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Istiklal Caddesi Tram no. 410 at Taksim Square. Photo by Fred Pirmann.


As recently as 1988, Istanbul had no metro or tram lines. Over the past 20 years there has been a lot of investment in transit infrastructure as the population has ballooned to 12 million people. As it stands there is one "light metro" line, two tram lines, one short metro line, two commuter train lines and of particular interest to railfans two "nostalgic" tram lines.

The backbone of the system is the 38 (T1) tram line (sometimes assigned different route numbers for short turns) that runs from the busy Zeytinburnu terminal, all the way though the old city past all the A list tourist sites and then over the Golden Horn and into the suburb of Beyoglu to Kabatas. 55 Bombardier Flexity Swift trams were bought in 2003 to serve this line. They are always run in two car trains and serve stops with turnstiles and tokens like a subway. The trams are very crowded (often uncomfortably so) all day long and the ridership is estimated to be almost 200,000 per weekday!

At Zeytinburnu terminal tram line 38 meets 51 (T2). Line 51 travels northwest for eight stops. This line uses High Floor ABB trams from 1989 - again coupled in two car sets. This line is much shorter and much much less crowded. This line runs partly on right of way and partly in mixed traffic using high level platforms at the stops. Again there are turnstiles and fare paid areas at all the stops.

The "light metro" line runs from the airport to meet the tram lines at Zeytinburnu and then continues on to Aksaray. This line runs mostly in open cuts - often beside highways but partly in tunnel. This line uses ABB cars as well but coupled into three car trains. A long northward extension of this line is reportedly under construction.

Istanbul also has two "nostalgic" tram lines running full schedules with vintage equipment. In 1990 the Taksim - Tunel line opened using original four restored Istanbul Brill trams. The line runs along the otherwise pedestrianized Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Av) home to many of the foreign embassies in Istanbul plus a number of European shops. The cars run on metre gaged track in the centre of the street with a passing siding at Galatasaray - the only intermediate stop. There is a very small carhouse with about 50 metres of depot track near Taksim. At either end of the line, there is a funicular which connects to the 38 tram line. The "Tunel" at the south end of Istiklal Caddesi was opened in 1875 and the Taksim-Kabatas funicular at the other end was opened in 2006. There is also a short metro line that heads north from Taksim to the very prosperous Levent area. Long extensions at both ends of the metro line are currently underway and ridership is expected to boom once they are opened.

The second nostalgic tram line is the Kadikoy-Moda line on the Asian side of the city. Line 20 runs in a one way loop through this prosperous eating and shopping neighbourhood. There is a small carhouse located in Moda that houses the unnumbered ex East German Gotha cars that work the line.

Perhaps of greatest interest to railfans visiting Istanbul are the two electric commuter train lines. The Sirkeci - Halkali line runs from a terminus in the old city along the coast line of the Marmara sea out to the western suburbs. Unlike the trams that have all the modern conveniences such as air conditioning and automated stop announcements the commuter trains belong to a different generation. The Electric Multiple Unit cars (run in sets of three with the middle car being and unpowered trailer) were built by Alstom of France and delivered between 1954 and 1963. The trains provide a great ride for railfans with the classic traction motor sounds and the side to side swaying as the units get up to speed.

There is also a commuter line on the Asian side of the Bosphorous Strait that runs from the Haydarpasa Train station (picture 20) located near the Kadikoy Moda tram line along the coast of the Bosphorous before turning inland. This line also uses MU cars coupled in threes but with equipment built in Turkey in 1979. Just because the equipment is newer doesn't mean that it is less rickety. The interiors are tired looking and the doors struggle to open and close at the stations. In some cases passengers will stand in the doorways between stations blocking them from closing to let more cool air in as the trains move along at speed. There is currently a mega project underway to build a tunnel underneath the Bosphorous connecting the Asian and European rail lines. When this opens, new stations and equipment will be used and Istanbul will have a very modern rail network.

Metro Line M1

Photo locations: Havalimani (Atatürk International Airport) (M1), Dünya Ticaret Merkezi (M1), Yenibosna (M1), Ataköy (M1), Bahçelievler (M1), Bakirköy (M1), Zeytinburnu (M1), Merter (M1), Davutpasa (M1), Terazidere (M1), Otogar (M1), Esenler (M1), Kartaltepe (M1), Sagmalcilar (M1), Bayrampasa-Maltepe (M1), Ulubatli-Topkapi (M1), Emniyet (M1), Aksaray (M1), Yenikapi (M1)

Metro Line M2

Photo locations: Yenikapi (M2), Sehzadebasi (M2), Unkapani (M2), Sishane (M2), Taksim (M2), Osmanbey-Pangalti (M2), Sisli-Mecidiyekoy (M2), Gayrettepe (M2), Levant 1 (M2), Levant 4 (M2), Sanayi (M2), Ayazaga (M2), Ataturk Oto Sanayi (M2), Darussafaka (M2), Haciosman (M2), Seyrantepe (TT Arena) (M2)

Tram Line T1

Photo locations: Bagcilar (T1), Gunestepe (T1), Cami (T1), Soganli (T1), Akincilar (T1), Gungoren (T1), Kerestecifer (T1), Mehmet Akif (T1), Zeytinburnu (T1), Mithatpasa (T1), Aksemsettin (T1), Seyitnizam (T1), Merkezefendi (T1), Cevizlibag (T1), Topkapi (T1), Pazartekke (T1), Çapa (T1), Findikzade (T1), Haseki (T1), Yusufpasa (T1), Aksaray (T1), Laleli (Üniversite) (T1), Beyazit (Kapaliçarsi) (T1), Çemberlitas (T1), Sultanahmet (T1), Gülhane (T1), Sirkeci (T1), Eminönü (T1), Galata Bridge (T1), Karaköy (T1), Tophane (T1), Findikli (T1), Kabatas (T1)

Tram Line T4

Photo locations: Topkapı (T4), Fetihkapı (T4), Vatan (T4), Edirnekapı (T4), Şehitlik (T4), Demirkapı (T4), Topçular (T4), Rami (T4), Uluyol-Bereç (T4), Sağmalcılar-Kartaltepe (T4), Bosna-Çukurçesme (T4), Ali Fuat Başgil (T4), Taşkörü (T4), Karadeniz (T4), Mertis (T4), Cumhuriyet Mah. (T4), 50. Yil-Bastabya (T4), Hacı Şükrü (T4), Yeni Mahalle (T4), Sultançıftliǧi (T4), Cebeci (T4), Mescid-i Selam (T4)

Photo Gallery

Five Random Images

Image 89097

(274k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Bernard Chatreau
Location: Tunel

Image 139442

(383k, 1044x703)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Sultanahmet (T1)

Image 139514

(315k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Bernard Chatreau
Location: Topkapi (T1)

Image 139520

(299k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Bernard Chatreau
Location: Yusufpasa (T1)

Image 140098

(222k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Bernard Chatreau
Location: Havalimani (Atatürk International Airport) (M1)

More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-200 201-211

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