The New Electric Railway Journal сентябрь 2000 г.

Paul M. WEYRICH, William S. LIND

Moscow - Back in the 1950’s the all powerful Soviet authorities decreed that Moscow trams were to be banished from the central part of the city immediately and should be gone completely from Moscow streets by 1980.

They almost succeeded with their first decree. Only one tramline still runs in the central part of Moscow today. But by the Brezhnev era Soviet authority was beginning to weaken and thus trams have survived elsewhere in Moscow. 338 km of active lines on more than 40 routes. The shortest of these is route 9, which is just 2.5 km long and takes just 12 minutes to traverse, while the longest line is route 46, which is 19.1 km and will take you 86 minutes.

The Moscow tram system is serviced by five car houses: 1) Apakova 2) Baumana 3) Krashnopresnenkoeye 4) Rusakova 5) Oktyabrskoye.

The system has a total of 934 operative cars. 708 operate in peak times.

Two of the car houses have Tatra T3’s and T7s exclusively, manufactured in Prague. All of these cars were built prior to the fall of the Soviet Union. The last car arrived in Moscow in 1988. Two of the car houses have Kirov KTM 8’s and KTM I6’s manufactured in Ust Katav in Central Asia in Russia. These cars used to be of poor quality and were shunned by Russia’s larger cities, which could afford cars build in Prague or Riga. However, the Ust Katav cars have now improved significantly in quality. The fifth car house has both Tatras and Kirov trams.

Most of the tramlines operate as feeders to the vast Metro or subway system, although a few are independent of the Metro system. There is much street running and several lines even cross railway lines at grade in the street. But many of the tramlines have now been placed on the side of the road, a practice known in the United States in the early days of tram and road construction. There are even charming tramlines which meander through public parks on private right of way.

Alexander Elagin, a computer programmer for the Russian Railways, knows Moscow better than most mapmakers. He knows her history, her development and her tramway system. Elagin says that Moscow authorities do not have a consistent policy regarding the tram system today. In some parts of the city, plans are being made to renew and rebuild tramlines. In other parts of the city, tramlines are to be discontinued. But it is not clear just why some tramlines are able to be retained and others are to be abandoned. In one case, a tramline was said to be discontinued but it was returned to service. In another case, a tramline was going to be returned to service, yet it remains out of service. While American procedures are cumbersome to the point where almost nothing can get done in a major city, the public is usually informed about intended moves regarding public transport done in a major city, the public is usually informed about intended moves regarding public transport lines in sufficient time so that protests can often effect the outcome. In Moscow that did not used to be the case. Authorities more or less did as they wished and simply announced their decisions. But that appears to be changing now. Supporters of the retention of tramway service are organizing pressure on the city government to try to stop them from converting additional lines. Thus far their efforts have been successful.

Of course Moscow is famous for the Kremlin and now the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Restoration is going on everywhere in the central part of the city. But what is surprising is that reconstruction and restoration is also going on along every tramline in the city as well. In fact if you want to feel the pulse of Moscow you don’t just visit the Kremlin, you hop a tram and watch the city go by from your window. The sights are remarkable. Hundreds of families out a book fair on a Saturday, for example. Churches being restored every few blocks even in the outlying sections of the city.

New construction matching the old makes the city appear as it did in the pre-revolutionary times. Many streets are paved with bricks with the tramcar tracks still embedded in the streets as they were in 1908 when the Belgians first laid them down.

Moscow is a city alive everywhere you look. It is a clean and safe city - the exact opposite of what you hear in the American media. We encountered fewer people begging for a handout in Moscow than we do in the streets of Washington.

Thanks to an aggressive advertising program, most of the trams are in good shape at least on the outside. Many of them are painted with ads in the Latin alphabet, which means a good deal of the populace can’t read what the car says but perhaps it is the symbol which counts. At one time just a few years ago virtually all the tramcars were red and yellow. Now they appear in every color imaginable. Some even have their windows covered with the sort of see-through paint that enables folks on the inside of the car to see out but people eon the outside of the tram not to see in.

Most of the trams operate as single cars, although there are some two-car trains from time to time. There are very busy tramlines to the point where it seems almost impossible to stuff any more passengers into the cars. But other tram lines do not seem terribly busy even at rush hour and may be candidates for further cut backs as requirements for additional maintenance catch up with the system.

On the other hand trolley buses are everywhere. Moscow operates the world’s largest trolley bus system. There are even lines with trolley bus catenary. But that is a tale for another time. The point of this story is, if you have the time and you really want to see Moscow, the tram is an excellent way to do so because you will by-pass all things that are touristy and you will see what is really going on.

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