Barcelona By Tram

A Q&A at TIFF tonight took me to Europa Film Treasures, an archival collection of film.  By sheer luck, it has a 7-minute tour of Barcelona shot from a tram in 1908 when, judging by the pedestrians, cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles on the tracks, the tram was quite new.  A real delight.

Barcelona en tranvía

8 thoughts on “Barcelona By Tram

  1. Very interesting! I mentioned this to a friend who knows Barcelona well and he pointed out a youtube version of the same old film that has modern footage edited in for comparison. Regrettably there are no tracks now, however, he thinks the tram had been installed at least 10 years when the 1908 shots were taken, and that the extra attention paid was due to a large film camera being mounted on the front of the tram. The edited version is here.


  2. It looks like the shenanigans in front of the tram may be somewhat staged. It really seems like everyone is well aware of the film camera on-board as is hamming it up. There may also have been some well-known person aboard given all the waves and smiles.

    A couple of interesting technical notes – The overhead wires are quite far off-centre from the tracks and the trolley poles on the trams appear to function kinda trolley bus-style with a pivoting pickup shoe. Also there is one shot of a switchman having to pry each blade of a double-blade switch individually – now there’s a split-switch accident waiting to happen! This might have had something to do with the dual-guage track at this location though. Overall I imagine riding one of those double-decker trams under these track conditions and on those hills would have been a terrifying experience!


  3. This is a beautiful piece of film – a window into a world we would otherwise not get to visit. I wonder whether there is anything like this of a Toronto street from this era. The widespread use of bicycles is interesting.

    Incidentally, since trams were around since at least 1901 in Barcelona, I suspect the onlookers were staring at the camera, rather than the tram.


  4. All those cyclists weaving around on the tracks is quite the sight! Traffic rules seem to have been so delightfully chaotic a century ago; I guess we can blame the number of much faster cars to arrive since then on how it’s all changed.

    A fascinating view of much of the culture of the time; thanks for the link, Steve!


  5. I don’t know about Toronto, but I’ve seen similar footage from St. John’s, Newfoundland. The first minute and a half of this video were taken from a streetcar about 100 years ago.

    Not many bicycles, but so many horse-drawn carts scurrying out of the streetcar’s way!


  6. About a year ago I saw a similar short film of Victoria B.C. shot from the front of a streetcar in 1907. At that time I learned that these were supposed to be short travel documentaries and the format was quite popular at the time. Since then I’ve been trying to find one of Toronto, but with no success. There may be one out there. If I remember correctly, the Victoria film turned up in private collection in Australia.


  7. Newfoundland drove on the left until 1947, and joined Canada in 1949.
    Was the Newfoundland film reversed? Or were the streetcars driving on the wrong side of the road. Couldn’t read any of the signs to verify.

    Ontario and Quebec have always driven on the right. British Columbia changed from left to right on January 1, 1922, New Brunswick changed on December 1, 1922, Nova Scotia on April 15, 1923, and Prince Edward Island on May 1, 1924. The remaining provinces drove on the right since their founding.


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