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1861 – 1876: The beginning...

The first plans to set up a horse tram on rails in Munich were already being made in 1861: the German-American engineer S.A. Beer from New York submitted his request for a horse-drawn carriage concession on September 27th that year. This lane was to run within the city on grooved rails on the pavement . For these vehicles wheels without flanges were intended, as well as a capacity of 20 seats and room for standing .

The city magistrate rejected this request; no city in Europe, it was argued, already had such a railway and in Munich there was currently no need for such a facility. In addition, the contract coach Michael Zechmeister had opened his bus company in the same year and extended its network to three lines. Therefor the need for public transport for Munich had already been adequately covered.

In fact, by 1863 Zechmeister had already suspended operation for his three "Groschenwagen" (penny cars) lines for lack of profitability.

It was not until 1868 that a new consortium of various Magdeburg engineers headed by Messrs. Biehl and Hobohm dared to obtain a concession with a new application. The City Magistrate now dealt with this idea in more detail, because meanwhile the first German horse-drawn trams had become very popular.

Thus, in 1865 in Berlin a route to Charlottenburg was opened by the trucking company Beeskow & Co. One year later, the first horse tramways of the same company started their journey to Wandsbek in Hamburg and in 1868 the first trains operated in Stuttgart. On the basis of a technical report from the City Construction Office, a panel was formed with the order to visit the Stuttgart horse tram.

However the Commission rejected the introduction of the horse tram on the following considerations: The city of Stuttgart would have better conditions compared to Munich, "because the local roads through which the train pulls, are mostly lanes of a  width of 60 feet with very narrow walk ways that do not have curb stones and can alternatively be used to drive on."

The magistrate then decided to refuse a horse tram for the city center, but to grant a concession for the route from Central Station to the Isar on the Sendlinger-Tor Platz with branches to Schwabing and Nymphenburg. In addition, the consortium had to place a security deposit of 100,000 Guilders. The banker Dr. Wild took over the financing of the company, however not without insisting on producing his own proposals for the planning and design of the project. These were met with little appreciation by the City Magistrate , resulting in a row of disputes. The consortium withdrew from business, only the engineer Biehl still wanted to hold on to it and sued Dr. Wild for damages.

Ultimately however, this was the temporary end for the Munich tram plans. Instead, in the following year, on October 14, 1869, the pay coachman Zechmeister could continue his business after a five-year break. This time, as a result of growing numbers of inhabitants and increasing tourism, demand was high enough to be profitable over the course of the year.


The outcome of the war of 1870-71 led to the expectation of high reparation payments. Together with the proclamation of the German Empire, the beginning of the founding years brought about an improvement in the economy, and capital was abundant everywhere.

In the meantime, more horse trams had been built in Vienna, Elberfeld, Dresden and Leipzig.

In Munich a number of well-known entrepreneurs had as well applied to build a tram, including the Berlin International Horse Railway Company, the companies Büssing and Ettlinger from Berlin and De la Hault & Donner from Brussels, Diodati from Geneva and Constable, Goldsmith & Co. from London, just to name a few. Furthermore, a Munich speculator, Hofrat (Councilor) Dr. Simmerl, was applying. 

The increasing industrialization and the associated increase in population in the cities were also noticeable in Munich - so the population of nearly 100,000 citizens in the period from 1854 to the turn of the century increased by about 400,000 to almost half a million, at least through the incorporation of numerous surrounding villages and communities.

Now the City Magistrate seriously examined the establishment of an efficient means of transportation. For this purpose, the City Councilor Zenetti traveled to Dresden, Elberfeld and Hamburg to inspect the systems there. Based on his findings, he advocated a horse tram in Munich, the train was only to bypass the old town. Furthermore, he considered a double-track route extension to be most worthwile.

In January 1873, the draft contract established  with Hofrat Dr. Simmerl was approved by the Municipal Authority. But evidently further proceedings did not go too hastily : Only after four months the Royal Police Directorate (as the supervisory authority) received the documents -  and then bureaucracy came to its full effect . The files went into a drawer and it was barely a year later that the police department issued a statement saying that "from a road and traffic police point of view, there would be no recollection of a technical execution of a horse-drawn tram." But there were considerable objections: "Extension of said horse tram lines into the interior of the city for traffic-technical reasons are not permitted, since a large number of industrialists have settled in these districts , to which day by day large quantities of goods are supplied on extensive means of transportation. Furthermore the road system is also used for special functions such as Wood making, emptying of abortive pits or loading of furniture wagons; those functions must be sustained uninterrupted."


As a result a dispute arose in the Magistrate over the lines of the railway and the year 1874 passed without further progress, although even some merchants already suggested the advantages of a horse-drawn railway and the dispersal of the city center by development of new residential areas. Another attempt by a new consortium (including Dr. Zechmeister, the son of the bus operator, whose network meanwhile had increased to five lines) failed in 1875 due to various technical and financial difficulties. The city  council was now suspicious of local entrepreneurs who volunteered for the project, and for the time being, the choice fell on two foreign applicants, the Société Générale des Tramways in Brussels and the engineer Edouard Otlet, also from Brussels. The latter was able to refer to the successful commissioning of horse trolleys of his system in Prague and Wiesbaden.

On March 26, 1876, the Munich Mayor von Erhard concluded with Otlet from a yet to be approved contract by the Municipal Authority. Otlet received a concession for 30 years, with a network of lines, consisting of two lines, was to be passed through the city.

  1. The West-East Line: Nymphenburger Schlossallee - Neuhausen - Nyphenburger Strasse - Stiglmaierplatz - Dachauer Strasse - Bahnhofplatz - Karlsplatz - Sendlinger-Tor-Platz - Müllerstrasse - Fraunhoferstrasse - Klenzestraße - Gärtnerplatz - Rumfordstraße - Zweibrückenstraße - Ludwigsbrücke - Rosenheimer Straße - Haidhausen Station ( today: Ostbahnhof)

  2. The North-South Line: Schwabing (now Münchener Freiheit) - Schwabinger Landstraße (today: Leopoldstraße) - Ludwigstraße - Odeonsplatz - Brienner Strasse - Lenbachplatz - Karlsplatz - Bahnhofplatz - Bayerstraße - Hackerberg (Theresienhöhe)

In addition, a 10 minute headway was scheduled, where connections to the trains at the train stations were to be ensured. The City of Munich claimed 1% of gross revenue for the use of urban land. On May 20, 1876 King Ludwig II granted the concession and on June 23, 1876, the contract was signed. As early as July, construction work on the first section of the line began from Promenadeplatz to Nymphenburger Strasse, without any reversing loops at the end points, but only repositioning tracks.

weiter: 1876 – 1900: Die Pferdebahn und der Beginn der „Elektrischen“

Groschenwagen von Zechmeister, um 1869. Archiv MVG münchen tram trambahn geschichte kutsche

Groschenwagen (Penny car) of Zechmeister, obout 1869. Archiv MVG

Edouard Otlet, 1907, der Begründer Münchner Trambahn Archiv FMTM e.V. münchen tram trambagn geschichte

Edouard Otlet, 1907,

founder of the Munich Tramway

Archiv FMTM e.V.

Autor: Klaus Onnich FMTM eV., Leiter Fahrdienst Bus Ost und stv. Betriebsleiter BO Kraft der Stadtwerke München GmbH

Translation by Google

Review & modification by Stepanie Spitzer

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