Riding the World’s Shortest Funicular in Zagreb

The Zagreb Funicular is one of the connections that link the Upper and Lower Town. The lower station is on Tomićeva Street, and the upper station is on Strossmayer Promenade, beneath the Lotrščak Tower.

With a track length of 66 meters, it is also known as the shortest cable railway in the world, intended for public transportation.

It was officially put into operation on October 8, 1890, and started operating on April 23, 1893. Initially, it was steam-powered, but it was replaced with electric power in 1934. As it has entirely retained its original exterior and structural design and most of the technical properties given to it by its builders, the Zagreb Funicular is legally protected as a cultural monument.

The Zagreb Funicular is one of the tourist attractions in Zagreb.

Technical features

The funicular has two wagons, each with a capacity of 28 passengers (16 seated and 12 standing). The length of the car over the buffers is 5.640 mm, the base distance is 3.700 mm, and the weight of the empty car is 5.05 tons – their load capacity is 2.240 kg. The electric drive motor is located in the upper station, has a power of 28.5 kW, is powered by a DC of 400 V, and runs 720 rotations per minute.

The maximum allowed speed of the funicular is 1.5 m/s, and the ride connecting the two stations lasts 64 seconds. The funicular overcomes a height difference of 30.5 meters on a slope of 52 percent (the upper station is at 156.5 m above sea level, and the lower one is at 126 m).

The funicular was built as an inclined viaduct of eight semi-circular openings 2.5 meters long, made of brick with lime mortar. Despite continuous mechanical stress, this ancient construction has not shown signs of any technical deformations to this day, and some of those semi-circular openings now house art galleries and souvenir shops. On the concrete surface of the viaduct, there are two tracks (each containing one wagon) with rails 66 meters long and 1.200 mm wide. The towing rope is 22 mm in diameter.

History of the Funicular

D.W. Klein, a builder from Osijek, started the story. In 1888 he began observing the frequency of pedestrian traffic under the stairs in Bregovita Street (today Tomićeva Street), leading to the Upper Town. It seemed to him that most people climb towards the Upper Town via this street and not, for example, Mesnička or Long Street (Croatian Duga ulica, today known as Radićeva Street). Motivated by personal gain, he began counting and recording the number of passers-by. He assessed that pedestrian traffic was lively enough to build a funicular at the public staircase location, similar to those in Budapest, Zurich, and other European cities.

On October 6, 1888, Klein submitted a request for a building permit to the City Council. The City Council accepted Klein’s proposal and issued a building permit within two days. Work on the funicular construction started on May 6, 1889, but numerous unforeseen difficulties arose.

During the first test drive with empty cars, on February 22, 1890, the machine’s main bearing, made by the company “Ganz” from Budapest, ripped out along with the foundation, causing the entire machine to break. Twenty days later, on March 14, 1890, the first successful test drive took place. The funicular was officially put into operation on October 8, 1890, without any special ceremony.

It was a steam-powered funicular with alternating operation of two cars, and the engine room was at the upper station. The first passenger cabins were divided into three parts. The front parts of the cabins, with a view of Grič or Ilica, were considered first-class, while the middle was the so-called second-class due to the poorer view.

Regular funicular operation only began on April 23, 1893.

During the following years, due to frequent malfunctions in the drive part, when passengers sometimes had to get out to push it, the people of Zagreb affectionately called it “zapinjača” (“the one that gets stuck“).

According to the contract, after a forty-year concession period, the funicular became the property of the City of Zagreb in 1929. Technical management and financial administration were entrusted to the Zagreb Electric Tram, whose employees have been taking care of it and modernizing it ever since.

In 1934, the irrational steam drive was replaced with electric. Several general repairs were carried out in the meantime, but after 80 years, the funicular’s lifespan was slowly ending. The old device with its wooden gears was a real rarity (after all, it was then the oldest original funicular in the world). It provided less and less safety, so its operation was suspended in 1969. Planning for reconstruction, or preparations for constructing a new funicular, began immediately. It turned out that only the brick viaduct was perfectly preserved, while the rest of the structure had to be dismantled and removed. This was done in 1973.

Prominent architects and official conservators managed to reproduce the original buildings faithfully. The drive device and the vehicles were supplied and installed by the Vienna company “Waagner-Biro”, while the “Siemens” company was in charge of the electric part.

The new funicular was put into operation on July 26, 1974. Since then until today, the funicular has gone through regular annual maintenance, and in 2005 the lower and upper stations were renovated.

Since the ride lasts 64 seconds, you don’t have much time to get awesome photos of the Lower Town, so I recommend riding it twice because you should ride at least one time without taking photos – simply enjoy the moment.

Hi! My name is Ivan, and I'm an author of discoverzagreb.com. I have been photographing and exploring Zagreb for more than 15 years, and if you want to know more about me and discoverzagreb.com, read the Introduction articles by clicking here.

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