Trolleys in Lisbon
When I was young I lived two houses down from the railroad tracks and would walk over, much to my mother's dismay, and watch the trains run through town. Passenger service along that line was dead long before I started watching trains, but I would watch the freight trains pulling long strings of cars through town going to exotic, faraway destinations like Chicago or California. My obsession with trains has decreased over the years but I still like riding and watching trains when I get a chance.
That background is a way to explain that one of the reasons I suggested to my wife that we visit Lisbon may have been to see and ride their iconic trolleys. In the US, the days of large, city-wide networks of trolleys as a normal way of getting around the city are gone. Some cities have trolley service, but they tend to be new and/or servicing a limited area.
For me, there is something special about places like Lisbon where you can ride a trolley that has served as a normal way for people to commute for decades. There is no better place to ride the trolleys than in Lisbon where they are part of the city's character and have become a symbol for the city.
The first trams in Lisbon began operating in 1870s and were drawn by horses. Over time they were electrified and by the late 1950s there were 27 (or 24 depending on how you count them) tram lines in Lisbon. Today that number has dwindled to five, but the trolleys are still an integral form of transportation in the city.
The most famous trolley is the Number 28 line which runs from the eastern to the western sides of the city through a number of different and interesting neighborhoods. Even though almost every travel guide to Lisbon recommends riding the line, it didn't feel like a tourist trap to me. There were tourists riding it with us, of course, but there were also local people who used it to get to work and go shopping.
It was off-season (March) when we visited Lisbon so there were not as many tourists as in the summer, but the Number 28 trolleys were still full some of the time. We discovered a couple of tricks to getting a car that had room to sit down and look out the window. We walked along the line away from the main tourist areas downtown so that when the car arrived we were not fighting with other people to get on a get a seat. The second, and more important, trick was to be patient. The trolleys tended to clump together along the line with one following closely behind the first. When the first car would arrive everyone would jam on to it, leaving the second car a few minutes later almost empty. I don't know if these tactics are effective in peak tourist season, but they worked like a charm for us.
Many travel guides warn about pickpockets on the trams. We did not see any, but it is always a good idea to be alert and protect yourself no matter where you are.
The Number 28 line is usually crowded, but it is possible to get photos like the one above of the inside of the car. At each end of the line all the passengers need to disembark and get on another trolley (usually one that is already at the stop). The conductor was very kind and let me loiter to take some photos after everyone else got off. As with most places, a smile and a polite request were effective ways to get the photo I was hoping for.
For more on the trolleys of Lisbon, check out
* Trams in Lisbon - Wikipedia
Click on any photo to open it in the gallery where you can download, pin, like, or share it. Click here to see other photos of trolleys in my Portugal gallery. You may also want to check out my blog postings on the Bica Funicular, the Gloria Funicular, and the Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon.
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