stop 1 - before the beginning of the line

The Niznhy Novgorod Fair

The first tram to run in Russia was in Nizhny Novgorod, in 1896. The tram was installed as part of the infrastructure for the city's hosting of the World Fair. It ran across the River Oka, connecting Nizhny Novgorod itself with the site of the Fair, a showcase for industry, manufacturing, technology and the arts. The tram obviously fulfilled a functional role in transporting the exhibition-goers, but by virtue of its sheer novelty and demonstration of efficiency, it too numbered among the exhibits on display in the city of Nizhny Novgorod turned grand exhibition space.

Nizhny Novgorod exhibition ground

The Tram as Attraction

At the very beginning, Petersburg's first tram was an attraction, rather than a functional means of transport; people stood in line to buy tickets to ride purely for pleasure, just as they did for other rides on rails in the city at that time – for the roller coaster at the Lunar Park of Attractions or the so-called American Mountain ride on the Mars Field.

The American Mountain at Mars Field

A Successor to the Konka

The electric tram was a successor to the horse-drawn konka, and the two forms of transport co-existed for a number of years. The tram's appearance was in part delayed by complex wrangling in the commercial world. The konka companies refused to sell their shares, a bid to resist the age of increased mechanization and protect livelihoods which were dependent on old ways.

The tardiness of the tram's arrival to Petersburg gave yet more grounds on which Russia could lament her backwardness in comparison to the Western European capitals of modernity. By 1913, underground metro systems already existed in Paris, London, Berlin and even Budapest. Meanwhile Petersburg's transportation system was barely adequate; trams filled to overflowing and struggled to keep up with passenger demand. As one commentary notes, by 1913 "In a city with a population of almost two million, the tram as major means of transport has already become anachronistic."

Horse-drawn Konka

Preparing the Tracks

In addition to these commercial negotiations, much physical construction work had to be undertaken to prepare the city for the tram's arrival: the improvement and laying of tracks, installing the overhead wires, ensuring the electricity supply was adequate, building tram-parks to house the tram-cars, reinforcing bridges, and restructuring the sewage system.

And so the specific trappings of the tram network appeared on the urban landscape – the highly visible rails and wires. In addition, the construction work established and consolidated aspects of the city's infrastructure, contributing to the larger project of transforming Petersburg into a city of modernity, able to support a growing population, their demands for goods, services and entertainments, and an increasing array of commercial and industrial activities.

Installing overhead wires