The grand opening of the first electric power tram line in Odessa was held in the Aleksandrovsky Park (now Park Shevchenko) on the 11th of September (the 24th according to the modern calendar).
The famous Odessa writer Yuri Olesha described this event in a very colourful way: “The tram appeared on the Strogonovsky bridge, yellow-red, with a glass vestibule in front. Under our cries, he passed us with a vestibule filled with people, among whom was some high-ranking priest who sprinkled before him: «There is the mayor Tolmachev with glasses and a reddish mustache. A mister in a bowler stood behind the board and everyone said his name: Legode». This was the director of the Belgian company that built the first line.”
Prior to this, horse-drawn trams drove in the city since 1880. The Belgian Horse-Railway Society built the first lines of the so-called “horse traps”. Travel was permitted only while passengers were sitting, and only six people could stand on the rear platform of the car. Passengers were not allowed to the front platform and steps of the tram. The fare was 5 kopecks.
By the end of 1888 there were already 19 such routes. The trams were stored in a depot in Kulikovo Field, and the horses were kept in stables on Botanicheskaya Street (between Kanatnaya Street and French Boulevard). The next step after horse trams was steam.
The project of the electric tram was approved by Odessa City Council in 1908. The same year the equipment of tracks and construction of stations began, and in 1910, first ways were put. Main tracks matched horse-drawn railway belonged to the Belgian company, so new work was mainly focused on the contact system and traction substations.
According to the Belgian project lines initially did not have any numbers (like horse-drawn railway), only names («Rishelevskaya – Khersonskaya», «Trading – Little Russian», etc.), but on the same line could go several routes and one route could run along different lines. From the end of 1910 to the first half of 1911, it was carried out the rapid construction of new tram lines and the electrification was extended to the old horse-drawn lines.
The first line was named “Vistavochnaya” (exhibition), because it had to show citizens the new system of transport. The project involved the construction of thirty-one tram lines in Odessa and its suburbs. “Exhibition” line worked less than a year, but has fully complied with the task: the inhabitants of Odessa got acquainted with the modern electric tram.
On demand of the City Council the tramway was primarily operating on the outskirts, but there were also electric lines in the city center as «Gretcheeskaya» and «Langeronskaya». By the mid of 1912 the formation of the tram network in the city center had been largely completed.
By the way, it is with steam trams that “stations” appeared on the Fontana and Lustdorf roads. The clumsy steam wagons looked like steam locomotives, then the stops were called stations and are so called today.
The electric power tramway system in Odessa was the second one realized in the Russian Empire, after St.Petersburg.