Short history of origination and development of
Tramway and Trolleybus in Vitebsk
It is impossible to imagine the streets of our wonderful city without modern transport, including the public transport. Sometimes we do not think about how much our life depends on trouble-free operation of well-known toilers – trams and trolleybuses.
Electric transport, in particular, tramway, is the oldest representative of public transport in our city. Using of tramway as means for conveyance of passengers became possible in 80-90th years of XIX century thanks to achievements in area of electrical engineering, metallurgy and mechanics. Thus, Tramway became technical breakthrough in public transport development.
Formation and development of Vitebsk Tramway
1895 – 1917
In the end of XIX century Vitebsk was a not big provincial town with the narrow and curve small street, with paved road here and there and had population of near 70, 000 inhabitants. Industry was underdeveloped and small scale.
The city was illuminated by means of kerosene lanterns. Transport has been presented by horse carriages.
For the first time the question concerning tramway building in Vitebsk was risen in 1895. From July till November of 1895 the Vitebsk town council accepted three statements about the construction of the electric railway. There were three applicants:
- Feldzer, who was a honorable citizen of a city of Kiev;
- Villemain, who was representative of the Belgian joint-stock company;
- Guillon F, who was a citizen of France.
By results of voting the Municipal Duma decided to give Fernand Guillon a concession for Vitebsk Tramway constructing and operating for a period of 40 years. The contract on this agreement was signed on February, 4th, 1896. In compliance with the contract Guillon F. was obliged to construct the electric railway with all accessories and plus to provide rolling stock.
On June, 18th, 1897 on request of the Minister of Internal Affairs some changes and additions were put in contract which basically concerned safety of public and strict execution of rules, decisions and other requirements of the authority. The given changes were notarially assured by A.G.Shavlinsky on July, 21st, 1897.
Paragraph N4 of the contract, dated by February, 4th, 1896 provided, that ”… for realization of this enterprise Mr. F. Guillon has been authorized to form in Russia or abroad a joint-stock company or joint-stock company with the right of share issue, as well as bonds, with all bonds to be redeemed by day of the expiry of the term of concession. …“.
According to this paragraph of the contract, the official communication about establishment of a joint-stock company ”Trams of Vitebsk” (in other resource “Vitebsk tramways”) was documented on April, 25th, 1896 in Bruxelles, in notary Mr. Leon Grossman presence and was published in "Monitor Belzh" on May, 13th, 1896, numbered 1826. Accordingly to this, shares in number of 12 000 on 100 francs each have been released. The public capital accounted for 1,200,000 francs.
Chapter of the joint-stock company was worked out and approved appropriately by the founders of company. An order of distribution of expenses and incomes, a society operating procedure, securities and shares circulation are detailed in the Chapter. In accordance with article 6 of the Chapter” … Mr. Guillon pays a call to the present Tramway concession society, received by him from municipality of Vitebsk on February, 4/16th, and carries out business management”.
Accordingly project plan, the following tram line sections were built:
- Section A: From Ocopnaya square (Smolenskaya square, nowadays), along Bogodelnaya street (Gorovza street, nowadays), along Smolenskaya street (nowadays – part of Lenin street) till the Nicolaevskaya cathedral square (nowadays – Svoboda square);
- Section B: From the Nikolaevskaya Cathedral square, along the Bolshaya Mogilyovskaya street (nowadays - a part of Lenin street in area of crossing with Gogolevskaya street), through the Mogilyov square, along Shosseynaya Mogilevskaya street to city barracks (nowadays the beginning of Moscowskaya street);
- Section C: From Sadunovskaya Ocopnaya square, near the regimental hospital buildings, along Sadunovskaya street through the dam (nowadays – area of Frunze street) to Nicolaevskaya cathedral square;
- Section D: From Nicolaevskaya cathedral square along Zamcovaya and Theatralnaya streets, across stationary iron bridge over Zapadnaya Dvina, along Vokzalnayay and Kovalskaya streets to the square at the municipal Jewish hospital (nowadays along Kirova street, Kosmonavtov street to the emergency station building).
Because of the small narrow streets the single track with crossing loop stations was constructed. But double track was constructed on squares and wide sides of road. Total length of tram lines added up to more than six kilometers.
