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A Ride Through the Past: A Brief Trams in Budapest

zita kisgergely

One of the things that makes Budapest such a great city to live in, work in, and visit, is its comprehensive and dependable public transportation system, the oldest of which is the network of tramlines. Why waste money on bus tours when the city’s tram system can take you to the most scenic locations in Budapest for around a Euro? Like blood vessels through the body, the trams run everywhere, delivering a staggering 10 million passengers a year to their destinations around Buda and Pest.

With many of the trams currently under 10 years old, it is also a modern system. It’s hard to believe that the very first trams in Budapest were neither electric, gas, nor steam, but actually horse powered. This was back in 1866 when the inaugural tram ran from inner Pest to an outer northern suburb. The system was quickly expanded to include fifteen more lines, as well as a steam-powered commuter rail. The horses had a short run, being replaced by the city's first electrical tram a mere eleven years later. This system was quickly expanded until it became the city-wide one we know today.

Instead of the numbered tram lines we currently use, the original lines were color-coded, using circular discs with a symbol on it or a strip across it to signify the line. But this proved too complicated when by 1900 there were more than 30 tram lines in use. Confusingly, there were two different companies presiding over the system. One was granted the use of even numbers, the other the use of odd numbers for their lines.

It could be said that the tram system had its heyday in the years of 1939-44 when it operated 66 lines. This was of course before WWII, and before the underground metro was constructed, which took a good deal of burden off the evermore crowded trams, not to mention the introduction of gas-powered buses and electric trolleys. Still, the trams of Budapest’s 33 tramlines are consistently replaced with more modern carriages, making it an efficient, even thrilling way to travel across the city.

For a more in-depth history of the trams in Budapest in addition to a deep photo archive of trams old and new, see this excellent site.

Matt Henderson Ellis is a free-lance writer based in Budapest.

Flatpack Films is based in Budapest, Hungary. We are a film company that offers an inspiring and professional work atmosphere for our local and international clients. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast, and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we facilitate, we do to highest standard possible.