The Tram of Madrid

The Tram of Madrid – Life Before Metro

The tram of Madrid was a means of transportation full of stories and anecdotes that brought the capital to life and allowed its growth and development for almost a century.

If you come to visit Madrid, get lost and ask any citizen for a specific address, they will probably answer something like… ”yes, of course, it is only 3 metro stops away following the green line! You have a stop just around the corner! ”.

The Metro is something so important in the city that most of us, the citizens will not be available to find our way without it! But … was it always like this? The answer is no! It is difficult to imagine a city without a metro, but … yes, there was a life before the metro existed in people’s imagination, and that life was led by a very close relative of the metro, the Tram of Madrid !

The tram was the protagonist of the history of Madrid from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th. It changed the real history of our city, it saved the life of a King of Spain (if you want to know more about this story, come with us to visit Free Tour Madrid – Old City !!).

Its inauguration changes for the good history of Madrid. The event was so important that the City Council paid for opening celebration to one of the most emblematic, important and famous restaurants in the city, Lhardy’s House. But this is not the most interesting thing. The craziest thing about it was that the tram coaches were pushed by… horses and steam! It was not until 1899 that they finally began to use electricity in this transport.

How did the trams of Madrid look like? Let’s see:

The history of the tram of Madrid
Old Madrid Tram – Serrano – Puerta del Sol Line

Its peculiarity, as we said before, is that the coaches were pushed by horses. Usually, two horses worked, but sometimes a third was needed to pull the tram through the steepest streets.

The first project proposal to develop this tram was presented in 1865, but it was not until 1868 that the City Council finally accepted the idea. Its construction was attributed to the company “Tranvías de Madrid”. This company finished the first line on May 31, 1871, called Sol – Salamanca. The entrance was located on the corner of Serrano and Maldonado and ran along Calle Alcalá. Only 5 months later, the line was extended to the Poza neighbourhood.

Thanks to the great success and convenience of this type of transport, the citizens urged the mayor to expand the construction of new railways and lines. People loved it! And thanks to this pressure, the mayor accepted and passed the Railway Law in 1875 to regulate the construction of the tram and multiply the projects to expand the tram in Madrid.

The main railway network was built in about 30 years, grouped into 3 types of lines:

  • Central lines.
  • Lines that cross the centre of the city.
  • Suburbs, popular neighbourhoods and lines of nearby cities.

In 1888, the 5 companies that run the business in Madrid said that more than 31 million citizens used the tram every year.

But we have to properly describe how the first tram coaches were:

The first kind had 34 seats and two floors; the second type was open and had two beautiful stairs on each side. The company had in total 24 coaches of type one and 120 horses. Little by little, they changed to smaller 16-seater carriages (it was easier for the poor horses). After a few months, they build the first steam lines, always on the outskirts of the city (it was forbidden in the city center); The first line to change was the Carabanchel line, followed in 1878 by the Puente Toledo line, the Vallecas line in 1881… as we said, all the horses were finally changed.

How did the steam trams work? Easily, little train machines working by steam call maquinillas (Little machine´s) were used instead of animal´s.

And finally, the key moment for the tram reached: the Electrificy! Thanks to this huge change, in 1898 the transport system became much more efficient and comfortable. So that the citizens used it even more and more! About 154 million´s used every single year!

We have to recognize that the crazy expansion of the city in both population and size was due in part to this electrification of the tram because many urban projects as famous in the city as Ciudad Lineal were planned in team with the tram company.

The switch from horses to electricity happened very quickly on the downtown lines. The first to change was also the first to be created, the Sol – Salamanca line, followed by the Sol – Hipódromo line.

The years between 1871 and 1919 are known in Madrid as Tram´s Era, because thanks to this charismatic transport system, the lives of Madrid citizends got better. Because… remember that everyone in this city gets orientated by the train, right? (even if it runs on top or underground).

If you want to know similar, different, happy, terrifying, beautiful stories … of all kinds of our beautiful and charismatic city, here we are, the great team of Leaf Madrid. Beside Carlos III statue in Sol square with the light blue umbrellas and light blue coats well prepared for you with our Free Tour Madrid in English !

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