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Tram without rails: “Hurray” for the first trolley in Bulgaria

40 years after the launch of the first tram in Sofia and only 6 years after the start of public bus transport, a new type of vehicle appears on the streets of the capital – the trolleybus.

Photos: “Lost Bulgaria”

The first trolleybus line was officially opened on February 8, 1941 by the mayor of Sofia, eng. Ivan Ivanov. Its length is only 3.3 km and connects Gorna Banya with the tram stop “Gornobanski Pat”. Initially serviced by only two cars. The event is described in the magazine “Serdika” – a publication of the Sofia Municipality.

After the accession of several surrounding villages, our capital has grown, but the worries of the municipal government have also increased. There was and still is a lot to be done so that the annexed settlements can be equated in terms of public works and culture with the old town.

One of the annexed settlements is Gorna Banya. Its good location on the southern slope of one of the Lyulin hills, its famous mineral baths and enterprising population and, finally, the strong support of Greater Sofia, are sufficient conditions for this village to become one of the best corners of our homeland.

But as in all summer villages, the life of Gorna Banya is subject to sharp fluctuations: while in the summer thousands of holidaymakers gather there, looking for a cure and health from the warm mineral waters, in the winter the village dies.

The hotels and villas built to welcome and accommodate many thousands of guests are deserted, the fertile water is used in part only to fill the bottles, and the population has to wait patiently for next summer. One of the main obstacles that separated Gorna Banya from the “world” in the winter was the lack of a convenient and cheap connection with the central city.

The public mineral fountain at the bath in Gorna Banya, the 1930s

Many times Gornobank residents advocated equating at least Knyazhevo and Nadezhda by running a tram or bus, but only in 1940 the Directorate of Trams and Lighting at the Sofia Municipality began construction of the first in Bulgaria trolleybus network from the stop “Gorna Banya” on the tram line Sofia-Knyazhevo to the village.

On February 8 this year, the official launch of the trolleybuses took place with a modest celebration. The entire municipal administration of the Capital, headed by the mayor Mr. Eng. Ivanov, many other officials and citizens arrived first with the two cars on the square in the middle of Gorna Banya.

The mayor eng. Ivan Ivanov (left) with municipal councilors arrived in Gorna Banya for the official opening of the first trolleybus line in Bulgaria, February 8, 1941.

During this first journey, amid the cheerful conversations of the first passengers, an imposing and confident conductor’s voice is heard. The Director of the trams and lighting himself, Mr. Eng. Peshev, with a conductor’s bag over his shoulder, collects the first revenue from the ride fee…

The director of the trams and the branch, eng. Peshev as a conductor

The joy of the people of Gorno Banka is great. This is no longer a lie! They see with their own eyes the biggest gain since joining Greater Sofia. Only now is their village really “joining” the Capital of Bulgaria through this constant, cheap and convenient transportation line.

The entire population of Gorno Bansko, gathered in festive attire and mood on the village square, as well as the large eloquent inscription on the arch: “Long live the Sofia Municipality!” – are the most immediate and impressive expression of the great joy and gratitude of Gorna Banya. The crowd greets with loud joy and unceasing “Hurray!” the first “tram without rails”, as the people themselves call it.

Gornobanchani solemnly welcome the mayor of Sofia and the first trolleybus

After the usual water dedication, Mr. Ivanov stands with scissors in hand in front of the tricolor ribbon and with a wish, the new trolleybus line to help the all-round success of Gorna Banya, cuts this symbolic barrier, solemnly announcing the trolleybus line up and running.

The line is consecrated, and the mayor of Sofia cuts the tricolor ribbon

The local representatives then speak. With enthusiastic speeches, they express “officially” the great joy, gratitude and appreciation of the population.

And this is how the little poet, still a student from the local junior high school, reflects the people’s joy. His poem, written on the occasion of this great event for his village, was read at the celebration. After describing with childish naivety the beauties of Gorna Banya, he states very correctly…

“But there was a shortage here…It was the trolleybus needed lately,on which her progress depended.But finally he came too!The bright sun shone on us with it! ”

But the local population itself gives a much more immediate and sincere expression of gratitude: young girls, according to an old folk custom, donate home-woven towels and shirts to the rulers of Greater Sofia. And the enthusiastic young people from Gornoban grab the mayor Mr. Eng. Ivanov and carry him in their arms among the general and unceasing “Hurray!” of the people.

According to an old folk custom, a young girl donates home-woven towels and shirts to the mayor eng. Ivanov

During the modest breakfast, instead of the usual big banquet, Mr. Mayor, moved by the good reception, announced another good news for Gorna Banya: a water supply system will soon be laid in the village.

And the 1,800 leva collected from the first – the “honorary” flight of the trolleybus, together with the money saved by the failed big banquet, or all about 6,000 levs, go to support the families of the poor Gornobank residents invited for temporary training.

In order to immediately convince the population of the conveniences, safety and other advantages of driving trolleybuses, they are allowed to ride them for free throughout the day.

The delighted people of Gornobank look at and ask about everything. The Whatmans and the conductors readily explained to them that the engines had 85 kilowatts of power, equivalent to 115 horsepower, and operated with three brakes: manual, foot, and electric. With a normal load, the cars develop 45 kilometers per hour. This must be something! Although they cannot be detached from the two power ropes from which they draw their miraculous power to move, cars can maneuver freely and deftly four meters to the left and as far to the right on the road as needed, so that their path is in no way does not remain narrower than 8 meters.

And there is no danger of an accident or fire. At the same time, compared to buses, trolleybus cars, in addition to not wasting their tires so much, are always ready for easy and quick start-up. There is no pouring and pouring water from the cooling radiators, there is no fear of freezing the water in winter. Just push the lever and you’re done! Karay Whatman!

One of the first MAN trolleybuses on the line Sofia – Gorna Banya, 1941

Even in the first days of use, the two powerful cars turned out to be quite insufficient for the extremely congested “traffic” on this line. A significant increase in the influx of visitors and bathers in the local mineral baths was immediately noticed. That is why the Directorate of Trams and Lighting has entered into negotiations on time for the delivery of three more trolleybus cars.

And every time the exquisite cars ascend silently on the steep Gornoban road or descend rapidly and safely, both the passengers fascinated by the beautiful views of the surroundings and the thousands of locals and holidaymakers in this rare healing and climatic place, saved and relieved. then, from the terrible noise and dust, they will remember, perhaps, to whom they owe this most, and they will whisper with warm gratitude:

“Long live the Sofia Municipality!”

Serdika magazine, book 2/3, 1941

Trolleybus on Georgi S. Rakovski Street at the intersection with Graf Ignatiev Street, late 1950s

The functioning of trolleybus transport until the end of the Second World War was hampered for various reasons, the main ones being the war and the impossibility to supply parts from abroad to maintain the rolling stock, new trolleybuses for its increase, the electricity network. Thus, the opened trolleybus line remained in this form until 1947, when 10 trolleybuses were imported from the USSR.

In 1951 the domestic production of trolleybuses began.

In the following decades, this type of transport developed intensively, lines were opened in many cities, trolleybus cars were imported from the Czech Republic, Austria and others.

The intersection of Patriarch Evtimiy Boulevard and Vitosha Boulevard, 1950s

Trolleybus on line № 1 on Tolbuhin Blvd. (today “Vasil Levski”) at the monument to Levski, 60s of the XX century

At the crossroads at Sofia University, the 1960s

Photos: “Lost Bulgaria”