Electricity for tramway was generated by the central station, that was built in Zadunovskaya street near Nicolaevskaya cathedral square (nowadays a house N13 on Frunze street).
Depot for accommodating rolling stock and repair shops has been built on Zadunovskaya street. It was able to hold 42 rail cars. Rolling stock included 18 motor rail cars and 15 summer attachable rail cars. All of them were made by foreign manufacturer. Motor car had 32 places for passengers, 20 of which were for seating passengers and there was standing room 12 passengers. Motor rail cars were closed type with open platforms at their ends and had double-ended control. Tram drivers worked standing and were not protected against adverse weather conditions. Tramway was launched solemnly in 1898, 18th of June. On the occasion of Vitebsk tramway inaugurating the special tramway march was composed and to the sound of this “Tramway March” the tramways run along the Vitebsk urban streets for the first time.
A tramway launch has been outstanding achievement for a small provincial town. There was one more significant benefit of this event. Together with progressive type of transport the town has obtained electric light. The Electric station, built for tramway, generated enough output power to supply some municipal organizations and the most prosperous private streets with electricity. Kerosene lanterns had been step-by-step replaced with electric bulbs.
A building of the theatre was one of the urban facilities which were lighted in the first place. Meantime, in 1899, 25th of April, Mr. Guillon, owner of Vitebsk tramway concession, transferred the ownership of concession to Belgian joint-stock company named “Tramways de Witebsk”.
Vitebsk tramway had been operated by this company until the October revolution in 1917. Tramway work was regulated by rules and so-called "Tax", confirmed by a municipal Duma.
Tramway traffic began at 7 a.m. in the summer and at 8 a.m. in the winter and stopped at 11 p.m. in the evening. Passengers can get on the tramway not only at the stops but also throughout the entire route. But there are no stops at the points, at the crossroads and curves of a road. According to the rules passengers were forbidden to get on the tram if a conductor informed passengers that there were no vacant seats or there was a special tablet “No vacant seats " which was exposed by conductor. Also passengers were forbidden to smoke and to take along the dogs. Fare was equal to 5 copecks for adults and 3 – for the pupils of educational institutions if the pupils were dressed in uniform. Fare for 5 year-old children or elder was 5 copecks. Fare for traveling on open platforms was equal to 3 copecks.
For the inquiry: a worker was paid to 60 copecks for 16-hour working day. Accordingly, the worker needed to labour more than 3 hours to go by a tram in both ways. Police officers had a right to go free-of-charge, but only on forward platforms of trams and no more than one on the tram. Lowest officials had a right to use only the open platforms of tram cars.
One can’t do without complaints of passengers connecting with tramway operation. Complaints were brought in the complaint books which were available in each tram.
The tram management should consider each complaint and to submit report with instructions of the accepted measures for approval in Town council. Passengers complaints were different: well-grounded and groundless, but sometimes funny enough. Here are some of them.
“19th of January, 1905. More than two weeks ago I declared that a door of tram N105 did not shut. The door is not fixed to this day. This provokes tooth pain. Court counselor Glutnevich.”
“12th of October, 1907. I ask you to demand an explanation from conductor N 51. Does the conductor have a right to collect fare of 5 copecks from me if I am uniformed but without apron. Yahnina, student of Mariinsk gymnasium .”
“I don’t understand why conductors shut the trams’ doors when there is warm outside. It is impossible to be inside the trams.
Working conditions of the tramway workers were severe. By 1914, the earnings average 20-25 roubles a month, the conductor made 18-20 roubles. The working day lasted 18 o'clock a day.
Conductors of hooked-on rail cars had to move along the narrow footboard outside of the tram in all weathers and holding the handrail by one hand they had to collect passenger fare.
There were often traffic incidents because of collisions of trams with horse carriages on narrow sites of the road. There were not enough the snowplows for snow removal in the winter.
There were long traffic delays in such conditions, because of which «Vitebsk tramways» was frequently fined. Workers of Tramway were fined for slightest breaches also. They did not get sick pays when they were ill or had injuries.
They can be dismissed because of the unchecked passengers complaints, official reports of controllers and without any grounds and the service benefit.
