It was as early as 1844 that Zagreb got its first line public transport. It was not electric, of course, it were the so-called horse omnibuses (don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the word before in this context, I know I haven’t. However, that was the word from which the everyday word of today, “autobus” was coined from – although the long-form is used more often in Croatian, while in English it’s just a bus).
At first used very sporadically and mostly for recreational purposes, it soon became clear that the growing city like Zagreb in the late 19th century needed a more reliable mode of line public transport, and to have it on set tracks seemed inevitable. So, in 1891 first tram lines were set and a tram depot was built at the location which was then considered to be a suburb, and today it’s where the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla is – 3 tram stops from the main square! Those original tram lines were also horse operated, although at that time electric trams were already operating around the world.
3 tram lines were built in that first instalment: from Mandaličina along Ilica all the way to Maksimir, from Ilica along Frankopanska and down Savska to the Sava River and down what’s today called Ulica Republike Austrije. The first commercial rides took place on September 5th, 1891, and although there was no celebration or cutting of the ribbons with fireworks (what were those politicians in 1891 doing?!?), the following piece of information will show you what an event the installation of permanent horse-tram lines were for the people of Zagreb:
It was estimated that almost 20,000 people took a tram ride on the following day, the Sunday of September the 6th, and Zagreb had a population of 42,000 people then!
Some technical specs of Zagreb’s horse tram: track width was 76 cm, and the original length of all tracks was around 8 kilometres, they had 10 closed (winter) and 6 open (summer) cars (that number increased all to way to 38 cars before the introduction of electric tram system), there were twice as many horses than the cars and each horse made around 30 kilometres during each shift.
While it was entirely obvious that electric was the future of public transportation in a city like Zagreb, for various reasons (political, economical, pure abuse of power etc) it took 20 years for Zagreb to finally electrify their line public transport. The tracks for the electric tram were placed at the same routes where the horse trams were also operating (although, some of the lines were extended; for instance the longest one went all the way to Črnomerec, where the today’s terminus is also located), however they were wider – with a width of a full meter. The first electric tram ride took place on August 18th 1910; however horse trams were operating for another full year, until the entire process of completing the electric tracks was finished! If you are wondering what happened to the cars (and the horses) after that, they didn’t go far: they operated a horse tram line in Velika Gorica until 1937.