Urban Roads in Istanbul

Prior to the nineteenth century, and particularly before the development of fast and modern land transport vehicles, urban transportation in Istanbul had some distinct features. Most significantly, land transportation was slower than transportion on water. During the Byzantine era, there were comparatively wider roads in the city, and large squares. Subsequently, Turks preserved the width of the roads. As a matter of fact, the population density of the time, the lifestyle, and the types and shapes of transportation vehicles did not demand such wide roads. Until the end of reign of Süleyman the Magnificent, the width of streets was typically between 6 and 7 meters, or even wider in some places. When the maps of this era are examined, it can be seen that the major and minor streets were separated from one another by very distinct borders. These streets, which converged at intersections, were arranged within the city walls; here the slopes were steep, thus the streets followed certain geometric principles and were as well-proportioned as possible. The situation was similar in the coastal areas around the Golden Horn. In general, the street systems did not change much over the centuries. However, it really was not possible for a different road form to be implemented on this land. It was necessary for the traveler to know how to reach the coast and the port through the city gates, as in this way it was possible to swiftly and easily transport goods coming via the sea on roads that were used by vehicles. The main streets within the coastal city walls, close to the walls and to each other, are still used today.1

As the population of the city increased, the roads, which had previously been 6–7 meter wide, became narrower, falling to 2.5 meters in some places. The narrowness of the streets of Constantinople, apart from a few main streets, was a result of the lifestyle that the people had adopted. Consequently, travel within the city was carried out either on foot or on horseback. Following the conquest, for a long time carts or carriages could not be used on Istanbul’s narrow streets, the sidewalks of which were also in need of repair. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, the right to ride in a carriage for government officials was essentially something enjoyed only by the grand vizier and the sheikh al-Islam (chief jurist). The streets of Istanbul not suitable for carriages, but more importantly, Turks, in particular members of the palace and military officials, considered carriages with disdain, seeing them as a symbol of laziness and as a mode of transportation reserved for women. Viziers and other government officials would travel through the city on horseback, officials of lower ranks were not even allowed to ride horses; rather the majority of the population went about their daily lives on foot.2

1- Oxcart (Castellan)

2- Water buffalo cart

3- Transportation by oxcart in Sultanahmet Square

The main roads that connected Istanbul to Anatolia and Rumelia continued in three different routes on both sides of the city. These were as follows:3 The Anatolian right-hand route began in Istanbul, passed through Eskişehir, Akşehir, Konya, Antakya, and culminated in Aleppo. A branch of this route, which separated from the main road in Antakya, led to Egypt via Damascus; this route was used as a pilgrimage route. This Anatolian middle route, beginning from Üsküdar, led to Baghdad and Basra; it passed through Gebze, Bolu, Tosya, Merzifon, Tokat, Sivas, Hasançelebi, Malatya, Harput and Diyarbakır. The Anatolian left-hand route followed the same route as the middle one until Merzifon; from here it diverged and passed through Ladik, Niksar, Karahisar-ı Şarki, Kelkit, Aşkale, Erzurum and Hasankale, leading to Kars, with another road leading to Tabriz.

The Rumelian right route began in Istanbul and arrived in Özü and the Crimea via Vize, Kırklareli, Prevadi, Karasu, Babadağı, İsakçı and Akkirman. The Rumelian middle route reached Belgrade through Istanbul, Silivri, Edirne, Filibe, Sofya, Niş, Yagodina. The left route of Rumeli arrived in Istefe passing through Istanbul, Tekirdağ, Gelibolu, Malkara, Ferecik, Dimetoka, Gümülcine, Pravişte, Lankaza, Yenişehir and İzdin.


4- The dirt road extending from Büyükdere to Taksim and from there to Pera and the general view of Istanbul (Melling)

The carriage started to be used more frequently in parallel with the Westernization process. The Tulip Era was a period in which elegant horse-drawn carriages were used by government officials and the rich, in imitation of French aristocrats. From the era of Mahmud II onwards, restrictions on riding in carriages were reduced and civil servants, as well as non-Muslims, began to use carriages. Mahmud II was also the first sultan to habitually ride in a carriage.4 The carriage’s spread throughout society however took place during the period of Abdülmecid. In addition to the changes that began with the Tanzimat, the lifestyles of English and French citizens, who arrived in Istanbul due to the Crimean War, also influenced the people of Istanbul, and the carriage, a European accouterment, became widespread in Istanbul. These new consumption models created a two-fold carriage market in Istanbul. On the one hand, there were carriages that had Western technology, but which had been re-produced to suit Ottoman conditions; these included, for example, the koçu (coach), kâtip odası (clerk’s chambers) and talika (carriage). On the other hand, however, there were carriages based on Western models, the parts of which were imported from the East or produced in Istanbul, such as the fayton (coach/phaeton), kupa (coupé), landau, paşarol (pascharol). In time, Western models came to be preferred and towards the end of the nineteenth century, carriages, such as the koçu and kâtip odası, disappeared.

With theincrease in the number of carriages, it became necessary to restructure the Istanbul streets; however, it was not easy to transform streets that had been designed for pedestrians into a form that was suitable for the use of carriages. It became possible to widen streets after the fires that frequently swept the city.5 It was in this framework that changes were made to the streets of Istanbul over the years; this process began in the era of Sultan Selim III.6 The decision to widen the streets of Istanbul as they were unsuitable for carriage traffic was made in 1839; the principle of separating intra-city roads into four categories based on their width as well ensuring that no dead-end streets were built within the city was adopted. In the following years, regulations were passed in keeping with these decisions.

Drastic street restructuring took place with the widening of streets after the great fires. After the Hocapaşa fire, which took place in 1865 and demolished an entire area stretching from Sirkeci to Kumkapı, an islahat-i turuk (road reforms) commission was established to widen the roads7 and reconstruct buildings in brick; some streets were also widened. Maps of the areas struck by the fire were drawn up and 25 % of all plots of land were expropriated without payment to allow for the expansion of the roads. Road widths were designated as being between 6 and 25 arşın (an arşın equals approximately 76 cm.). Within the framework of these operations, the width of Divanyolu was increased to 19 meters. Eminönü, which is the densest part of Istanbul in regards to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, was designed so that it would be suitable for carriage traffic.8

When the vehicular road began to take the place of the pedestrian road, the meaning of the word kaldırım (pavement) changed. Previously, the word described all parts of the road that were covered in stone; with the arrival of carriages, the roads designated for carriages and that for pedestrians were separated, and the concept of the pedestrian sidewalk emerged. Despite all these arrangements, the complaints of the residents of Istanbul about streets continued; if it rained for a few days, the streets became impassable. The shoes and clothing of pedestrians would be covered in mud. It was a common topic of complaints that the streets were not suitable for vehicles.9 One such complaint is given below:

For a while now, it has become difficult to walk through the streets of Istanbul because of the mud. We request that a solution to this be found. Moreover, just as in any task that is to be carried out, it is necessary to find a balance on the topic of roads. Even though it is impossible to deny the efforts of the Şehremaneti (municipality) in maintaining and organizing the roads, they do not take care of the sidewalks in Unkapanı Street or Zeyrek Hill. This hill is in desperate need of maintenance. Neither humans nor animals are able to walk on the sidewalks. These places, which are considered to be the heart of the city, require immediate repair. In addition, many ox carts are parked on the left and right-hand sides of the Unkapanı Street, making it look like a shambles. Moreover, the sides of the street are covered with planks and trash is thrown there.10

5- Women in a tour by oxcart (Preziosi)

6- Carriage (Preziosi)

The streets would become covered in mud during the rainy season, and dusty in the summer; at this time, the citizens would complain about the dust. In an article published in Basiret in April 1875, it was written that “The wide streets of Istanbul cannot be passed during windy weather due to the dust.” In an article written in May of the same year, the following was stated:

Istanbul’s busiest and most crowded district is Bahçekapısı. It is obvious that it also needs to be as wide as other main streets. While this is the situation, it would be more suitable for the land to be confiscated and allocated for the road instead of rebuilding the stores which burned down during the previous fire. However, the stores are being rebuilt. It is evident that the population of Istanbul continues to increase, day by day. We think that the need to remove those stores from their locations and widen the road will soon arise. If this is not done now, while we have the opportunity to do so, the existing road needs will not be able to be met, not to mention future road needs. Moreover, the narrowness of the streets leading from the docks to Unkapanı, as well as the overwhelming number of pack animals cause great difficulties to those using the roads. When a person is travelling to Unkapanı from the docks, they spend as much time as if walking to Küçükçekmece on foot; indeed, the latter journey is much easier.

