Vintage streetcars are a landmark of Milan and one of the main attractions of the city. The origin of the vintage streetcars or trams, as the Milanese people call them, dates back to the 18th century when a British engineer, Benjamin Outram, patented the very first urban tramway. However care must be taken not ot be deceived. The word “tram” derives” from the saxon word “traam” which means beam. Beams were used to lay down the rails, hence the name of the cars.
The first tramway of Milan was inaugurated in 1876 and connected the north of the city to Monza, a small town north of Milan. Just a year after a new line brought passengers from the Arch of Peace, right in front of the Sforza Castle) to the city of Saronno. These coaches were pulled by horses and can be considered as the precursors of the modern trams riding across the city.
The technological achievements that mark the entire 20th century have positively affected the development of the urban tramway system. From the horses to electric vehicles the urban way of commuting became more and more popular. The tram became a necessary mean of transportation not just for people, or at least for those who were alive. In 1895 a funeral station was built with the purpose to stock and then transport the coffins to the newly opened Cimitero Maggiore, the main cemetery of the city.
The new trends in design then have influenced also the electric vehicles industry. Trams became larger and longer, their bodyworks were enriched with decorations, shapes and colors. The interior design featured benches in wood and interior poles made of brass and steel.
These models became so popular among the Milanese people that, even though some more modern trams are circulating in the city, the vintage streetcars still run along the city streets of Milan.
Their signature white, yellow and orange colors and the sliding windows can be seen at every corner of the city. From the central station to Navigli canals, from the Niguarda Hospital to the outskirts North of Milan.
Their popularity has also grown internationally thanks to a partnership between another tram city. If you happen to be in San Francisco pay attention when you here the iron wheels creaking on the tracks. You might see one of the Milanese vintage streetcars that was donated by the municipality to the Californian city.