Summer horsecar

Exhibit on display in the Museum of Municipal Engineering in Krakow.

Description written by Olga Dunikowska

Here, we see the summer car of the horse-drawn tram. It’s a replica of a vehicle that travelled the streets of Krakow from 1882 until 1901, when electric trams were introduced. The beginnings of public transport in Krakow belonged to horse-drawn omnibuses that ran between Podgorski Bridge and the Rail Station. The contract for the construction and servicing of trams had been awarded in 1881 to The Belgian Association of Local Railway. Work on laying the track began in August 1882 and the first passenger trams started running in October of that year. However, the quality of the omnibus service was too low, relative to the expectations of city authorities and the citizens, so this method of transport was eventually discontinued.

The entire vehicle has the shape of a rectangular box painted blue. Since it is a summer car, there are no windows or doors. Individual compartments are separated by light-coloured, linen drapes, which can be fastened to the railing with leather straps. The lower step of the tram’s entrance is at the same height as the knees of an adult standing next to it.

Mounted at both ends of the tram’s roof are placards with the names of the route’s origination and destination stops: PODGÓRSKI BRIDGE – RAIL STATION. The electric tram’s first route traced the route of the omnibuses. It was a single-track line with four passing loops. The track was a narrow, 900 mm gauge, which allowed the trams to travel collision-free along the narrow streets of Krakow. The route was divided into sections: section I – from Podgórski Bridge to Wawel Castle; section II – from Wawel to Main Square; and section III – from Main Square to the Rail Station.

In the front part of the tram you will find the driver’s seat and the first-class compartment. Inside, the front has the shape of a semi-circle. To the right of the railing is the brake handle, shaped like a large crank. Mounted above the driver’s head and to the left is a warning bell, which was used to alert pedestrians of the approaching vehicle. The bell is yellow and its cord is braided.

The first-class compartment contains two benches facing each other, with four leather seats on each one. Above passengers’ heads are handgrips in the form of leather loops. Second class has two wooden benches, positioned perpendicularly to the seats in first class. The benches have adjustable backrests – they can be moved to allow passengers to sit facing the direction of travel. Worth noting is the fact that, compared to contemporary public transport, horse-drawn trams had very few seats. The tram fare depended not only on the number of sections travelled, but also on the class chosen by the passenger for his or her journey. First class fare was 4 cents per section, for two sections it was 8 cents, and the entire route was 12 cents. The fares in second class were 3, 6 and 8 cents, respectively. Special discount was given to children up to 130 cm in height – their travel in second class cost 2, 3 and 4 cents, respectively.

The tram’s crew usually included a conductor, who made sure that everyone entering the tram bought a ticket. In the rear of the tram there is a mannequin in conductor’s uniform. The uniform is navy blue with gold ornaments and consists of trousers, blazer and a round-top cap. Besides selling and checking the tickets, the conductor’s responsibilities included making sure that the number of passengers did not exceed the maximum allowed.

In 1901, horse-drawn trams were replaced by electric ones. Initially, they were also narrow-gauge, then beginning in 1913, they started running on the standard gauge of 1435 mm. In 1953, the narrow-gauge trams were retired from service.

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