is nowadays not used anymore.

Written by Luuk Winkelmolen, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Saint-Petersburg

Posted by Luuk Winkelmolen

Hello, my name is Luuk Winkelmolen. I am a Dutch Human Geography student from Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I am currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Language Centre in Saint-Petersburg. Some years ago I started to get interested in Russian history and culture, and after that I started to get familiar with the Russian language. In 2015 I studied Russian at the Dutch Institute in Saint-Petersburg. This was the first time I actually lived and studied in Russia. This was a great experience, so I decided to return to Russia and especially to the city of Saint-Petersburg, in order to live there again for a few months and to feel myself a little bit Russian again.

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