Today in Transportation History – 1892: Electrified Trams Arrive in Kiev

A transportation milestone for the Tsar-ruled Russian Empire took place when the first two trams with electric motors arrived in Kiev. On the same day as their arrival, both trams underwent test runs on Sahaydachny Street in the city. The trams, which were built by renowned engineer Amand Struve (1835-1898), marked the start of the first electric tramway system in the entire Russian Empire.

Struve, whose German ancestors had settled in the Russian Empire during the 17th century, was an army officer who studied engineering at the Nikolayivsky Engineer Academy. His involvement with the transit network in Kiev dated back to the 1880s, when he obtained the rights to establish and operate horse-drawn trams in the city. The horses tired easily on the steep inclines within Kiev and were often unable to move trams filled with passengers, however. Struve then tried to introduce steam-powered trams to the system, but these vehicles proved to be untenable due to the excessive pollution, noise, and costs they generated.

Ultimately, Struve instead drew upon advances being made with electric trams elsewhere in the world. He used U.S.-built electric streetcars as his models while manufacturing motors for two trams at a factory near Moscow. The introduction of the trams in Kiev led to the large-scale adoption of this electric transit service in other cities throughout the empire.

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