7- Carriages, the indispensable transportation vehicles of Istanbul, in Şehzadebaşı

As we can understand from the above, the streets and roads of Istanbul were always crowded, but they were not maintained. Prior to public transportation, in the form of horse-drawn trams, entering the lives of Istanbul’s residents, the only alternative means of land transportation, aside from walking, were the horses and carriages that were hired out; however, hiring a cab was expensive. In addition, riding a horse required certain skills, and the owners demanded arbitrary rates. Despite there being a law that carriages and horses using the narrow streets should proceed with care and without harming pedestrians, it was commonplace to see people cantering down the roads, casting mud upon pedestrians. The Basiret newspaper writes:

8- Carriages in Karacaahmet

Last Tuesday, as I was passing by the Hamidiye mausoleum, I saw with my very own eyes that a drunk Bulgarian was just about to run over an old lady and a little girl while riding his mount at full gallop down the middle of the street. ...Moreover, street porters line up their animals nose to tail, packed with loads; despite the fact that these animals should have a guide, this is totally ignored and five to ten loaded animals are let loose on the street, side by side. They trample over people, pushing them into holes in the wall. Particularly, when horses carrying wood come towards you, you have to search for somewhere to take refuge. They also drive unloaded animals as fast as possible from behind, or hold one from the front and run them all together. 11

In an article entitled “Istanbul Streets,” published in Basiret, the problems experienced by pedestrians are summarized as follows:

It has become impossible to walk in the streets of Istanbul due to the poor condition of the sidewalks. Moreover, omnibuses seem to have gone on vacation. We are waiting for March for the roads to be fixed. Also, even though a great deal of attention is given to cleanliness, unsanitary filth can be seen in some back alleys of Istanbul. We think that the Şehremaneti’s equipment is insufficient to clean this up. As cleanliness is an important matter, these shortages need to be solved immediately. Moreover, rubble in Simkeşhane, through which the trams pass, is still to be seen. Also, as the baskets of the porters take up a great deal of space, it is difficult for a person to pass down the sides of the road when there is a tram.12

As carriages continued to operate on the streets of Istanbul in such a manner, omnibuses entered the lives of Istanbulites.

Omnibuses - Public Transportation Vehicles

An omnibus was a large carriage pulled by horses that was used for public transportation. Omnibuses were used for the first time in 1825 in the city of Nantes, France.13 With an agreement dated August 30, 1869, a license to operate omnibuses in areas of the city which were deemed suitable was granted to the Istanbul Tram Company, under the condition that the vehicle would not belong solely to this company. According to the conditions of the license, the company could operate omnibuses on routes determined by the city, thus connecting other parts of the city with tram centers; the carriages would operate from sunrise to midnight. Lamps were to be placed on the back and front of the carriages to illuminate them at night. The company was to publish the days and hours of departure of the carriages in the newspapers and it had to obtain permission from the Şehremaneti for any changes it might make in regards to the operation of the carriages.

At the same time that the tramlines were laid and the trams began to function, the company began to introduce omnibuses. At first, it opened the Perşembepazarı-Tepebaşı-Galatasaray-Harbiye-Pangaltı line with seven omnibuses in August, 1872. The company, which paid the Şehremaneti two liras per carriage,14 also wanted to operate omnibuses between Eminönü-Eyüp and Beyazıt-Edirnekapı. According to the agreement, the maintenance and repair of the roads on which the omnibuses would run was the responsibility of the Şehremaneti. The Şehremaneti borrowed the money necessary for repairs from the company out of the taxes taken from the omnibuses.15 In the end, the Eminönü-Eyüp and Beyazıt-Edirnekapı omnibuses began operating in December 1927.

Omnibus provided great convenience for the residents of districts in which the trams did not operate; the people referred to the omnibuses as dolmuş, meaning “filled up” in Turkish. Omnibuses were in high demand because they were a cheap public transportation vehicle and a blessing for people who had previously traveled in the city on foot. However, the run-down roads were still a topic of complaint:

Because of the high level of damage on the roads the omnibuses operate on, the Beyazıt-Edirnekapı cars bounce from one stone to another, like a partridge. Because of this, the passengers are unable to remain seated and leap from their places, falling into each other’s laps. All the while, the cigarettes they are holding end up in the mouths and noses of those sitting opposite to them and bloody mouths or noses happen from time to time. Moreover, houses are rattled from their foundations because of the cars’ bouncing. Because of this, the omnibuses also create destruction. Sometimes a tire bursts and passengers fall on top of each other, and their foreheads and eyes are split open. While these are in such a situation, and even though the streets in and around Eyüp are in a better condition as compared to the ones mentioned, we have observed that other types of damage have started to occur. The streets are not the result of any sort of planned engineering. They have been constructed with mounds on both sides and a trench in the middle. Because of this, the wide road that extends almost all the way from Unkapanı to Eyüp forms a sort of gulf on both sides when it rains. When homeowners on both sides want to meet with each other or are forced to go to the market, they almost need to keep a rowboat in front of their doors to do so. If one takes into consideration that the rains will increase in the future, and that even snow will fall, not only will the connection of the citizens of Eyüp with Istanbul be severed, they also will lose contact with their neighbors. If this situation continues, it will be necessary for the Şehremaneti to provide citizens with rowboats to meet their needs.16

Trams and the omnibus made life easier for Istanbul residents; however, the management of the vehicles and the bad condition of the roads led to many complaints. The strength of the horses used to pull the cars was generally insufficient, and this affected the flow of traffic. The company first used horses to pull the omnibuses, then they used them to pull coupes (broughams) and finally to pull trams. Animals that were pulling trams in a greatly weakened state had an especially difficult time going up hills. One of the most important problems in the operation of omnibuses was how women were to travel. This problem was solved by having men and women sit in different sections on the tram; however, as this was not possible on the omnibuses, women sat next to the driver. However, this was not a satisfactory solution as the company could not let the cars depart without at least three passengers; if this was not the case it was claimed that the costs would not be covered.17

Meanwhile, the tram company asked for the rights to construct a tramline in the regions of Beyoğlu, Üsküdar and Kasımpaşa, to build a tramline along the bridge in order to connect Galata with Eminönü, and permission for omnibuses to be operated in these regions. In return for these rights, it was promised that the necessary 40,000 liras would be provided to renovate the Kasımpaşa Creek, the cleaning up of which had been on the agenda for a long time; in addition, 40,000 liras would be paid to renovate the streets on which the new lines would be built. However, the Şura-yı Devlet (State Council), which was not in favor of the company establishing a monopoly on transportation, did not look favorably on these requests either. The emergence of the omnibus as a new actor in the intra-city transportation of Istanbul caused unease among carriage drivers, who had been providing intra-city transportation on land until that date. With the introduction of the omnibuses, the business of carriage drivers was negatively affected, and the head of the carriage drivers’ organization applied to the Şehremaneti to ban the omnibuses, stating that the Tram Company-operated coupes, phaetons and single and double cars caused carriage drivers, who had been paying their taxes on time for years, to suffer losses.18 However, omnibuses continued to operate. To prevent some ticket salesmen from not giving passengers tickets, but rather pocketing the money and to prevent the company from making a loss, the company arranged a lottery for the tickets, offering a prize of five to twenty gold liras to the three people who had the winning tickets, which were to be drawn once every two months; other various gifts were awarded to the holders of other tickets.19

