Warsaw's beloved trams celebrate a century


It was 100 years ago that the first electric tram appeared on the streets of the Polish capital Warsaw. To mark the occasion, a day of festivities was held to celebrate this well known Warsaw sight. Mags Korczak of Polish Radio's External Service has this report.

The Warsaw Society of Public Transport Fans along with the Warsaw Tram Company arranged a special day of attractions for residents, professionals and lovers of this mode of city transport.

Starting at the Wola depot just north of the city centre, a special parade of ten tram models from the past 100 years embarked on a non-stop tour around Warsaw, taking in both west and east sides of the Vistula River.

Michal Wolanski, a member of the Warsaw Society of Public Transport Fans, PhD student and public transport enthusiast provides an interesting insight into the politics of the early part of the last century:

'The electric tram system in Warsaw is rather young when compared with other Polish cities like Lodz or Wroclaw. That's because when Warsaw belonged to Russia, there was no electric tram system in St. Petersburg which was the capital of Russia then and if it was not in St. Petersburg then Warsaw could not develop something better, so that's why horse trams were in Warsaw operating rather a long time.'

In addition to the parade, which saw people of all ages line the streets to watch, the Wola depot opened its gates to visitors allowing the opportunity to step aboard some other vintage street cars. A special book commemorating the centenary has been published as well as a limited edition city transport card which is available to buy from transport offices across the city.

The yellow and red vehicles are a prominent feature on the Warsaw cityscape although depending on which city in Poland you visit, the exteriors differ. Michal further explains how the familiar Warsaw colour scheme came to be:

'After the second world war the trams in each Polish city, with some minor exceptions, were white and red and after the changes in the early 90s, each city developed a new colour scheme which was similar to the city flag. The flag of Warsaw is yellow and red which is why the trams in Warsaw are yellow and red now.'

But how necessary are trams in Warsaw when there are better modes of transport to get commuters around in the 21st century? Warsaw resident, Zosia Nowak, gives her views:

"The metro is definitely the fastest means of transport in the city but with just one line, it doesn't reach all the corners of the city, so in these terms the tram is better."

And today it is hard to imagine the city without this common, trusted and loved mode of transport. With plans in the pipeline to develop the communication network in Warsaw further, the tram is sure to be a much adored Varsovian for the next 100 years.