The past on wheels: old Moscow public transport (PHOTOS)
Moscow a 1954 MTB-82 trolleybus.
Pavel Kazachkov (CC BY-SA 4.0)
What did the old models of Moscow trams, buses and trolleybuses look like?
Electric trams first appeared in Moscow in 1899, but the most popular of the first models was created in 1908. It was the model “F” (“Fonarny”, “The one with a lantern”), a motor car produced in Saint PETERSBOURG . The name comes from a special construction with glass units on the roof. It was used to let extra light from the street into the interior of the cart and was commonly referred to as a “lantern”. The frame of the “F” was made of wood with a steel cladding. The car had no doors and passengers often got in and out as it made turns at minimum speed. The “F” also operated with a motor engine with several attached modifications and was not taken out of service in Moscow until the 1950s.
The “RVZ-6” was a special case: this successful model had spread throughout the USSR and had been in use for decades, but it was still considered truly exotic in Moscow. The reason was that the capital had chosen the “Tatras” trams (see below) instead of this one. The “RVZ-6” was designed in Riga in the Latvian Soviet Republic. From 1960, its serial production continued for almost 30 years – Latvian engineers did everything to modernize the construction. The “RVZ-6” had a lightweight body made of aluminum sheets riveted together. In addition, it had a pedal driving system, which was quite unusual for streetcars. As Moscow underestimated this model, it was only used in 1960-1966, and then all eight cars were donated to Tashkent in the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan.
The “Tatra” tram was inspired by an American model and produced from the 1950s in Czechoslovakia under license. A modified “Tatra T2” first appeared in Moscow in 1959. It was the start of a new era in the history of Moscow trams. It was much more practical than any other Soviet model: the driver had a comfortable seat, and the car was equipped with heavy-duty wheels, instead of all-metal wheels – the “Tatra T2” slipped through the streets quietly. All cars of this modification also had an improved winter heating system. In addition, the recognizable design of the model was unlike any other streetcar. The ‘Tatra T2’ was taken out of service in 1981 and replaced by the next generation – the ‘Tatra T3’, which was no less successful.
The first buses that appeared in Moscow in 1922-1924 were imported from England, but Soviet engineers quickly designed a local model. It was called “AMO-4”, named after the AMO plant (“Moscow Automobile Company”). The model name also means bus chassis and has undergone two body modifications. The second had a fourth door at the back, so it could be turned into an ambulance. The chassis was also improved: it was made of planks instead of beams and became more flexible, so that the bumpy cobblestones of Moscow did not wear it out too quickly.
In the 1930s, the AMO factory was renamed in honor of Iosif Stalin, so its new common abbreviation was ZIS (“Zavod imeni Stalina”, “Plant named after Stalin”). After that, the engineers designed a new bus called “ZIS-8”. It was based on an American bus model, which was significantly modified: the construction was simplified, and the front brakes were made more reliable. Like the “AMO-4”, the “ZIS-8” had a small window to display the route number above the windshield. On the sides of the window there were two lamps indicating the color code of the route to make it recognizable from a distance – an idea borrowed from the tram system. The “ZIS-8” had proved practical and easy to produce, so it was used in other cities of the USSR and even intended for export. ZIS then started to design many bus modifications.
One of the next biggest hits among Moscow buses was first designed in 1962 at a factory in Likino-Dulyovo, Moscow region. It was called “LiAZ-677” and was actually used throughout the USSR. Appeared in 1967 in Moscow for the first time, the “LiAZ-677” operated until the 2000s. This bus had a flexible suspended span based on pneumo cylinders, so people started to call the “LiAZ-677” a “lunokhod” (“lunar rover”). The engine was placed in the front part of the chassis, and the exhaust pipe went under the floor – this construction solution also heated the compartment. However, as this system got older, it began to fill the bus with the smell of exhaust fumes. The “LiAZ-677” is also known for its quivering movement and the specific sound of its worn parts, which resembled the clinking of empty bottles.
Beau J (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The “Ikarus” buses from Hungary were very popular in the USSR. They began to appear in the late 1960s, but only the larger models were operating in Moscow. One of them was the “Ikarus-180”, the first long-duration bus in the Soviet Union. It had only 37 seats, but could carry 169 passengers in total, thanks to its two-piece construction. The focus of the “Ikarus-180” prompted the Soviets to nickname this model “garmoshka” (“accordion”) or “vacuum cleaner”. In addition, its diesel engine caused a sensation in the backs of other Soviet buses with fuel-hungry gasoline engines. Later, the “Ikarus-180” became the basis for the improved model “Ikarus-280”.
Moscow saw its first trolleybuses in 1933. The model was called “LK” in honor of Lazar Kaganovich, who was behind the idea of equipping Moscow with electric transport. The capital’s first trolleybus had a wooden frame covered with metal. There were two doors that were opened manually by the driver and the bus driver. The “LK” was comfortable for the passengers: there were padded seats with radiators and luggage nets. At the same time, the driver’s cabin had no heating, and the wooden frame made terrible creaks during movement. In any case, this new type of transport has gained popularity over the years.
Appeared in 1939, the “YaTB-3” was the most unusual of Moscow’s trolleybus models, as it was a double-decker. It was the Soviet equivalent of an English model bought for the capital of the USSR in 1937. It could fit 100 people inside, but was not easy to use. All trolleybus cables had to be raised by one meter and the trolley poles (power collectors) of the usual models often lowered. The “YaTB-3” was uncomfortable for tall passengers because the ceilings on both decks were very low. In addition, it was only possible to get on the second seated deck – additional standing passengers could alter the center of gravity, which threatened the stability of the bus. The number of these trolleybuses slowly declined until 1953, when they were finally taken out of service for good.
The ‘MTB-82’ first appeared in Moscow in 1946. It was quite different from the previous models. For example, it had a universal chassis that could be used as a trolleybus, tram or bus. Its chassis was made of aluminum and covered with the same metal, so it didn’t make any cracking and was considerably lighter. The doors did not need to be opened manually, as they were equipped with a pneumatic drive. In addition, all parts can be repaired easily. The ‘MTB-82’ could carry 100 people like the ‘YaTB-3’ and it also had issues with its size: it was wider than any other trolleybus, so drivers often hit passing vehicles and streetlights. That is why production of the “MTB-82” was finally ceased in 1961, but it operated until 1972, when it was finally decommissioned. In fact, nowadays every trolleybus is history – in 2020 Moscow stopped using this type of public transport, and in September of the same year a museum route was opened.
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