With the beginning of the operation of omnibuses on some Istanbul streets20 the taxes paid by vehicles were reorganized and new rates, which were similar to city taxes, were prepared; the decision to charge one and a half liras from carriages pulled by a pair of horses and one lira from carriages pulled by one horse was made. The taxi drivers, whose income had been negatively affected because of the omnibuses, rigorously objected to these taxes and bombarded the Şehremaneti with petitions.21 The topic was discussed at the Şura-yı Devlet on May 28, 1875. It is from this that we learn that vehicle drivers paid a certain amount of money each year for permission to use their carriages, and a very low monthly tax. The high tax rates naturally made things difficult for the cab drivers. The Şura-yı Devlet divided the vehicles in Istanbul into three categories and decided that those in the first category would pay fifteen liras in taxes per year, those in the second class would pay three liras, and those in the third category would pay one lira. The carriages operated by the tram company in Beyoğlu as well as those owned by the cab drivers were placed in the first category. However, this categorization created dissatisfaction among the owners. Those placed in the first category demanded that they be placed in the second or third categories; the tram company, on the other hand, complained about the heavy tax burden and that their carriages had been placed in the first category. Foreign cars operating in Beyoğlu also avoided paying this tax. Thus, a new adjustment was made and the decision to charge company, foreign and cab driver carriages with two horses seventy-five kuruş a month, and those with single horses half a lira a month was made.22 However, the complaints of the drivers about taxes and the complaints by the city about not being able to collect the taxes continued throughout later periods.23

Both the Tram Company, which was operating omnibuses, as well as the Şehremaneti made complaints about one another. The company complained about the decrepit state of the roads while the Şehremaneti complained that the omnibuses were damaging the roads. The company informed the Şehremaneti that unless the roads were repaired by May 1874, they would cancel the omnibus service that had been operating since 1872. Because no improvements had been made since the service had begun, the roads had become impassable due to potholes and mud; 500,000 kuruş was needed to make the repairs. The Şehremaneti did not carry out the repairs, stating that it was not able to do this with its limited budget.24 In response to this failure, the omnibus service on the European side of Istanbul came to halt in June, 1874. The Tram Company had suffered serious losses from the omnibus operation. As the disagreement about the repairs to the roads continued, the license for the company’s omnibus operations was revoked in accordance with a decision dated February 10, 1876.25

Omnibuses come to Üsküdar

9- Two pages from the contract register signed with Karapano Efendi about horsecar operations (BOA A.DVN.MKL, no. 7/21)

The Tram Company applied for the license to operate omnibuses in the district of Üsküdar in April, 1873. The residents of Üsküdar had actually desired that tram or omnibus services be brought to Üsküdar for many years. Moreover, an entrepreneur named Tunuslu Mahmud b. Iyad had applied for permission to operate omnibuses in Üsküdar in January, 1871; the opinion of the Tram Company, who at the time held the primary right to operate omnibuses in Üsküdar for a period of five years, was obtained. The Tram Company was asked about their plans and projects for Üsküdar. The company stated that they wanted to operate omnibuses in Üsküdar;26 however, this request was rejected.27 The refusal of requests to operate omnibuses, whether in Üsküdar or other regions of the city, was because the government wanted to secure greater revenue from this business. Instead of handing the license over to the company and creating a monopoly, it was more logical to give each operator a license, for which they would pay two gold liras a month in taxes for every vehicle that was being operated. In response to this, Tunuslu Mahmud b. Iyad once again requested permission to operate an omnibus from Üsküdar to Çamlıca and Kadıköy. In fact, he had even placed orders for the omnibuses from abroad to this end. Meanwhile, the residents of Üsküdar had come together and established a company with a budget of 30,000 liras, applying to the Şehremaneti for permission to operate omnibuses in Üsküdar for fourteen years. With an agreement dated September 14, 1873, associated with this application, a board of directors, consisting of twelve individuals, was established to operate omnibuses in Üsküdar.

The headquarters of the company was to be in Üsküdar, with a branch in Galata. The company would construct stops, stables and barley and hay barns in places it viewed as necessary, and would purchase land to build stops. The first route to be operated would extend from the Large Pier to Karacaahmet, passing through Eskihamam Street and Doğancılar, İhsaniye and Çamlıca; the second line would depart from the Large Pier and go to Karacaahmet once again, travelling along Çarşı street and Ahmediye. The third line would depart from the Large Pier, and end in Kısıklı via Bülbülderesi Street, İcadiye, Bağlarbaşı and Tophanelioğlu; the fourth line would go from the Large Pier to Beylerbeyi, and from there to Tophanelioğlu. Finally, the fifth line would depart from the Large Pier and go to Selamsız. In addition, lines would be established that would take the first and second lines as their main route, but go to Haydarpaşa and Kadıköy from Karacaahmet, and again from Karacaahmet to Haydarpaşa via Nuhkapısı, passing through Bağlarbaşı and Koşuyolu, continuing to Selamsız by turning right from İcadiye, which was on the third route, and then to Haydarpaşa and Karacaahmet via Çinili from Eskivalide and Bağlarbaşı and Koşuyolu. From here the final destination of Çavuşderesi would be reached by going past the fountain located near the market and Atpazarı. If the Çinili Hill was to be repaired, then the route would lead to Yenimahalle through Çavuşderesi. As the Kısıklı line also led to Alemdağ, it would operate from the Erenköy railway station through Kozyatağı to Kayışdağı.

10- Horsecars in Eminönü

As can be seen, the omnibus company established a route that would cover almost all of the Anatolian side. According to the agreement, the company would not pay any taxes to the Şehremaneti; however, in return, it would be responsible for repairing the roads on which the vehicles would travel. The fare would not exceed forty para per kilometer. Soldiers would pay twenty para for travelling on the Üsküdar, Beylerbeyi, Çamlıca and Haydarpaşa lines and would pay half price for travelling on the other lines. The name of the company was the Üsküdar Omnibus Company and the license was granted for ten years. The agreement, articles and conditions were approved with a decree dated September 25, 1873,28 and omnibuses began to operate in Üsküdar. In a short time, complaints similar to those about omnibuses operating on the European side began emerging here as well. In fact, the dust raised by omnibuses on the bad roads and the discomfort this caused to the passengers as well as to the surrounding areas is mentioned in the July 3, 1847 issue of Basiret.29 Despite everything, the omnibuses continued to run.30 In fact, in an article dated November 12, 1875, there is a complaint that a request had been made to operate omnibuses on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus and that the Şirket-i Hayriye was acting arbitrarily in operating steamboats to Üsküdar. If the Üsküdar Company was allowed to operate omnibuses along the Bosphorus, passengers who were traveling to Üsküdar on a steamboat could go wherever they wanted to, without being subjected to the caprices of the Şirket-i Hayriye.31

Horse-Drawn Trams

Horse-drawn trams were first used in the United States of America (Broadway) in 1852, in France (Paris) in 1855, in England (Birkenhead) in 1860, in Geneva and London in 1862, in Copenhagen and Peste in 1863, in Berlin and Vienna in 1865, in The Hague in 1866 and in Brussels and Liverpool in 1869. Horse-drawn trams, which first began to operate on short routes, in time became widespread in the city centers. The tram also attracted the interest of the Ottoman State because it was a modern method of transportation, in keeping with the conditions of the time and it offered significant convenience for intra-city public transportation. Entertainment and business locations in places like Galata and Beyoğlu had increased, European-style buildings, pavilions, holiday resorts and casinos had been constructed on both sides of the Bosphorus, and people needed to be able to travel to these places with ease. Meeting these requirements however, demanded new and modern transportation vehicles.32 Shortly after its emergence, the tram and railways entered the Ottoman State.