The first conductor was Johanna Ivanovna Cave, a citizen of Vitebsk. Later, in 1919, she becomes the first chairman of local committee of Tramway workers’ trade unions. The western border with Russia has been closed because of military operations.
Vitebsk tramway could not receive spare parts for tramways from Bruxelles any more. So the Tramway began to be operated unsparingly. In these circumstances the Vitebsk tramway employees had to search for possibility of acquisition of equipment and spare parts in Russia.
Vitebsk tramway in revolution and civil war years,
It was 1917, 27th of October, when the Soviet rule was declared in Vitebsk. Thus, at the beginning of 1918 the Belgian joint-stock company named “Tramways of Witebsk” ceased to exist. The enterprise had been nationalized and transferred to the hands of those who worked there. At that time the Vitebsk tramway had been in a grip of finance, material and technical crisis. By the first of January, 1919, just 3-4 tramcars served the urban routes. Income of the enterprise was very small for further technical development and Vitebsk municipal council of labor and Red army deputies rendered finance aid to the workers of the Vitebsk tramway at the rate of 500 thousands rubles. In 1919, 24th of June, in the meeting of collegium of municipal government an engineer Shklodin was appointed manager of the Vitebsk tramway.
Years of reconstruction and the first five-year plans,
After efforts of the tramway workers and taking the necessary steps, economical and technical condition of the Vitebsk tramway had been improved. As a result, at the end of 1921, 4-5 tramcars, 4 summer attachable rail cars and 3 drayswere serving the route lines daily.
In 1925, 25th of November,Vitebsk district executive committee decided to organize a municipal trust which included Tramway and central electric power station. Tramway traffic began at 7.40 a.m. and stopped at 10.40 p.m.. Conductors and tramcar drivers worked during 8 hours every day in two shifts with monthly wage. Tramway operated a whole year, with the exception of the public holidays such as the 7th of November and 1st of May. In 1923 the central power electrical station had been thoroughly repaired. The electric power station remained important for the town because of supplying not only tramway with electricity but also the whole town.
For the period of the first five-plan years, formation of the new enterprises and expansion those, that had already been operating, required to develop the transport system further, especially tramway networks.
In 1925, a tramway line was laid from Gogolevskaya street to an aviation club on Vinchevskaya street (nowadays Chernyahovskaya street).
In 1926 the rail track was laid along Bolnichnaya street around Smolensky market. In 1933 the rail track was laid along the road to Suraz (to brick-works). In 1934 the tramway track along Frunze street was extended to a cantonment (area of houses N 90-92). Markovschina, the large industrial district named Proletarian Liberty at that time, had been connected to the town with tramway network.
By the end of 1930, open platforms of the old Belgian tram cars were glazed and driver's seats were installed in driver’s cabs. Until 1930 the tram cars had not doors and only in 1930 the tramways were fitted with doors what allowed to arrange going in and going out of passengers.
1934-1939 years became a turning-point for the Vitebsk tramway. The replacement work of the narrow tramway track by the wide track had been finished at that period. These allowed to replace of the old Belgian tramcars by modern ones, made by manufacturers from Mytishchi and Moscow (Russia).
In 1934, 4 Russian tram cars “Series H” were delivered to Vitebsk for the first time.
In 1935 the new wide double track was built throughout the new bridge across Zapadnaya Dvina (nowadays Blohina bridge) and the tramway ring was built on Svoboda square.
The past of the Vitebsk tramway is the history of labour and creative traditions of tramway workers. The profession of tram worker was passed on from one generation to another, from father to sons, then to grandchildren and to great grandsons. A lot of people, who work at the Vitebsk tramway nowadays, inherited the profession of tram worker. For example, the dynasty of Nesterovich family is the respectable representative of this relay race. Ludvig Carlovich Nesterovich began to work as a tram driver in 1898. His son Cheslav Ludvigovich continued the tradition from 1930, and later - grandchildren Romuald and Regina. Nowadays Victor Romualdovich Nesterovich, the grandchild of Ludvig Carlovich, and his son Vadim Victorovich work at the Vitebsk tramway.
By 1940 the Vitebsk tramway had had 650 worker on staff. It was the large, rapidly developing and profitable public utility.
