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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

More Eating and Drinking Allowed

With exception of the Rheinbahn network around Dusseldorf mentioned in the previous blog - Europe's engagement with onboard refreshments on trams is limited to the tourist operations and in Germany - the Partywagen concept.

Zurich was the natural location for an enterprising initiative. An articulated tram was leased or sold to a private firm which operated it with onboard culinary kitchen pulling an open trailer modifed from an older bogie car. A firsthand encounter on a sunny day in Zurich saw an opportunity to ride on this exceptional tram tour which operated hourly I recall during the summer months. Travellers on the relatively short excursion which wended its way around the mainly central area of the city (there are multiple junctions and options to permit a lot of variations) had the choice of riding in the open trailer which had an onboard ice cream and similar offer, whilst the motor unit provided warm Swiss 'snacks' and a choice of alcoholic beverages if so inclined. I recall I opted for the ice cream bit and thoroughly enjoyed meandering around Zurich's seemingly interminable tram network whilst enjoying a delightful Swiss version of a 'banana split'. Obviously this only works in sunny weather and it wasn't clear if the tour operated 'sans trailer' in less attractive conditions. Below : Tram travel open style in a Swiss version.

Image Copyright : John Woodman In the 1940s and early 1950s the Basel Transport operator similarly chopped down two elderly two axle cars and used them on sightseeing tours around the city pulled by an equally elderly tram. The units were rudimentary with no onboard refreshments but a big attraction for US GIs who were on furlough from neighbouring Germany in a sort of early R&R programme. The war just having ended. Much later on from the 1970s there was a trend by German tram systems to utilise a withdrawn tram for similar recreational purposes - and these became familiarly known as 'Partywagen'. Some were fitted out with sound and naturally a small bar for private hire purposes - most being given garish paint jobs and some untramlike interior fittings. Quite a few examples remain in use around that country's numerous tram systems. In Stuttgart I had the chance to hire that city's 'Partywagen' for an impromptu office party of a client. Articulated car 999 arrived at the appointed stop in the city centre to collect some twenty or so guests - amply stocked with beer and wine as well as a small buffet. Fitted with a good sound system facing seats with centre tables and bistro style lighting we had an hour or so tour over the SSB tram routes (again in the 1980s) but as it was total darkness outside I had no idea of where we travelling - only the driver knew. I believe the tram has now been returned to its original service state and is now part of the city's marvellous historic tram collection.

Another firsthand encounter on a German tram but this time in New York City involved Hamburg V7 bogie car 3584 imported to the US for a proposed 42nd Street Trolley Line - part of a regeneration initiative in 1978. I had organised the project being based in Manhattan with support from the German Tourist Office and Lufthansa (and of course the Hamburg transport agency HHA which had just closed the final tram route in that city). New York City has an annual 'Steuben Day' parade celebrating German American links and historical roots. The parade goes slowly up Fifth Avenue (northbound) and the Hamburg tram fitted in with the parade very nicely on the back of a low loading rig. Holsten Brewery were more than pleased to provide a very generous supply of their product on board the car and I was equally pleased to avail myself of it whilst seated in the driver's cab. Not quite the same thing as a actual ride but it was a magnificent tram of a design unique to the Hamburg system and resplendent in bright red and pale cream HHA colours - being repainted prior to crossing the Atlantic. The tram now resides at the Kingston Trolley Museum just north of New York City. A sister car 3557 made it to San Francisco for that city's initial 'Trolley Festival' but without the beer. Below :

A Hamburg tram on 5th Avenue, New York in1978 - part of the Steuben Day Parade.

I am inside the car at the front still sober as we pass the Metropolitan Museum of Art behind the camera. German Consular staff wave us as we pass - lower image.

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