The construction of the tram in Istanbul began with a license being given to Kostantin Karapano Efendi. According to the proposal given to the government in August 1869, Konstantin Karapano Efendi was allowed to operate six horse-drawn trams, operating from Galata to Ortaköy, from Eminönü to Aksaray and from Aksaray to Topkapı and Yedikule via a variety of lines. His license was approved on August 20, 1869, and the contract was drawn up on August 30.33 Through the company he was to establish, Karapano Efendi would construct four lines, taking on sole responsibility for costs and losses. The first line began in Azapkapı, passing through Galata, Tophane and Beşiktaş, then traveling up to Ortaköy; the second line began in Eminönü, passing through Babıali and Soğukçeşme, going along Divanyolu Street as far as the Yusufpaşa Fountain in Aksaray. The third line separated from the second line in Aksaray and went to Samatya and Yedikule; the fourth line went to Topkapı from Aksaray. Karapano Efendi established the Istanbul Tram Company34 on February 18, 1870 (from 1881 onwards this company would be referred to as the Dersaadet Tram Company). The initial capital of the company was 400,000 lira. The tram line maps and expropriation plans prepared by the company were approved in March 1870;35 work to fix and renovate the streets between Arapçarşısı and Çeşmemeydanı in Galata began. 36

11- Horsecars and carriages in Istanbul streets

12- Horsecar, a new vehicle in Istanbul transportation

According to the contract, the costs of road construction were to be met by the government and the roads had to be ready within six months after the submission of the maps. The government repaired the roads at a cost of 5,800,000 kuruş.37 In June 1871, the construction work on the Azapkapı-Beşiktaş line was completed and test services were conducted. Three stops and waiting salons were constructed along the line, in Karaköy, Kabataş and Beşiktaş. The tram did not stop anywhere except for designated stops. Because the line was a single one, seven intersection points where trams coming from the opposite direction would meet were made. A Hungarian breed of horse, called Katana, pulled the wagons which had been constructed in Vienna.38 The Azapkapı-Beşiktaş line was opened with a grand ceremony, attended by the president of the Şûrâ-yı Devlet, Kamil Pasha, Hüseyin Avni Pasha, Ethem Pasha, as well as other leading government dignitaries and foreign ambassadors;39 Istanbul’s first horse-drawn tram had now entered service. The first tram departed from Beşiktaş at 6:30 a.m., and the last tram left Azapkapı at 7:20 p.m.; trams ran both ways every twenty minutes. Rates were based on destination, as was the case with other transportation vehicles.40 From the first moment it entered service, the tram was greeted with huge interest; it was cheaper than other forms of transportation. Interest was so great that the number of tramcars was insufficient to meet demand; particularly when approaching Tophane and Kabataş, no empty seats could be found.41 The Eminönü-Aksaray Line, on which the construction work was continuing, was completed in October 1871, and after test-drives, it was opened for service on November 14, 1871. The tram, which was to depart every ten minutes, operated between Eminönü, Sirkeci, Babıali, Sultanahmet, Sultan Mahmut Mausoleum, Beyazıt, Laleli and Aksaray.42

13- The opening ceremony of Sirkeci train station

Among the lines opened to service in 1871, in five months 721,957 passengers were carried between Galata and Beşiktaş; in forty-two days 154,364 passengers were carried on the Eminönü-Aksaray line.43 The Beşiktaş-Ortaköy line was opened for service on February 5, 1872; the Aksaray-Yedikule line was opened for service on August 14, 1872 and the Aksaray-Topkapı line was opened for service on January 14, 1873.44 Hence, Istanbul’s first horse-drawn tram lines, which Karapano Efendi had worked to construct, were completed. The Azapkapı-Ortaköy line was 6,040 meters in length, the Eminönü-Aksaray measured 3,730 meters, the Aksaray-Yedikule measured 3,600 meters and the Aksaray-Topkapı line was 2,500 meters long. A total of 13,785,254 kuruş was spent on the construction of the four lines; the construction work was completed eight months before the planned completion date. The fact that the tram brought in good profits from the moment it began to operate undoubtedly played a significant role in this result.45 The tram company, which thought that the faster the lines were completed the greater the profit, acted swiftly to complete the lines.

Despite the interest in the trams, passengers also made complaints from time to time. For instance, when two wagons were attached to one another on the route between Beşiktaş and Ortaköy to reduce expenses, the speed of the vehicle was reduced, as well as the number of trips that could be made. The drivers also caused great delays for passengers as they settled their daily accounts every night at Beşiktaş. In fact, one day, passengers had to wait for forty-five minutes inside a full wagon for the driver to settle his account.46 Another topic of complaint was that an insufficient number of horses were harnessed to the wagons. Particularly during situations when the number of passengers was too great or when the rain made the rails slippery, a single horse had a difficult time pulling the wagons; when going up hills, extra power was needed. Thus, the company built horse stations with small stables at the top of hills. The stablemen would run the backup horse to the wagon when the tram neared the top of the slope, and help it reach the summit.

Passengers would sit on benches across from one another; a section with a door covered by a cloth was in the front of the wagon. Hailers would be assigned to prevent the tram from crashing into people on the road. The hailers would blow their horns while yelling out varda!, running in front of the tram, dispersing the crowd and attempting to prevent accidents.47

The demand for the tram for travelling in Istanbul also affected the Şirket-i Hayriye (steamboat company), which carried passengers along the Bosphorus. Şirket-i Hayriye, upon losing passengers between Kabataş, Beşiktaş and Ortaköy to the tram, immediately ordered six new steamboats to be used along the Ortaköy line, and declared that it would reduce its fares.48 Cab drivers in Eminönü, who were also affected by this rivalry, reduced their rates as well in order not to lose passengers.49

Even though the tram company employed hailers, accidents did happen from time to time. In fact, in an accident that occurred on August 26, 1871, near the Karaköy stop, a Croatian by the name of Simeon fell under a wagon and died.50 Another accident ending in a death happened on the Beşiktaş-Ortaköy line. While the tram was passing in front of the Çırağan Palace, a small black child tripped while attempting to get onto the tram, fell on the tracks and he tragically died, his body split into two.51 As a result of another fatal accident in Davutpaşa, the neighborhood residents sized the tram and only with the interference of security forces were the residents appeased.52 In addition to these fatal accidents, accidents that resulted in injuries also happened from time to time.

When trams began operating to Ortaköy, residents of Üsküdar, Kuruçeşme and Arnavutköy also demanded tram services. The residents of Üsküdar put in an application, dated August 28, 1872, to the government with a petition signed by a large number of people:

14- The map of Istanbul dated 1301 (1883-1884) showing the tramway and railway lines, tunnels, streams, and general roads (Istanbul University, Rare Books and Special Collections Library, Maps Section)

Thanks to tram cars built by the grace of his Highness the Sultan, the people of Istanbul now encounter great ease and comfort in travelling back and forth, yet the Muslim and non-Muslim residents of Üsküdar have yet to attain this blessing. It probably is not acceptable for the people on one side to have such great convenience while the other side is devoid of this blessing. In this regard, we would like to kindly request that the necessary actions be taken to construct a tram line from the Üsküdar Pier to Çamlıca.53

15- The petition of the people living in Üsküdar requesting a tram line in their region after the beginning of tramway transportation in the European side of the city

