Spårvägsmuseet Stockholm – History of Public Transport

Transport is an important part of any city and at Stockholm, the transport is an integral part of the city. So integral that there is even a dedicated transport museum. Spårvägsmuseet is the Public Transport Museum of Stockholm City. I embarked on a journey to the Swedish Transport Museum along with Sandheep Kumar VB

The museum looks small from the outside. But don’t underestimate the size. It took us about 2-3 hours to look at the entire museum.

The museum includes an audio guide in its admission fees. The audio guide was in English and turned out to be really helpful as most of the Information Boards were in Swedish.

The museum takes you on a journey starting from the earliest canal boats to the latest Underground train.

The first public mode of transport in Stockholm were row-boats which were rowed by Women. These women were called “Rowing-Madams” and there were no set-routes or timetables. The passengers could decide where they want to go and they would be charged according to their destination. These Rowing-Madams would have to apply for a rowing permit to be allowed to operate their services.

Rowing-Madams dated back to the 18th Century and were operational till 1904 when the Last Rowing-Madam retired from service at the age of 69. They also suffered competition from Steam Powered Boats which proved to be faster and cheaper as they could fit in a lot of passengers for a single trip. But this meant that there were fixed destinations and timetables.

Horse-Drawn Carriages were introduced but initially were only available for hire and could only be afforded by people who were well-off. The museum has a horse drawn carriage which dates back to 1840.

The Oldest Horse-Drawn Carriage in existence in Sweden.
The Oldest Horse-Drawn Carriage in existence in Sweden.
After this, Horse Drawn Coaches were introduced. But they were still deemed to be a luxury. These coaches had strict rules that the passengers needed to follow to be allowed to travel. These coaches were not very helpful in keeping the passengers warm during winters. They also consisted of Conductors who went about the carriage to collect the fare from passengers. They were usually teenage boys who were able to go about easily and could be employed for a cheap salary. The wonderful part is that visitors are allowed to go onto the coach and sit down.

Posing as a coachman. A real one wouldn't be as happy as I am.
Posing as a coachman. A real one wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
It was wonderful that you were allowed to get onto a vehicle which dated back to the early 19th Century and get a feel of it.
Horse-Drawn Carriages did not have any fixed stops. You could just signal to the driver and the carriage would stop for you if you were lucky. It would usually just keep moving and you would have to jump onto it as sudden stops would strain the horses and also prove to be a problem to other horse-drawn vehicles behind it. There were also snippets from newspapers which regularly mentioned these carriages colliding with milk-carts or other carriages.
Steam powered carriages were slowly introduced and were intended to replace horse-drawn carriages. There were several protests against these carriages as they made the clothes which were hung to dry above the streets black because of the coal that was combusted. These carriages could not be stopped easily and there have also been several incidents of people hit and run over or dragged along by the carriage.
These were replaced with electric tram systems and horse-drawn carriages were re-introduced for a brief period during World War II. Trams were the life-lines of Stockholm for a long time, but it became difficult for people to travel throughout the city as tram lines were limited and there were several tram-traffic jams in which trams were stuck in for hours together.
During this time, Buses were introduced. Throughout the museum, I noticed a lot of different bus designs. The designs were wonderful and very modern for the time. These buses were very noisy and also notorious for shaking down the walls of the buildings when it was working. The buses were operated privately in the suburban area by companies who had sometimes had only one bus. These buses were not very frequent and comfortable for passengers. The Swedish Public Transport Department realised that these buses were going to be competitors for the trams and they had shares in almost all the bus companies.
The underground metro, called the Tunnelbana was also introduced and several design changes were made. The first underground metro stations actually used trams and the remnants of the Catenary can still be seen.
The museum allowed visitors to get onto several exhibits. Here are some pictures as a result of that

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There were also Tram, Bus and Metro simulators which gave the experience of driving them. It was also very interesting to observe the speed of which they operate at from the drivers seat. There was also a mini replica of the underground train which you could ride.
The credit for all the pictures goes to Sandheep Kumar VB
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