The funicular is the oldest means of public transport in Zagreb.
This form of public transport exists in many cities around the world, from Los Angeles, Bournemouth in the United Kingdom, Haifa in Israel, Istanbul, Odessa, all the way to Zurich, which has five of them.
The Zagreb funicular connects the Upper and Lower towns. The lower station is located in Tomićeva Street, which leads to Ilica - Zagreb's longest street, while the upper station is at the foot of the Lotrščak Tower on Strossmayer's Promenade in Upper Town. When you climb to the upper station of the funicular, you can go all the way to the top of the Lotrščak tower, where you will enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Zagreb.
In the past, the Upper Town and the Lotrščak tower were reached by a field, serpentine path, and it was necessary to cross a height difference of 30 meters. Sometime before the construction of the funicular, 165 wooden steps on an iron structure led halfway up the hill, built by the famous urban planner Milan Lenuci.
The introduction of the Zagreb funicular is due to Osijek entrepreneur D. W. Klein, who at one time concluded that, following the example of Budapest, Zurich and other European cities, it could also be built in Zagreb. For this reason, every day under the stairs in Bregovita Street, and today Tomićeva Street, he measured the frequency of pedestrian traffic by simply counting passers-by and came to the conclusion that it was dense enough and that a funicular could be built in place of the public staircase. As early as 1888, he submitted a request for a building permit to the City Council, and the next year he began the construction of the funicular. However, it did not go exactly as desired, and the first test drive was also accompanied by problems, so it was officially put into service on October 8, 1890. In the first years after it started operating, the funicular often broke down. From time to time, passengers had to get out of it and push it.
The first passenger cabins were divided into classes. The parts that looked towards Upper Town or Ilica were the first class, while the middle part belonged to the second class. Driving in first class was of course more expensive.
The first funicular was steam powered. In March 1934, after a major failure of the steam engine due to wear and tear, the cable car's engine was replaced with an electric one. The new engine proved to be a very high-quality solution – noise and pollution were reduced, and driving became more pleasant, faster and safer. Thus, the Zagreb funicular was electrified even before the Zagreb trams.
The largest, thorough renovation of the funicular lasted over 4 years (from 1969 to 1974), during which, respecting the same original architecture of this cultural monument, an almost completely new funicular was built, which was then given the famous blue color. From then until today, the funicular undergoes regular annual overhaul, and in 2005, the lower and upper stations were renovated. With several more renovations and modernizations, the funicular is still today, 132 years after its first run, a favorite means of transportation and an essential tourist attraction in Zagreb.
It consists of two wagons, each with 16 seats and 12 standing places, its maximum speed is 1.5 m/s, and the journey lasts 64 seconds. and the ride leaves every 10 minutes. The cable car overcomes a height difference of 30.5 m on a 52% ascent (the upper station is at 156.5 m above sea level, and the lower one at 126 m). The funicular was built as an inclined viaduct of 8 semicircular openings 2.5 m long. Despite the continuous mechanical load, this ancient structure has not shown any signs of technical deformation until today, and some of those semicircular openings are today art galleries and souvenir shops. On the concrete surface of the viaduct there are two tracks (one wagon on each) with rails 66 meters long and 1200 mm wide. The towing rope has a diameter of 22 mm.
Points of interest:
- The Zagreb funicular is one of the shortest cable railways intended for public transport in the world in terms of track length (66 m) and travel time (64 seconds). Montmartre funicular in Paris (108 m, 90 sec), Angels Flight in Los
- The funicular is the oldest (a year older than the horse-drawn tram) and the safest means of public transport in Zagreb. Unlike many other city funiculars in the world, it has never had any, not even the smallest, accident. Therefore, it is not surprising that the epithet of the safest ride is associated with the Zagreb funicular.
- In addition to many presidents, parliamentarians, mayors, archbishops and dignitaries, in 2016 the funicular also transported English Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla.
- On the day of the official start of construction of the funicular, the Eiffel Tower was opened to visitors in Paris (May 6, 1889).
- Forty years after the start of construction (as it was written in the contract between the city and Klein), the funicular became the property of the city. The Zagreb Funicular has been operated by the Zagreb Electric Tram since 1929.
- According to the results of the research conducted by the non-profit organization for the promotion of culture and tourism European Best Destinations through its portal and social networks, in 2014 the Zagreb funicular was declared the second best cable car in Europe. This confirms that, after the election of Zagreb as the second best destination in Europe, the shortest funicular in the world won the sympathy of visitors to Zagreb, who ranked it in second place behind the Bica cable car in Lisbon, and ahead of other cable cars in Portugal, France, and Hungary and Switzerland.