The request was discussed at the Şehremaneti council. Based on the agreement, the initial right to construct a tram on the Anatolian side of Istanbul belonged to the Tram Company for five years after the granting of the license; there were still two years left before this right expired. Consequently, the authorities informed residents of Üsküdar that this period needed to be completed. The Tram Company could construct a tram within this time period if they wanted; however no action was taken by the Tram Company to establish trams in Üsküdar. This was because there were many lines that needed to be constructed on the European side. Another segment which wanted to benefit from the convenience brought by land transportation with the horse-drawn tram consisted of the residents of Kuruçeşme and Arnavutköy. In a petition handed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they requested the extension of the tram that came up to Ortaköy to their own district. In the petition, it states that twenty-five years earlier, the clean air of the Bosphorus could only be enjoyed during the summer months, but with the steamboats of the Sirket-i Hayriye and the operation of the tram to Ortaköy, the Bosphorus had now become a place to enjoy even during the winter months. The Sirket-i Hayriye steamboats, which stopped at Kuruçeşme and Arnavutköy, were not able to operate during stormy or foggy weather, and were often delayed. To solve this problem, the residents of Kuruçeşme and Arnavutköy requested the extension of the horse-drawn tramline to their neighborhood.54 Even though this request was passed on to the Tram Company, the extension of the tramline was not built in this period.55

With a new agreement, signed with the Tram Company on July 28, 1881, the name of the company became the “Dersaadet Tram Company.” The license was extended thirty-six and half years, and the construction of three new lines was agreed upon.56 Of these lines, only the Galata-Şişli line was built, with the horse-drawn tram beginning to operate in Beyoğlu. This line, which was open to service in 1883, departed from the beginning of Yüksekkaldırım, and passed through Voyvoda Street, Şişhane, 6. Belediye Dairesi, Tepebaşı Kabristan Street, the British Consulate, Cadde-i Kebir (İstiklal Street), Taksim, Pangaltı and Şişli. The entertainment life of Beyoğlu became more active with the introduction of the tram. An agreement reached in 1900 between the Tram Company and Taksim Bahçesi, one of the popular entertainment spots of the time, allowed passengers from the Şişli-Taksim and the 6. Daire-Taksim line to enter the garden free of charge upon showing their tickets.57

Suburban Trains

Trains were a form of intra-city transportation in Istanbul. Sections of what was known as the Rumelia Railway, which connected Istanbul to Anatolia, passed through the city; these sections were also used as a suburban train line. The agreement for construction of the Istanbul-Edirne section of the Rumelia Railways was made with the Austrian banker Baron Hirsch on April 17, 1869, and the license was granted on October 7, 1869; service on this line began on June 4, 1870. Upon completion of the fifteen km. long Yedikule-Küçükçekmece section, the line was opened with a ceremony on January 4, 1871, attended by a large group of invited guests; the first passengers were allowed to board on the following day. According to the schedule, five trips were made daily, in both directions. The stations were Yedikule, Bakırköy, Yeşilköy and Küçükçekmece. The residents of Istanbul, who showed great interest in the train, something they had never seen or ridden on before, began purchasing homes on the coast and going to work on the train; thus creating new lifestyles and consumption models. However, a while later, the distance of Yedikule, the first station, from the city center, became a matter of complaint and passengers who were forced to walk the distance requested that the line be extended to Sirkeci. But for this to happen, the railway needed to pass through the garden of Topkapı Palace.

16- The animals sacrificed on the occasion of the opening of tramway line

The possibility of having the railway pass through the palace ignited an intense public debate. Conservatives found the possibility of the railway passing through the palace untenable and opposed it; those approaching the subject in terms of environmental awareness found the damaging of irreplaceable nature like that found in Sarayburnu unacceptable and claimed that the railway would suffocate the city with smoke and noise. They also stated that the construction would damage many historical monuments along the route. The Tram Company, which approached the topic from the perspective of trade and commerce, opposed the extension of the line to Sirkeci because they believed a railway between Yedikule and Sirkeci would reduce their own passenger numbers, and thus their income. Grand Vizier Ali Pasha, who had supported the construction of the railway from the beginning, gathered a commission to discuss the topic. When no decision was forthcoming due to the fierce opposition from Mütercim Rüşdü Pasha and the former serasker (chief of staff) Rıza Paşa against the extension of the line to Sirkeci, the topic was taken to Sultan Abdülaziz, who was considered to be the actual owner of the garden.

Sultan Abdülaziz ended the debate by not only allowing the railway to pass through the palace gardens, but by also saying: “As long as a railway is built in my country, I do not care if it crosses over my spine.” Upon this, the construction of the Sirkeci-Yedikule line began, and it opened for service on July 21, 1872. From this date onwards, the train began travelling back and forth between Sirkeci and Küçükçekmece. Instead of constructing a new train station in Sirkeci, the railway company utilized houses located in the relevant region (in total five or six) and used them as stations. The train station which is currently in Sirkeci was constructed in 1890. Meanwhile, the construction of the Haydarpaşa-İzmit railway line on the Anatolian side, which had begun in August of 1871, was completed on May 3, 1873. As a result, the Anatolian side of Istanbul also obtained a suburban train line, and the trains began offering regularly scheduled services between Haydarpaşa and Pendik. The residents of Istanbul embraced the tram and railway which had entered their lives; transportation was now rapid, easy, safe and cheap. The people now could also travel more.

The Second Subway in the World: The Tünel

17- The tramway line between Şişli and Taksim

During a holiday to Istanbul in 1867 the French engineer Henri Gavand observed that many people walked between Galata and Beyoğlu. In fact, Galata was an important financial and trade center at that time, and Beyoğlu was an active and attractive entertainment center. When people wanted to go to Beyoğlu from Galata or down to Galata from Beyoğlu, they had to pass through Yüksekkaldırım, the steep, neglected and exhausting street that connected these two centers. According to Gavand, 40,000 people travelled between these two centers daily, and Yüksekkaldırım was unable to carry this density. The pedestrian traffic of Yüksekkaldırım Street, which had a 24 % inclination and a width which varied between 4 to 6 meters, was difficult and tiring. Gavand, who searched a method to save people from climbing up and down this slope, introduced a project that would connect Galata and Beyoğlu with a railway to be constructed underground, thus making the transportation of people and freight easier. This project would not only make things easier for people, but it would also make a profit.

Gavand, who applied to the Sublime Porte to implement this idea, promised to construct a tunnel to connect Galata and Beyoğlu, to lay rails inside the tunnel and transport passengers and freight with wagons pulled by cables connected to a steam engine. The station of the Tünel to be constructed at the entrance of Galata would be built at the closest place possible to the Karaköy Bridge on Yenicami Street; the Beyoğlu station would be built across from the Galata Mevlevi Lodge, next to the Teke Cemetery; after forty-two years of operation the Tünel would be handed over to the government. Gavand had received no requests from the government to develop this project; that is, he was proposing a build-operate-transfer model. In the end, the license was granted to Gavand with an edict dated June 10, 1869. Henri Gavand, who immediately began working on this enterprise, was unable to obtain the necessary amount of investment from France. Upon this, he established an English company and began work. After solving many problems arising from the allocation of land, he constructed the Tünel so that it could begin operating. Test runs were conducted during the months of November and December. The English company, meanwhile, eliminated Gavand from the project and became the sole owner of the Tünel. The opening of the Tünel took place on January 17, 1875, with a grand ceremony. However, the architect of the project, Gavand, who had been sidelined by the company and was embittered, refused to attend the ceremony. The train consisted of two carriages, first and second class. A platform allocated for animals, freight and carts was in the first wagon. The company transported 75,000 passengers in fourteen days between 18-31 January, 111,000 in February and 127,000 in April; the number of passengers increased to 225,000 in June when prices were reduced.