Tramway run 6 routes.Total length of the route lines numbered 50 kilometres. The tramway depot consisted of four buildings, where maintenance workshops, warehouses, garages, electro coiling department, dining hall and shower cubicles for the tram workers were placed. Rolling stock included 34 motor cars, 22 attachable passenger trams, two freight cars, a snowplough tram and three drays. 37, 508, 000 passengers were transported by the Vitebsk tramway at that period.
Vitebsk tramway in a period of Second World War
In 1941, 22nd of June, the peaceful life of the Vitebsk tramway workers was interrupted by the Second World War. The Vitebsk tramway had been working up to the last days. Because of bombing the tramcars remained dispersing all over the track sections.
The most of them were ruined and burned down. During the period of occupation, facilities of the Vitebsk tramway were destroyed. All rolling stock, in number of 62 trams, has been destroyed. Only a small part of the Vitebsk tramway property had been evacuated to Chelyabinsk.
Restoration of theTramway in Vitebsk after the Second World War.
By the time of its liberating from fascist occupation on 26th of June, 1944, Vitebsk had been in ruins. More than 90% of housing stock was destroyed.
Burned and broken body frames of trams can be seen in the streets and in ruins of the tramway depot. It seemed it was impossible to breathe life into the tramway. But it was impossible to restore the town to life without tramway. Post-war enterprise had not any material resources, machine tools, instruments and facilities. But nevertheless, the tramway was returned to life due to the selfless labour of the Tramway workers. For the period of 1946 – 1949, near 26 km of rail track were restored. 26 kilometres of contact wire were fixed. The transforming substation was restored, the depot building was rebuilt.
By 1947, workers of the Tramway restored 19 tramcars and the tramway traffic was opened anew in 1947, 5th of October. In 1948 workers of the Moscow tramway transferred 20 old tramcars to their colleagues in Vitebsk. 14 tram cars were built by employees of Vitebsk tramway without outside help till 1950. During five-year plan 1951-1955, six per-war routes had been reestablished entirely. Length of the rail track totalled 27,9 km.
The rolling stock reached 62 tramcars. In 1958 the rolling stock of the Vitebsk tramway was added by 6 tram carstype MTV – 82 made by Riga carriage works.
Transportation of passengers had been increasing year after year and the Vitebsk tramway was getting profitable.
Years of the new progress of the Vitebsk tramway. Trolleybus.
In the course of the sixties, Vitebsk had been growing and progressing, building and widening. The new prospects and streets had been appearing. As a result, the old tram tracks had been extended and the new ones had been built.
By the middle of 1960, reconstruction and expansion of Svoboda square had been completed. A new tram route N 7 “Frunze street – DOK” was opened in October at the same year.
The rolling stock had been added by domestic tram cars. Since 1961, the new types of tram cars, KTM-2 and KTP-2, had been delivered to Vitebsk. The tram cars were equipped with radio communication and rubber-cushioned wheels.
Since the first of September servicing without conductors was introduced into practice, which had been used until the late nineties. For the purpose of passenger fare collection all the tram cars were equipped with the ticket machines PPB-6-68 and KP-68 with installation of radio units made by Kaliningrad factory of trade equipment.
Visitors of the museum.
The first exposition of the museum of the Vitebsk tramway history was opened in 1966, 20th of November. L.A. Zabello was a creator and director of the museum.
In the late sixtieth the tramway was general means of public transport in the town. That period for the Vitebsk tramway was a time of rolling stock updating. The old tram cars were taken out of service and discarded.
The Vitebsk tramway celebrated its sixtieth anniversary by adoption and putting into service the new tram cars MTV-82, made by Riga carriage works.
Number of the rolling stock on the route lines had been increased significantly.
This period was the time of renewal for the Vitebsk tramway. The old trams were taken out of service and replaced with the new tramways – RVZ, from Riga carriage works, and KTM, from Kirov Ust-Katavsk Railcar Plant.
By 1975, it had achieved its peak and came to more than 170 tram cars.
The total length of route track had been increased up to 35% and amounted to 72 kilometres, the rolling stock came to 186 tram cars. Because of rapid growth of the town and fast building of housing habitation there was a problem with the transportation of townspeople. Municipal administration made a decision on launching the new type of transport, namely, trolleybus.
