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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Volgograd's Tram Subway

Thanks to a friend, I was given the link to these great videos of the Volgograd Tram Subway.  Volgograd, a city that is built on the banks of the Volga River, is narrow and the street pattern follows the river.  The tram subway consists of one north to south line with some branches. By viewing these three videos, the viewer will not be able to walk away from starting to view them.   You will be glued to your seat.

  Tram subways, is something that never developed in New York City, even though the Steinway Tubes, which is presently used by the  Number 7 Flushing Line that connects Manhattan with Queens under the East River was built for tramway operation.  The line was equipped with trolley wire and probably had one trial run, but was never used in passenger service.  After legal disputes, the line was converted for subway operation using small profile IRT subway cars. Other cities near New York, such as Newark, New Jersey has one underground tram line and other cities such as Boston and Philadelphia have extensive tram subways.  Though I do not have the documentation to support this, before the subway was expanded in the 1914 to 1924 era, the management of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit which became later Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit would have liked to build a short tram subway from the Delancey Street Trolley Terminal in Manhattan going north through the lower East Side.    The only tram subways in New York that existed in the past that I know of are short underpasses in the Bronx crossing the Grand Concourse and 34th Street in Manhattan, the trolley terminals at the Manhattan end of the Williamsburgh and Queensborough bridges and the trolley tunnel under Ocean Parkway on the Church Avenue Line.  Please click on the above videos,  one is long but you will enjoy them.  If the Steinway Tubes connecting Manhattan and Queens were never converted to subway rapid transit operation, it is possible that some trolley lines in eastern Queens would have been still in existence and they would feed into a terminal at Grand Central Station similar in shape and profile to one of the beautiful stations on the Volgograd Tram Subway.

Please find below my observations on the videos:
  • The line starts in the northern suburbs on the surface using a grade separated right of way.
  • The line heads south and appears to run in the median of a wide boulevard.  On the left side of the screen, you will see TROLLEYBUS overhead in the left roadway and you may be able to catch a glipse of a passing trolleybus.
  • The line makes an occassional stop for passengers with  side platforms on the outside portion.
  • Now the line plundges fast into a subway.
  • The subway construction appears to me not as "cut and cover" like in New York but circular bore.  A New York City transit buff will see that the construction is reminiscent of the PATH subway tubes under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersery or the tunnel on the 8th Avenue Line (A, C) between Fulton Street - Broadway Nassau and High Street Brooklyn under the East River.
  • The northbound and southbound trackway seem to change places several time along the route and you can see this by viewing the track positions in the stations.
  • The stations are beautiful with many different types of lighting styles and station finishes.
  • The line suddenly enters a station that is partially outside before crossing what appears to be a gorge or valley.  After the tram crosses the bridge, the tram will enter the tunnel but before this, there is a two track branch off at 90 degrees right before the tunnel entrance.
  • One of the videos will take you down this short branch which I believe is connected with the service shops.
  • The line continues underground slowly after it clears the switches and then picks up speed.
  • Tunnel construction is mainly circular core tunnel.  There are several further stations along the line .  The last station is underground where I believe the trams relay for the return trip beyond the station.
  • At the last station, the camera person takes you up the stairs and you will see the surrouning neighborhood.  You will see a lighted bridge and some interesting older inter city commuter trains running on an embankment.
  • The videos were done very well, with the beginning starts in the late afternoon and ends at late twilight in the winter.  There is a good pychological feeling with this and represents the completion of a day.
  • The videos shows old and the latest rolling stock, with sound and shots of the tunnel and trackway from first and last cars.
  • I noticed in tunnel sections that are going downhill there are small signs posted in the tunnel wall that state "C".  In the New York City subway system, "C" stands for "Coast" and tells the motorperson not to use power but to let gravity propel the train in order to save electricity.  I wonder if the "C" means the same thing in the Volgograd tram subway.
  • Viewing the videos, I felt that I visited Volgograd before but this is not possible.  Then I realized that the Grand Central station for the IRT Flushing Line (#7) has a shape similar to the tram stations shown.  The Grand Central Flushing Line platform is narrow facing the east and is wide facing the west because as built, the western part of the station had a prevision for a streetcar loop.  This is long gone but the shape of the station is like a cavern and is similar to many stations on the Volgograd Tram Subway including the position of the staircases, but of course, the Grand Central stop on the Flushing Line is no way as elegant as the Volgograd Tram subway.
Enjoy the videos:
Tramway Null(0)


  1. New York's Murray Hill Tunnel was essentially a tram subway (not just a short underpass). It had an underground station at 38th St and off-street stations at the portals at 34th St and 40th St. See for more information.

  2. Hi threestationsquare:

    Thanks for the info. I will check it out.

    Tramway Null(0)