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Streetcars in the city

April 6, 2010

Sarajevo, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Alexandria, Krakow, Melbourne, Toronto, San Francisco. These are only a few of the cities where streetcars — known also as trams — rumble and clack their way along the streets. Definitely more sustainable on the environment compared with buses and trains, streetcars have been transporting people around for decades throughout the world, and look likely to continue well into the future.

Modern streetcars are quiet and roomy, but it’s the old wooden cars, those grand old dames from way back when, that are also magnets to tourists. It’s easy to see why. The thrill of sightseeing in something novel, something old, something that befits a place in time.

by Cate

Double decker or single deck, old streetcars share a commonality — narrow at the girth. I have to admit, when I saw the streetcars clattering through Hong Kong, cornering at above streetcar speeds, I cringed while waiting for the moment when a corner speed was misjudged and a car wobbled over on to its side. But one never did.

In San Francisco, streetcars rule the inner city around the, waterfront, downtown, harbourside and historic rail routes.  These cars are subtly placed at the top of the city’s vehicular pecking order. Tracks interlace the roads, signals dictate to pedestrians and motorised traffic moves in separate lanes. Depending on the time of day the cars are literally crammed with people liked sardines in a can. But other times these cars run on empty, a kind of quiet empty which gives you plenty of time to soak up the interior with a camera — in between the jerking and the, all too often, rapid braking.

by Cate

Possibly the best way to ride in comfort is to park yourself on one of the not so plush benches and soak up the trip.

by Cate

San Francisco’s streetcars have been wonderfully preserved by Streetcar.org a non-profit group that has worked on the upkeep of the cars and the history behind the city’s streetcars.  As for the other cities out there on this planet? I cannot tell you whether municipal governments maintain their own streetcars or whether private organisations do it themselves.

by Joe May

But one thing is certain. Take a ride on one of these beauties, the old historic grand ladies I mean. The smell of polished wood, the ring of bell that resonants with a musical quality no longer common, and enjoy a first class lesson in history.

by Joe May

Caffeinated Traveller

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14 Comments
  1. April 6, 2010 8:41 pm

    i love the streetcars in san fransico, it was such a unique experience and really made the city even more charming.

  2. April 7, 2010 11:08 am

    I have experienced the one in HK. Very remarkable. Penang had it once upon a time.

  3. April 7, 2010 3:12 pm

    Jem and rainfield – there is something about seeing a streetcar aka tram, makes the place less sterile.

    Cate

  4. April 7, 2010 3:59 pm

    Reminds me of the stories of the old tramcars of Glasgow in the sixties my mum and dad tell me about, sadly they have been replaced by buses. Great Blog.

  5. Catherine permalink
    April 7, 2010 9:59 pm

    and many cities are seeing the error of their ways and putting the ripped out tram line back in – UK, Mexico City etc – I have always loved the Prague trams…

  6. April 8, 2010 9:00 am

    Ryan – that would have been a good sight for Glasgow. Thanks for your comment!

    Catherine – Oh yes Prague, forgot about that one. It is good that these cities are reintroducing trams, they are environmentally friendlier than fuel reliant buses and trains. and just look good.

  7. April 8, 2010 11:18 am

    Part of Joe’s photo shows the Milan (orange) streetcar in SF that runs along Market Street and the Embarcadero.

    If you ride the Milan hold on tight! The interior seating is highly varnished wood and you might find yourself sliding from one end of the car to the other. I’ve seen unprepared visitors take a tumble. The upside is that the Milan is so LOUD rumbling down the street, you can hear it arriving blocks away.

    Cate – Thanks for highlighting a favorite of mine! Maybe cable cars next?

  8. April 8, 2010 2:27 pm

    Milan has them as well and here in Rio, in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa there are very old, yellow trams that are worth photographing, don´t know about riding! 😉

  9. April 8, 2010 9:05 pm

    Sharon and Adriana = thanks for the extra tid bits on street cars in SF and Rio.

    Cate

  10. April 11, 2010 5:57 pm

    Great pix. That last one – where is that from?

  11. April 12, 2010 3:52 am

    Awesome pictures of trams or street cars. I love to travel on it. You can nicely look out the city when you journey on it.

  12. April 12, 2010 1:29 pm

    Sophie the last picture is in San Francisco down by the wharf front.

  13. April 15, 2010 2:58 pm

    I was really taken by the traditional trams with wooden interiors in Lisbon – they’re a tourist attraction in their own right.
    http://www.heatheronhertravels.com/transport-lisbon-portugal/

    Also in Manchester recently they’ve installed an all new metro line which is reaching out to the far corners of the city

  14. May 2, 2010 3:53 pm

    I live in Buenos Aires. There used to be streetcars here decades ago (you can still see some of the tracks in the oldest parts of the city). Nowadays there’re no more streetcars (“tranvías”). What we do have are “premetros”. The difference with a sreetcar is that it doesn’t share the street with people’s cars (the tracks have their own space). There are 2 that I know of. Here’re links to the pics:

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