Fascinating History of Kyiv Trams: The Lifeblood of the Ukrainian Capital

Culture, Ukraine

The first electric trams started cruising around Ukraine’s capital 125 years ago. Back then, this means of public transportation was very popular. The attitude of Kyiv residents and city guests towards trams hasn’t changed much ever since. As it can boast of a great advantage — getting a passenger through traffic when all the other means of transportation fail.

Comfortable, safe, eco-friendly, high-speed and even … romantic. All this can be said about Kyiv trams. Some people commute every day listening to the sound of the wheels, while others look for new impressions.

125 years ago the first electric tram in Kyiv started its work. Back then a brand new vehicle for the city connected the current Yevropeiska and Kontraktova Squares.

The Kyiv electric tram became the first of its kind in the former Russian Empire and one of the first in Eastern Europe. The steep Dnipro slopes could not be conquered by steam-powered trailers. Horse-drawn carriages couldn’t cope with the slopes either.

“On the night of May 2, 1892, the first electric tram cars came to our city. They were two-axle tram cars. At that time it was quite an interesting novelty,” says Denys Habdrakhimov, Expert on Kyiv History.

In the first months, hundreds of Kyiv residents boarded the unprecedented means of transport to make an exciting trip of only a kilometer long. In the early twenties the rails appeared almost in all parts of the city. Back then it was possible to get by tram even to the suburbs, namely, Brovary. And the peak of the Kyiv tram network development came in the 60s-70s. Habdrakhimov says that if we could go back in time, let’s say, to 1975, we would be able to get from one corner of Kyiv to the other by tram without any difficulties. According to the expert, 20 years later trams could have completely disappeared from the streets of the Ukrainian capital. But it all boiled down to a significant reduction in routes in the city center and the division of the network into two separate parts — right-bank and left-bank.

“The first thing that marked the destruction of tram traffic in Kyiv was the liquidation of a rather popular line at that time along Vorovskoho Street. The most tragic page in the history of the Kyiv trams was the liquidation of the line along the Paton bridge,” tells Habdrakhimov.

13 years ago there were tram routes, that connected ancient Podil with the left-bank part of the city. Today only the commemorative sign to the first electric tram in Kyiv reminds us of that.

Taisiia, a resident of Kyiv, also regrets that there are no longer rails on the Dnipro embankment. She remembers looking out over the river from the tram window on the Rusanivka — Podil route:

“Podil is the region of Kyiv, which is under the sign of the Virgo, and Virgo is my sign of the zodiac. Therefore, I feel comfortable here, in this area. I come here to relax and recharge! And see the trams? That too was my favorite — trams!”

One of the most interesting and alluring routes for the guests to the city is the one from Podil to Pushcha-Vodytsia. Liudmyla from Poltava had to book a ticket a few days in advance to get on a tour: “I got a lot of pleasure. I learned a lot. We breathed fresh air. Everyone is happy.”

Valentyna and her husband have been in charge of a tram for 46 years now. And she has been a tram driver on the excursion car-cafe for 12 years. she doesn’t plan to retire any time soon:

“Whatever you do, you have to actually work. But here there is a little more responsibility, because, God forbid, if something happens, you need to resolve the problem quickly, so that people don’t get angry that we have not taken them to the destination place.”

In recent years, most of the rolling stock has undergone major repairs. On the high-speed tram line, there is a new generation of silent cars. Kyiv residents and city guests believe that the tram will never disappear from the streets of the city.

Part of the route from Podil to Pushcha-Vodytsia:

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