Moscow trams in the Garden Ring

Moscow is a city with a sizable tram network, but if you only wander around the inner city, you’d never know it. So why are tram routes so sparse in the inner city?

Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Spasskaya Tower on Red Square

Moscow has five ring roads encircling the city:

  • We start with the Central Squares of Moscow encircle Red Square and the Kremlin.
  • Next is the Boulevard Ring with a radius of two kilometres, following the former city wall.
  • With a circumference of 16 kilometres, the Garden Ring marks the edge of the inner city, and is now a major road.
  • The Third Ring Road is a 35 kilometres long freeway, forming a ring approximately 10 kilometres in diameter around the city.
  • And finally, the Moscow Ring Road (MKAD) is an orbital freeway the skitys the edge of of the Moscow urban area.

Horse drawn trams (конка) were the first railed street transport in Moscow, with the first line opening in 1872.

However it took until the 20th century for electric trams to be introduced to the city, and by 1910 a dense network of radial tram routes have been constructed through the Garden Ring and Boulevard Ring. Construction of an electric tramway along the Garden Ring was completed in 1907-1910, it being dubbed the “B” route (букашка) by locals. In 1918 the total length of tram lines in the city amounted to 323 kilometres, expanding to 395 kilometres by 1918, and a peak of 560 kilometres by the 1940s.

However it was construction of the Moscow Metro that changed the face of trams in the city, demoting the tramways to a feeder system for the new network. As a result the size of the network shrunk to 460 kilometres in 1989, and to 420 kilometres in 2004 following route closures in the inner city.

Today only one tram line passes through the Garden Ring of central Moscow – routes A, 3 and 39 between the Chistye Prudy (Чи́стые пруды́) metro station in the north, and Paveletskaya (Павелецкая) metro station in the south.

Moscow tram #1124 on route 39 crosses Большой Устьинский мост (Bolshoy Ustinsky Bridge)

The tram crosses the Moskva River just south of Red Square, via the Bolshoy Ustinsky Bridge (Большой Устьинский мост).

Looking down Raushskaya naberezhnaya along the Moskva River

Despite passing through the inner city, single car trams are used on the line.

Moscow tram #1268 on route 3 heads north from the Zamoskvorechye District

And intending passengers have to cross a multi-lane road to board trams.

Intending tram passengers cross three lanes of traffic: Moscow tram #1269 on route 3

Given the size and importance of Moscow, the low key nature of the Moscow tramways in the inner city is quite surprising.

Further reading

If you can’t read Russian finding the history of the Moscow tramways is rather hard – Wikipedia has a short summary, while Robert Schwandl’s UrbanRail.Net features a very detailed Moscow tramways route map.

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