Rails on the Neva river: ice and electric tram of St. Petersburg

January 31 marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of a unique transport system in St. Petersburg - an ice tram. In winter 1895 this specific mode started operations and  during next decade and a halfcarried hundreds of thousands of passengers. The electric tram came to the streets of St. Petersburg only in 1907.
 
The electric tram first appeared in St.Petersburg. Back in 1880, Fyodor Pirotsky conducted his famous "experiment in Degtyarny Lane":  a test run on a "carriage running on rails driven by electric force." And although the tests were successful, the owners of the “competing business” —the horse-railway companies —  blocked innovation introduction. The current legal contract  gave competitors the monopoly for using on existing city lines, so introduction of other types of traction was not possible. And although it was obvious to contemporaries - the electroc traction has more precpectives than hard-working horses, the horses were the main mode of transport on the streets of St. Petersburg until 1907. The carriers did not want to invest in the conversion of the lines into electric ones,  not foreseeing any additional benefits.
 
However, the electric tram found its way to start work in St. Petersburg in the 19th century. The Finnish Light Shipping Company laid lines on the ice of the frozen Neva river connecting Senate Square with Vasilievsky Island, Palace Embankment with Mytninskaya and Suvorov Square with the Vyborg Side in 1895. In the warm season, these routes were served by ferry. Tram cars received power from the contact network, which was mounted on wooden poles. The  transmission tpowers were frozen into ice. The ice tram was very popular and transported up to 900 thousand passengers per season! The magazine "World Illustration" in 1895 wrote that the first electrified line in the city "is a great convenience for the inhabitants of the Petersburg side, who  can have excellent, fast communication with the central parts of the capital for two pennies ."
 
The owners of the horse trams sued the City Council, accusing it for violating the contract, but the judges decided that the terms of the document apply only to the streets of St. Petersburg and do not touch the waterways. Finally, in 1902, upon the contract  expired. All transport infrastructure together with the rolling stock was transferred to the city, and the tram system designing started. In 1907, electric trams opened operatiion on the streets of the city, and their ice brothers  appeared on the Neva river in the winter of 1910 for the last time. During the operation of the “winter” trams, serious accidents and dips under the ice had never happened.
SOURCE: SPB GET