In 1976, on the 22nd of October, the Vitebsk regional executive committee made a decision on establishment of the management of the Trolleybus enterprise, that was about to be built. The new transport company was to be subordinated to the department of the Vitebsk city committee responsible for the municipal services.
Building of the trolleybus facilities started from scratch. In the end of December, 1977, the first seven trolleybuses came from Russia, from Engels town of the Saratov region. By the first of April, 1978, building of the trolleybus facilities had been finished and on 1st of October, 1978, the new trolleybus enterprise had been founded. A.A, Dubinezki was appointed the director of this enterprises.
On 20th of September, 1979, the Vitebsk tramway and the Vitebsk trolleybus management were merged into Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus administration (further, for short - the Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus) that was subordinated to the department of the municipal services.
The 1stof September, 1978, went down in history of Vitebsk together with another significant dates of those years. A scarlet trolleybus N 001 did its maiden honour trip along Vitebsk streets in 11.36 a.m. that day. So, the new type of public transport has got a start in life in the ancient Vitebsk.
Length of the first trolleybus route line totaled barely 8.4 km (both ways). Nevertheless, a year later the trolleybus route N 1 was increased by 4,4 km. The new route line connected Victory square to the rail road station via Kalinina street, the Kirov bridge and Kirova street. A new trolleybus route N2 was opened in October that year. The new route was 5 km long and connected the railroad station to Lenin square via Kirova street, Zamkovaya and Lenina streets.
Trolleybus drivers - Baburov Pavel and Poznaykova Alla.
In 1983, 15th of November, trolleybuses with figure of “3” run along the town streets. The new route connected Frunze street to the railroad station. Its length totaled 10,4 km. The longest route N4 was opened in 1986-1987. It was 28,4 km long. The route N5 was opened at the beginning of 1992. It was 12 km long. The trolleybus route N6 was put into operation on March, 1995.
Vitebsk electrical transport today
On 21st of March, 2003, the Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus administration was renamed into Unitary Municipal transport company “Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus administration”.
Today, facilities of the Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus include tramway and trolleybus depots, where technical maintenance and repairing of the rolling stock are carried out.
Nowadays, a share of the Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus in passenger transportation among the Vitebsk transport operators amounts to 58,4% . General supplier of the rolling stock is open joint-stock company "BELKOMMUNMASH". During partnership with "BELKOMMUNMASH", counting already 27 years, the Vitebsk tramway and Trolleybus has been delivered 22 trolleybuses AKSM 101, 12 trolleybuses AKSM 201, 19 trolleybuses AKSM 20101 and 1 trolleybus 201A7. In 2010 "BELKOMMUNMASH" has delivered 20 trolleybus machines AKSM 321.
In 2009 open joint-stock company “BELKOMMUNMASH” presented and tested its the most modern trolleybus 42003 A “Vitovt”. The new machine is equipped by a mass of technological gadgets for example, autonomous source of energy - capacitor banks, modern air-conditioningsystem, GPS and others.
“BELKOMMUNMASH” supplies the Vitebsk tramway and trolleybus not only the trolleybus machines but also the trams. Beginning with 2005 the enterprises has been delivered 12 tramcars AKSM 60102 model and one tram AKSM 62103.
Today the tramway run 9 routes. Total length of route lines is 212,7 km. 68 trams operate every working day, from Monday till Friday, and 43 trams operate on days off.
The Trolleybus run 8 route lines. Their total length is 157,8 km. 76 trolleybus machines operate every working day and 48 trolleybuses operate on days off.
The trams and trolleybuses transport more than a quarter of million passengers every day, i.e. every adult citizen or guest of Vitebsk use public electrical transport. If to sum-up everyday mileage of the trams and trolleybuses then one can see that the electrical transport of Vitebsk has transported more than 5 billions passengers for 110 years of its service. This quantity is proportional to the world population. Total kilometrage is equal approximately 600 millions kilometres. This is tens of thousands times more than the equator length.
But we hope the development of transport network will go on and the Vitebsk Tramway and Trolleybus company will do its best for the successful progress of Vitebsk electrical transport