The Tünel, which connects Galata and Beyoğlu, two important centers of Istanbul, to one another, was the second underground railway in the world. The length is 555.8 meters, the diameter is 6.7 meters and the height is 4.9 meters. The length of the rails passing through the Tünel is 626 meters. The railway was constructed as a double line. There is a slight ramp at the beginning of the Galata section; the reason for this is to ensure that the wagons obtain the necessary speed to get over the next incline; because the trains moved along the same line both ways without switching rails, there is no possibility that they can crash into one another. The only type of accident that can happen in the Tünel is the rupturing of cables. Because of this, a double break system is applied on the wagons which are operated by a steam engine. The construction cost was a total of 4,125,554 francs. 58

Electric Trams

The Ottoman government confiscated the horses owned by the Tram Company to use them to transport soldiers and munitions during the 1912 Balkan War. This meant that horse-drawn trams were no longer seen on the streets of Istanbul. According to the agreement signed with the Tram Company on January 19, 1911, electric trams would now operate in Istanbul. Consequently, just as a direct connection would be established between Eminönü and Galata with trams that would pass over the bridge, a tram would also depart from Eminönü directly to various districts such as Ortaköy, Bebek, Beyoğlu and Şişli. Eminönü, the first stop for trams headed towards Beyazıt and Aksaray, would now be situated as the center of rail transportation. Electric Trams entered service in a ceremony held on the bridge on January 25, 1914. The deputy mayor of the city, Bedri Bey made a speech at the ceremony, saying: “The exchange of horses on slopes, the hailers blowing a horn and running, the sounds of the whips of drivers have all now become history. From today onwards, we will have modern, beautiful trams.” This first tram, which departed to go through Karaköy to Eminönü, not only ended the longing for electricity, but also connected the bridge with the tram. During this opening ceremony the locals, with great enthusiasm, walked alongside the tram, which moved at a walking pace, passed over the bridge, accompanying the tram in a procession.59

When the Silahtarağa Electric Factory began to operate in the first months of 1914, other tram lines also began to operate, one by one. The lines and numbers of the newly-constructed electric trams were as follows:60 Number 10 - Tünel-Şişli (Tünel-Taksim-Şişli), 11 - Tünel-Tatavla (Tünel-Taksim-Tatavla), 12 - Fatih-Harbiye (Fatih, Beyazıt, Ayasofya, Sirkeci, Yeniköprü, Taksim, Harbiye), 14 - Tünel-Maçka (Tünel, Taksim, Maçka),61 15 - Taksim-Sirkeci (Taksim, Yeni Köprü, Sirkeci), 22 - Eminönü-Bebek (Eminönü, Dolmabahçe, Ortaköy, Arnavutköy, Bebek), 23 - Aksaray-Ortaköy (Aksaray, Beyazıt, Ayasofya, Sirkeci, Yeniköprü, Dolmabahçe, Beşiktaş, Ortaköy), 32 - Eminönü-Topkapı (Eminönü, Sirkeci, Ayasofya, Beyazıt, Aksaray, Topkapı), 33 - Eminönü-Yedikule (Eminönü, Sirkeci, Ayasofya, Beyazıt, Aksaray, Samatya, Yedikule), 34 - Beşiktaş-Fatih (Beşiktaş, Ortaköy, Dolmabahçe, Yeniköprü, Sirkeci, Ayasofya, Beyazıt, Şehzadebaşı, Fatih), 35 - Topkapı-Beyazıt (Topkapı, Aksaray, Beyazıt), 36 - Yedikule-Beyazıt (Yedikule, Samatya, Aksaray, Beyazıt).

Because electric trams were faster than the horse-drawn ones, many accidents occurred before the passengers became accustomed to this new mode of transport.62 The fact that nine accidents happened only in the month of January on the Şişli-Tünel line could be an indication of this. These accidents could sometimes result in injuries, and most of the time in material damage. The new lines which were opened to service after January 1914 increased the tram traffic in Beyoğlu even more. Trams travelling to Maçka from Beyazıt and Sirkeci, to Harbiye from Aksaray and Harbiye, to Şişli from the Tünel, to Mecidiyeköy from Sirkeci, and to Kurtuluş from Eminönü passed through Beyoğlu, along İstiklal Street, the entertainment, fashion and shopping (commerce) center of Istanbul. In the period in which a formal dress code was imposed on pedestrians in İstiklal Street, the tram glittered as brightly as the people sitting in it. Single or double wagon trams, full of color and progressing in a line, added something completely new to the beauty of the street; the tram passing through Beyoğlu with the bells ringing made it an integral part of the city.63

Congestion on Trams

As was the case with horse-drawn trams, the most frequent complaint about electric trams was over-crowding. These complaints would often appear in the newspapers; for instance, a reader of the Âti complained about overcrowding and congestion on the trams and proposed an increase in the fares:

18- An automobile in Istanbul

The congestion on the trams is terrible. It causes filth to spread. Our people have also become accustomed to not walking. They get on the tram for short distances. Therefore, to prevent people from riding the tram for short distances, ticket prices should be increased. Please do not be startled by the mention of a price increase. The income derived from the increase would go to the Department of Health and Sanitation. In this way, a source could be created to help fund the battle against contagious diseases. Also, as a result, the public will not ride the tram for short distances, because the rates are high, and thus congestion will decrease. Both these things will serve general health. 64

Another complaint topic was that night services were not available during the month of Ramadan. People complained about this policy in letters they sent to newspapers.65

Another topic dealt with in newspapers was the issue of women travelling on trams. Even though men and women had to travel in different compartments, the company would sometimes use the low number of female passengers as an excuse to move men into the women’s section. The Âti newspaper brings this topic up and criticizes it:

Lately we have received many letters from women readers, complaining about how women are forced to ride next to the tram drivers. A number of examples are provided of how the drivers mistreat women, even harassing them in an immoral way. We are publishing one of these below, as an example to show how drivers insult Muslim women: “The other day, we got on the tram with my wife to travel to Fatih from Eminönü. My wife was forced to sit next to the driver due to the congestion on the tram. When the tram arrived in Sultanahmet, I saw my wife get off the tram. I immediately jumped off and asked her why she had got off there. In response, she said that the driver had scolded her in such a way that it is not possible to repeat it here. Is it not possible to prevent such attacks and harassment, which happens to our women all the time? For instance, would it not be possible to seat women in the back of the wagons? I would like to request that you publish this, in order to put an end to such actions.” The conclusion we can draw from all of these complaints is as follows: The women’s section next to the drivers should be transferred to the back of the wagons. If women are to be moved to the back, and men to the front, all sorts of inappropriate situations will be prevented.66

Even though there were more complaints about tram drivers, articles which sought to understand tram workers and support them also appeared. In such an article the following was written about tram drivers:

Tram drivers, in particular, conductors, are mostly honest people deserving compassion and in need of support. They wake up before sunrise, and work until a time close to midnight, standing on their feet in a crowd, and are sometimes the target of insults. Their pay is low. Life for them consists of a series of tribulations. In particular, the new conductors are still only children. They suffer greatly due to their biological needs. Their bodies have not developed fully or properly. Add to this, the dirt, filth, dust and germs which result from close physical contact with people. They can find neither the opportunity nor the means to bathe. Soap is expensive, there is no water, and, in particular, finding hot water is like finding the mythical phoenix. Would the budget of this blessed company really suffer if they were to donate half a block of soap to the drivers and conductors? We also have a request. If a bath could quickly to be built for these poor folk at the beginning of the lines, a single heater for five to six of them would be sufficient, and a single shower siphon would suffice. In this way, perhaps the lives of many tram workers would be saved. The creation of a few such baths would not require great expenses. This could be done with a maximum of one thousand five hundred liras. If the company does not take care of its workers, even in this small way, how can it prove its dedication to the country?”

