The population of Pécs almost reached 50 thousand at the beginning of the 1910s. In order to solve the public transportation of the increasing population, the municipality started installing the tramway network on 12 April in 1913. The project was executed by Ganz Electrical Co., and it cost 1,650,000 Austro-Hungarian krones. When opening the tramway, they bought ten 36-HP wooden-frame motor cars and three open tramway cars from the Ganz Works; these trams were similar to the ones that had been sent to Újvidék a year earlier. Three lines were built. The main line was situated in the east-west axis of the city between the Cadet School of Tüzér Street (presently it is the Medical School of the University of Pécs) and the Zsolnay Manufacture. The track branched towards Főpályaudvar (Railway Terminal) on Széchenyi Square, and on the eastern end towards Külvárosi pályaudvar (Suburban Terminal) and the tram-depot. Tram transport started on 20 October 1913, operated by the Pécs Electric Railway Co. founded with a registered capital of 200 thousand krones (50 percent of the city, 25 percent of Ganz Electrical Co., 25 percent of local interests). At the beginning, a one-way ticket cost 20 fillérs, and the stage ticket was 12 fillérs until the stage point Széchenyi Square from both ways.
We would like to show the tramway routes that are slightly different from the original ones because of the roundabouts, streets and squares that were created or changed since then.
Railway Terminal – Zsolnay Manufacture
The route from the Railway Terminal to the Zsolnay Manufacture was 1337 metres long; trams circulated in every 12 minutes and the route took them 15 minutes. The average distance between two stops was 186 metres and the travelling speed was 11.8 kph – which seems very modest nowadays. As of 1916, trams that started from the Railway Terminal shuttled only to the City Hall on Széchenyi Square. The tramway was constructed to be single-railed, thus encounters were solved via bypasses. Points were regulated with manpower by iron rods. At the terminal points, changing the motor car and the tramcar was solved by a circuit.
Cadet School – Zsolnay Manufacture
Trackways were constructed to have a normal gauge and 550 V DC overhead wires. The route between the Cadet School and the Zsolnay Manufacture was the longest with 3483 metres, with a headway of 24 minutes and a journey time of 17 minutes. The number of passengers was 2,370,000 in 1915 and 3,134,500 in 1926. With twenty-four higher-capacity tramway cars, they already registered more than 12 million journeys in 1957.
Irányi Dániel Square – Buda Suburban Terminal
The shortest 609-metre long track was situated between Irányi Dániel Square (Búza Square today) and Buda Suburban Terminal. Besides the above listed routes, there was a 233-metre long connective track leading to the MÁV (Hungarian State Railways) station.
The Pécs Electric Railway Co. had 70 employees, including 5 controllers, 20 motormen, 20 conductors, 2 ticket inspectors and 23 other employees. The company had a twenty-year contract for operating the trams. When the contract terminated in 1933, the Municipal Transport Company of Pécs (PVKV) took over the maintainer role.
According to local history researchers, rich citizens hardly travelled by trams, they kept on using their own carriages or hired cabs. It is not surprising that local flymen, who were worried about their living because of the competition, received the tram with rather adversely.
The Journal of Pécs (Pécsi Napló) wrote about this in 1913: ‘In our city, about 100 cabs are available and though our fiacre drivers have no reason to complain about a big competition, they do well and they will in the future as well, despite the electric railway, whose introduction was not welcomed by the flymen. They did not agitate against it either; just as it would have been in vain for the carriers of Pécs to do anything against the railway, it would have been constructed anyway!’
As a necessary accessory to electric transport, the tram-depot or remise was also built. It cost 125,000 krones and could store 20 tramcars. Offices, depots and workshops were built in Nefelejcs Street (Bacsó Béla Street today). Interestingly, the remise was the first building in the city with a ferro-concrete skeleton. When bus transport started in 1926, the management of the electric railway company decided to create bus garages by expanding the tram-depot. Owing to another construction in 1941, the storage of 25 buses was already solved.
Closing down and afterlife of the tramway
The tram bell rang for the last time in the narrow streets of Pécs on 31 August 1960. The city authorities then considered this form of transport to be out-of-date; they wound up electric transport and picked up rails. After the last tram arrived at the tram-depot, their fate became either removal or disassembly. Unfortunately, there was not any tram left for the posterity.
Nevertheless, the city still reserves some material memories of the late tram; the depot survived, there are some pieces of rail hidden in the asphalt and the rose-cut overhead-wire ears still decorate some buildings of the city centre.
Several civil organisations commemorated the 100th anniversary of the opening of the tramway. Even an old motor car from Budapest was exhibited on Kórház Square, which is functioning as a public space now.
Since the change of regime, the idea of establishing a tramway network in Pécs again has been brought up on the local government’s general meetings several times. Even a feasibility study was made at the beginning of the 2010s, which calculated with a cost of HUF 90 billion for a reconstruction, that is why the city rejected the idea.
- Pécs Lexikon / főszerk. Romváry Ferenc, Pécs, Pécs Lexikon Kulturális Nonprofit Kft., 2010.
Translated by Zita Aknai