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Tram history

Tram history

Historic trams in Ghent

Two axle trams, PCC trams, horse-drawn carriages or steam trams: historic tram carriages crossed the city center of Ghent to mark 150 years of trams.

On Friday 24 May, it will be exactly 150 years since the first horse tram bumped through the streets of Ghent.

Horse tram network

The first tram line, where the carriages were pulled by horses, connected the Dampoort with the former train station at Gent-Zuid. New extensions to the city network soon followed, including towards the Korenmarkt. (Photo: Public domain)

In 1898, the ETG, the Electrical Tramways of Ghent, was founded to operate the tram network in Ghent. The private company dumped the horse trams and replaced them first with battery-powered trams, trams whose motors were powered by batteries.

Technical problems

Battery trams proved too far ahead of their time. The range proved inadequate. They were replaced in 1904 by two-axle cars (later converted to three-axle cars) that took their power from a catenary network. (Photo: Public domain)

Regional trams

The neighbouring railways also laid tram rails from neighbouring municipalities to the city outskirts. Thus, regional trams ran from Evergem, Zomergem, Nevele, Lochristi, Oostakker and Wetteren all the way to Ghent.

After World War II, tram traffic faced increasing competition from the car. In less than four years, the entire suburban tram network had disappeared and been replaced by buses. By 1959, there was no trace of the regional trams within Ghent.

Three-axle trams

The city lines were also hit. From the 1960s, one line after another was dismantled to make way for broader ring roads and car parks. By 1970, Ghent's tram network had been halved in just a few years to 25 kilometres. 

To make things worse, the trams themselves were completely outworn. Refurbished three-axle cars from the early twentieth century were still driving around.

The private operator of the Ghent tram network, the ETG, disappeared from the scene in 1961 as the tram network yielded very little and investments failed to materialise.

The MIVG (Maatschappij voor het Intercommunaal Vervoer in Gent) took over the operation of city transport from 1961 onwards. Among other things, the tram carriages were renewed. PCC trams took the place of the old three-axle cars.

End of city and regional transport

The distinction between urban and regional transport disappeared with the creation of De Lijn in 1991. From then on, De Lijn was responsible for public transport in Flanders.

Like the buses, the blue PCC trams were painted in De Lijn's colours. But even the PCC trams were gradually taken out of service.

Ermines and Albatrosses

From 2000, articulated low-floor trams, the so-called Ermine trams, were used. In 2015, 43-metre-long giants, the Albatross trams, were added. As a result, the PCC trams disappeared from the streets in 2017.

Since the late 20th century, trams have been on the rise again. New extensions of the tram network in Ghent brought the network length to 34.5 kilometres. Altogether, 41 Hermelijn trams and 26 Albatrosses operate.

PCC at the Stapelplein

Future plans include the extension of tram line 4 from Muide to Dampoort and the (re)construction of the historic line 7 between Sint-Pietersstation and Gent-Dampoort. To herald the tram's comeback, a PCC tram was parked at Stapelplein and painted by a street art artist.

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