Tram services continued throughout the First World War (1914–1918), even though there were delays. The most important problem creating cessation of services was the lack of coal, and as a result, the difficulty in obtaining electricity. Apart from this, reasons such as the interruption of travel along international transportation roads due to the war, and the problems of operating commercial ships prevented the arrival of supplies from abroad in Istanbul. For instance, some of the wagons ordered from Germany before the war still had not arrived. In situations like this, the operation of lines with a small number of passengers would be interrupted and the wagons and equipment on these lines would be transferred to more active lines. For instance, the service of the Kocamustafapaşa and Yedikule trams would be suspended in such situations.67 On some routes, an attempt to decrease the congestion of passengers would be made by reducing the number of stops. For instance, the Fındıklı stop between Kabataş-Karaköy was eliminated, and passengers would be picked up and dropped off only at the Meclis-i Mebusan stop.68 From time to time, the working hours of trams would also be reduced. However, with the signing of the Armistice of Mudros and the end of the war, the procurement of certain supplies became easier; as a result tram schedules normalized over time.

The Automobile in Istanbul

The automobile, as its name suggests, is a vehicle that can move on its own. After the discovery of steam power, many engineers worked on putting an engine in vehicles traditionally pulled by horses, in order to make them move on their own. At first automobiles worked with steam engines, and later gas engines were used. The French engineer Cugnot tried the steam automobile for the first time in 1771 on a car with three tires. Later on in England, Griffith in 1821, Hill in 1824 and Hancook in 1821 built steam powered post cars. It was soon realized that the steam engine, which was suitable for locomotives, was not suited to use on vehicles that could maneuver easily. Upon this, the search was underway to find something new. In the 1890s, Daimler and Benz in Germany, Peugeot, Panhard and Levassor in France, Bernardi and Lanza in Italy, Duryea and Ford in the U.S. produced the first examples of the automobile. These resembled carriages in their exterior appearance.

The automobile, which began appearing in major European cities, arrived in Istanbul at a later date. According to what we can determine from the Ottoman archives, the first automobile in Istanbul was one ordered by the Regie Company, delivered to the Istanbul Port in September of 1904 on the Messagerie Company steamboat. This vehicle was brought inside three chests, unassembled. Customs officers, who had never seen anything like this before, were quite surprised, and learned from the person who brought the vehicle that this was an automobile which worked with gasoline. Upon this, the customs officials dubbed the vehicle zâtü’l-hareke, which means moving on its own. But as there were no regulations to be applied for automobiles, officers were hesitant about allowing the vehicle entry. The government, which debated the topic, decided to send the vehicle back to where it came from based on the reasoning that the streets of Istanbul were not suitable for the operation of an automobile.

After this ban, automobiles did not appear in Istanbul for some time. In 1905, the Rumanian prince Bisko asked for permission to pass through Istanbul with his automobile to go to Europe. Despite the entrance of an automobile into the city being banned, permission was given to Prince Bisko because this was a transit passage. While the automobile ban continued, some wealthy families, with an enthusiasm for this mode of transportation, did not refrain from secretly bringing automobiles into Istanbul. In fact, it can be seen that Sultan Abdulhamid II touches upon this subject in May 1908, and warns the government. Abdulhamid II stated that some people had brought automobiles into Istanbul in recent times, and that these cars were driven around Şişli, Kâğıthane and Üsküdar, causing accidents; he requested that the government take appropriate measures. Upon the warning from the sultan, the government discussed the topic and decided to continue the ban in Istanbul. However, automobiles could be used outside of the city.

The permanent arrival of the automobile in Istanbul happened after the declaration of the Second Constitutional Period on July 23, 1908. In some sources, it is stated that the first automobile that was brought to Istanbul to be used as transportation was purchased by the member of parliament for Basra, Züheyirzade Ahmed Pasha. Ahmed Pasha had obtained special permission from Abdulhamid II for this. This automobile, which had an open top and was red in color, could go as fast as twenty km per hour. The reaction of the residents of Istanbul to the automobile was not as severe as those shown by their European counterparts. However, it is a fact that people were afraid of the automobiles, which drove at rapid speeds, when the conditions of the time are considered; people fled the streets. İbrahim Alaattin Gövsa mentions that he saw the first automobile in Istanbul in 1909. Gövsa wrote a poem on this subject, titled “As the Automobile Passed By.”.The poem’s first verse is as follows:

It appeared the other day on the street all of a sudden,
A car which does not yet have a name in our language.

Upon the display of flexibility on the topic of the automobile after the declaration of the Second Constitutional Period, some entrepreneurs applied to the government to obtain a license to use the automobile as a mode of transportation in Istanbul and to import automobiles. However, the rules in regards to automobile traffic had yet not been established. Before issues such as the tax to be taken from automobiles and the safety of pedestrians were settled, no license could be given to any company. Moreover, it was also thought that those who obtained automobile licenses would prevent the construction of trams and railways in the future. The number of automobiles in Istanbul began to increase. The automobile was used as a vehicle of transportation by government officials as well as by wealthy individuals. Between 1908 and 1914, it is estimated that 100–150 automobiles existed in Istanbul, with most of them being official vehicles. These were brought from Germany, France, England and Italy. The concept of a chauffeur did not yet exist, and they called the drivers a “cranker.”

With an increase in the number of automobiles, certain precautions were taken and issues related to the automobile were also included in the regulations regarding the duties of the municipal police, dated December 24, 1913. According to this, the engines of automobiles had to work without noise, there could be no danger of explosion or catching fire, the fumes and odors had to be at a level that would not bother passersby, their brakes had to function well and be capable of preventing the vehicle from slipping backwards on steep hills. Otherwise, the automobile would be banned from using the roads. Two plates would be placed on automobiles, one on the front, the other on the back; the plates would have to have clear and legible white writing on a black background, and would have to be lit at night. The car would have to have two lamps attached to it, a green one on the right and a white one on the left, thus ensuring accidents were not caused by glaring lights or impaired vision, and large lanterns could not be used while driving in the city. Freight automobiles would also have to adhere to the same rules and conditions as passenger automobiles in terms of license plates and lighting. A horn, which could be heard from at least fifty meters, had to be installed on each automobile. The use of horns which made weird sounds and unnecessary honking was prohibited. Truck drivers (crankers) who did not have a license would be dismissed from their jobs. Taxis would have a red plate on one side and white on the other, next to the lamp, showing whether or not they had been rented; the red side of the plate would be displayed when a customer got into the taxi, while the white side would be displayed when there were no customers and the vehicle was available.

Cars, bicycles, automobiles and buses would travel on the right side of the road; a car coming into a street from a road would have to give the right of way to the car on the street. When car crankers were stopping, they would have to warn those coming from behind either by putting their hands out of the window or by honking three times. Those wanting to pass the car in front of them would have to honk three times before passing on the left side; they would then have to move back to the right side of the lane once again. In places set aside as pedestrian crossings, cars would have to drive slowly; automobiles and other vehicles could not drive on the sidewalk. Until they determined their direction, cars had to honk when entering a street or turning into another street. Automobiles could drive at a maximum speed of ten km in the city, and thirty outside of the city. In narrow roads and crowded areas, this speed could be no more than that of the horse-drawn carriages.

Those exceeding the speed limit in the city would be fined. Automobiles and other vehicles would have to light a lantern or a kerosene lamp after the sun set, the width and height of freight loaded onto commercial vehicles was to be such that it could not cause harm to people, trees, buildings or stores, automobile crankers could not swear at one another, and all vehicles had to stop when signaled to do so by the police; those not stopping would be handed a warning, and upon repetition of the same offence, their documents would be confiscated. Pedestrians would have to move aside and give automobiles the right of way.

