Tram World (Strassenbahnwelt) is a museum documenting over 140 years of streetcar history with over 60 restored trams.
It seems a bit out of place considering that Stuttgart is home to two rather large automobile companies (those would be Daimler (Mercedes) and Porsche). But once I became aware that Stuttgart was the first city in Germany to provide mass transit in 1868, it made more sense.
I really didn’t know what to expect from Tram World, but when the opportunity came up for a guided tour in English with the Met Club (an international club based in Stuttgart) I figured why not? Our volunteer guide was wonderful and enthusiastic as he explained that the first trams were pulled with horses and that the drivers sat outside for 12 hour shifts, often in freezing temperatures.
Unlike today, riding the trams in the early days was a status symbol, something only the upper-middle class and the rich could afford. The poor couldn’t afford the price of a ticket and were stuck walking.
Horses were used to pull the trams until 1884 when they were replaced by cog wheels, which involved the driver having to change every time he reached the end of the line, enabling the tram to go back in the opposite direction. By 1891 the Stuttgart trams were all running on electric wires, much to the great relief of the tram drivers I’m sure.
Trams are expensive and when trams need to be replaced Stuttgart often sells trams to other countries, especially the Czech Republic, so if you’re wondering why there is German writing in your tram car in the Czech Republic, now you know why.
One of my favorite parts of visiting Stuttgart Tram World was seeing the party tram. It used to be available for rent by large groups, who could often been seen dancing in the tram as it worked its way through the streets of Stuttgart. Unfortunately it’s no longer available for rent. However, it is possible to take a vintage ride on Sundays in Stuttgart or host your own celebration at Tram World. It used to be a former tram depot, complete with tracks and markings on the floor. It’s the perfect ambiance for a tram museum, but a wedding or other formal event? I’m not so sure. I enjoyed my visit much more than I thought I would. It’s worth nothing that this was in large part to our volunteer guide who was passionate about keeping the history of trams alive. Had I just gone on my own, I wouldn’t have gotten as much from it.
Stuttgart Tram World is definitely not as slick as the Mercedes-Benz Museum, but the museum has character and I didn’t realize how little I knew or had admittedly thought about trams until my visit.
My favorite museum in Stuttgart though remains the Pig Museum, the largest in the world.