Moscow a 1954 MTB-82 trolleybus.
Pavel Kazachkov (CC BY-SA 4.0)
What were old models of Moscow trams, buses and trolleybuses like?
Electric trams appeared in Moscow in 1899, but the most popular of the first models was created in 1908. It was the model ‘F’ (‘Fonarny’, “The one with a lantern”), a motor carriage produced in St. Petersburg. The name comes from a special build-up with glass units on the roof. It served to let additional light from the street inside the carriage and was commonly called a ‘lantern’. The chassis of the ‘F’ was wooden with a steel coating. The carriage had no doors and passengers often hopped on and off while it was going through turns at minimum speed. The ‘F’ also operated with a motor engine with several attached modifications and was only taken out of service in Moscow in the 1950s.
The ‘RVZ-6’ was a special case: This successful model had spread all over the USSR and was in use for decades, but it was still considered really exotic in Moscow. The reason was that the capital had chosen the ‘Tatra’ trams (see below) instead of this one. The ‘RVZ-6’ was designed in Riga in the Soviet Republic of Latvia. From 1960, its mass production had continued for practically 30 years – the Latvian engineers did everything to update the construction. The ‘RVZ-6’ had a light body made of aluminium sheets riveted together. Also, it had a driving system with pedals, which was quite unusual for trams. As Moscow underestimated this model, it was only used there in 1960-1966 and then, all eight carriages were given to Tashkent in the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan.
The ‘Tatra’ tram was inspired by a U.S. model and produced from the 1950s in Czechoslovakia under a license. A modified ‘Tatra T2’ first appeared in Moscow in 1959. It was the beginning of a new era in the history of Moscow trams. It was much more convenient than any other Soviet model: the driver had a comfortable seat and the carriage was equipped with resilient wheels, instead of full-metal ones – the ‘Tatra T2’ passed through the streets without making a loud noise. All the carriages of this modification also had an improved winter heating system. On top of that, the recognizable design of the model didn’t resemble any other trams. The ‘Tatra T2’ was taken out of service in 1981 and replaced by the next generation – the ‘Tatra T3’, which wasn’t less successful.
The first buses that appeared in Moscow in 1922-1924 were imported from England, but Soviet engineers quickly designed a local model. This was the ‘AMO-4’, named after the AMO plant (“Automobile Society of Moscow”). The name of the model also actually stands for bus chassis and had two body modifications. The second had a fourth door at the back, so it could be turned into an ambulance. The chassis was improved, too: It was made of boards instead of beams and became more flexible, so the bumpy Moscow pavings didn’t wear it out too fast.
In the 1930s, the AMO plant was renamed in honor of Iosif Stalin, so its new common abbreviation was ZIS (‘Zavod imeni Stalina’, “Plant named after Stalin”). After this, engineers designed a new bus called ‘ZIS-8’. It was based on an American bus model, which was significantly altered: the construction was made simpler and the front brakes were made more reliable. Like the ‘AMO-4’, the ‘ZIS-8’ had a small window to display the route number above the windscreen. At the sides of the window there were two lamps showing the color code of the route to make it recognizable from a distance – an idea borrowed from the tram system. The ‘ZIS-8’ had turned out to be convenient and easy to produce, so it was used in other cities of the USSR and even made for export. ZIS then began to design many bus modifications.
One of the next greatest hits among Moscow buses was first designed in 1962 at a plant in Likino-Dulyovo, Moscow Region. It was called ‘LiAZ-677’ and was actually used all over the USSR. Appearing in 1967 in Moscow for the first time, the ‘LiAZ-677’ was in operation until the 2000s. This bus had a flexible suspended span based on pneumo cylinders, so people started calling the ‘LiAZ-677’ a ‘lunokhod’ (“lunar rover”). The motor was placed in the front part of the chassis and the exhaust gas pipe went under the floor – this construction solution also heated the compartment. However, as this system got old, it started filling the bus with the smell of the exhaust gas. The ‘LiAZ-677’ is also remembered for its shaky motion and specific sound of its worn parts, which resembled the tinkling of empty bottles.
The ‘Ikarus’ buses from Hungary were very popular in the USSR. They started appearing at the end of the 1960s, but only the biggest models were operating in Moscow. One of them was the ‘Ikarus-180’ – the first stretch bus in the Soviet Union. It just had 37 seats, but could carry 169 passengers in total, thanks to its two-section construction. The center of the ‘Ikarus-180’ made the Soviets nickname this model ‘garmoshka’ (“accordion”) or a “vacuum cleaner”. Also, its diesel engine was a sensation on the back of other Soviet buses that had petrol fuel-hungry motors. Later, the ‘Ikarus-180’ became the basis for the improved ‘Ikarus-280’ model.
Read More: The past on wheels: the old public transport of Moscow (PHOTOS)