The running of the automobile, which was a new transportation vehicle for Istanbul, and other vehicles, was organized and made systematic, and thus the first traffic rules were established. Another regulation for automobiles was related to taxes. Six liras would be taken from commercial vehicles which had an engine with up to twelve horsepower as municipal tax; ten would be taken from those with twelve-twenty horsepower, and buses and trucks with over twenty horsepower would pay fifteen liras as tax. Fifty percent more would be taken from private and foreign automobiles. Official automobiles were not subject to tax. Automobiles would have to pay a toll while crossing the Galata Bridge. Passenger automobiles would have to pay two kuruş, empty commercial automobiles would be charged five, and full commercial automobiles would have to pay twenty kuruş. Meanwhile, for automobiles that had to constantly cross the bridge, there was a pass which could be obtained by paying 150 kuruş beforehand.69 In this way, the number of automobiles entering the lives of the residents of Istanbul continued to increase over time.


1 Karoly Kos, İstanbul Şehir Tarihi ve Mimarisi, tr. Naciye Güngörmüş, Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1995, pp. 66-68, 106-107.

2 Mehmet İpşirli, “Araba”, DİA, vol. 3, 244; Ertan Ünal, “Arabalar”, Hayat Tarih Mecmuası, 1968, vol 2,no. 8, pp. 20-21.

3 Yusuf Halaçoğlu, “Klasik Dönemde Osmanlılarda Haberleşme ve Yol Sistemi”, Çağını Yakalayan Osmanlı: Osmanlı Devleti’nde Modern Haberleşme ve Ulaştırma Teknikleri, Istanbul:İslam Tarih, Sanat ve Kültür Araştırma Merkezi, 1995, p. 14.

4 İpşirli, “Araba”, p. 244.

5 İlhan Tekeli, “Yüzelli Yılda Toplu Ulaşım”, İstanbul, 1992, vol. 2, p. 19.

6 Ali A. Göksel, İstanbul’un Yolları ve Şehir Yollarının Tarihçesi, Istanbul 1995, pp. 5-6.

7 In a report published in the Takvim-i Vekayi because of this fire, the streets of Istanbul at the time are mentioned as follows: “In the streets today, let alone cars, animals can barely pass. These streets are not even worthy of that name; they are tight holes with slanted, sloped paths.” (Göksel, İstanbul’un Yolları, p. 5).

8 Göksel, İstanbul’un Yolları, p. 6.

9 Basiretçi Ali Efendi, İstanbul Mektupları, prepared by Nuri Sağlam, Istanbul: Kitabevi, 2001, p. 202.

10 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, p. 242.

11 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, p. 222.

12 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, p. 260.

13 Nuri Pek, “Otobüslerin Babası: Omnibüs”, Resimli Tarih Mecmuası, 1952, vol. 31, p. 1626.

14 Levant Herald, August 26, 1872.

15 BOA, ŞD, 678/20.

16 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, pp. 215-216.

17 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, pp. 181-182.

18 BOA, ŞD, 680/3.

19 BOA, ŞD, 680/25.

20 BOA, ŞD, 682/12.

21 For petitions, See: BOA, ŞD, 682/5.

22 BOA, ŞD, 684/16.

23 BOA, ŞD, 682/10, lef 6.

24 BOA, ŞD, 682/10, lef 1.

25 BOA, ŞD, 690/44.

26 BOA, ŞD, 675/14.

27 BOA, ŞD, 679/15.

28 BOA, Meclis-i Tanzimat Defteri, no. 4.

29 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, p. 302.

30 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, p 427. I was unable to obtain any information about the final year in which the Üsküdar omnibuses operated. Moreover, because of the roads being unsuitable, it can be understood that the omnibuses of Üsküdar also ceased operation a few years after their counterparts on the European side, towards the end of the 1870s, as this method of transportation is no longer mentioned.

31 Basiretçi, İstanbul Mektupları, pp. 452-453.

32 Ziyaeddin Fahri Fındıkoğlu, İstanbul’da Şehir İçi İnsan Nakli Meselesi ve İstanbul’da Tramvay İşçilerinin İçtimai Durumu, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi İktisat Fakültesi İçtimaiyat Enstitüsü, 1949, p. 146; Çelik Gülersoy, Tramvay İstanbul’da, İstanbul: İstanbul Kitaplığı, 1989, pp. 10-11; Haydar Kazgan, Galata Bankerleri, Istanbul: Türk Ekonomi Bankası, 1991, p. 73.

33 BOA, BEO, A.DVN.MKL, 7/21; İmtiyazat ve Mukavelat Mecmuası, 1302, vol. 1, pp. 447-460; Société de Tramways de Constantinople, Constantinople 1911, pp. 3-5, 7-17.

34 With the establishmen of the Tram Company, the first establishment to provide public transportation on land in Istanbul was formed. Thus, Istanbul Tram Company forms the nucleus of today’s IETT.

35 Levant Herald, March 25, 1870.

36 Levant Herald, April 11, 1870.

37 BOA, İrade Meclis-i Mahsus, no. 1592.

38 Levant Herald, July 1, 1871.

39 Levant Herald, August 1 and 4, 1871.

40 Levant Herald, July 29, 1871.

41 Levant Herald, September 26, 1871; Ertan Ünal, “İlk Tramvay Son Tramvay”, Hayat Tarih Mecmuası, 1968, vol. 2, no. 10, p. 68.

42 Levant Herald, November 16, 1871.

43 Levant Herald, 12 Nisan 1872

44 La Turquie, March 17, 1873.

45 According to the calculations of the company, a profit of 24 cents per passenger was made in Istanbul in 1873, and 21,7 cents per passenger in 1874. During the same period, these numbers for the trams in London were 22 cents, 25 cents for Brussels and Hamburg, and 26.5 cents for Vienna.

46 Levant Herald, February 26, 1872.

47 Ercüment Ekrem Talu, “Atlı Tramvay Devrinde Nasıl Yolculuk Edilirdi”, Hayat Tarih Mecmuası, 1978, vol. 14, no. 12 (168), pp. 22-25; Gülersoy, Tramvay İstanbul’da, pp. 19-23.

48 La Turquie, February 28, 1872.

49 La Turquie, January 18, 1872.

50 Levant Herald, August 29, 1871.

51 La Turquie, October 11, 1872.

52 La Turquie, July 11, 1873.

53 BOA, ŞD, 678/24.

54 BOA, DH.MKT, 1343/65.

55 Kuruçeşme and Arnavutköy would obtain Tram services as a result of the electrification efforts in 1914. Üsküdar however, was unlucky on this topic, and it would take until 1928 to see a tram operate in the district. Trams began operating in the area around Haydarpaşa ve Kadıköy on the otherhand, during the beginning of the 1930’s.

56 Osman Nuri Ergin, Mecelle-i Umûr-ı Belediyye, İstanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür İşleri Daire Başkanlığı, 1995, vol. 5, pp. 2418-2429.

57 R. Sertaç Kayserilioğlu, Dersaadet’ten İstanbul’a Tramvay, İstanbul: İETT Genel Müdürlüğü, 1998, vol. 1, p. 115.

58 For more detailed information on Tünel, See: Vahdettin Engin, Tünel, İstanbul: Simurg Yayınları, 2000.

59 R. Sertaç Kayserilioğlu, Dersaadet’ten İstanbul’a Tramvay, İstanbul: İETT Genel Müdürlüğü, 1999, vol.2, p. 38.

60 Ameli Elektrik Dergisi, Aralık 1927, pp. 156-157; Kayserilioğlu, Dersaadet’ten İstanbul’a, vol. 2, p. 50.

61 The Maçka line entered service with a delay because of the troubles (problems) caused by the conditions of the war.

62 For mentioned accidents, see: BOA, ŞD, 510/8.

63 Kayserilioğlu, Dersaadet’ten İstanbul’a, vol. 2, p. 197.

64 Âti, April 29, 1918.

65 Âti, June 12, 1918.

66 Âti, June 20, 1918.

67 Âti, May 26, 1918.

68 Ati, April 21, 1918.

69 Vahdettin Engin, Cumhuriyet’in Aynası Osmanlı, İstanbul: Yeditepe Yayınevi, 2010, pp. 275-284.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.